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Monday, March 23, 2009

Just Like an Astronaut

Originally posted on The ReadyStore Blog


Just Like an Astronaut

So, is it just me, or did you LOVE going to the science center/museum when you were a kid? Wow, I would get so excited when I found out we would be going there on a field trip! Ok, so I have to admit, it wasn’t probably for the same reasons everyone else liked to go there. I liked to go to the science museum because it was the only place I could find freeze-dried ice cream! Yes, I was addicted, and I love it to this day. I was so thrilled to be eating the same stuff that astronauts ate it space…and it tasted great! Although, I always wondered how they got that ice cream to fit in an aluminum package and not melt somehow in the process. Well, I finally found out how that process works…

Freeze-drying was first developed during World War II to preserve blood plasma for emergencies without the use of refrigeration. (Yes, the freeze-drying process can be used for many things other than foods.) After the war was over, the process was then used for food products. Coffee was the first manufactured product that was sold on a large scale.

All food is tested and checked for purity before it goes through the freeze-drying process. Meats and fruits are checked for bacteria before they are used. Seafood and meat must be pre-cooked before it is freeze-dried. That way, when you open the package to use it, the meat requires no cooking to eat it…only the addition of water to re-hydrate it. After the foods have been checked and tested, they are spread out flat on metal trays. Then the trays are wheeled into a huge walk-in freezer where the temperature is around -40degrees. The food is frozen quickly. After they are frozen, the foods are wheeled to vacuum drying chamber. In this room, a process called “sublimation” is used to force solid material to change into a gas material without ever having turned into a liquid. This can be achieved by evacuating the air with a vacuum pump to reduce the air pressure. Once the pressure falls below the point of sublimation, the water vapor from the food is drawn away from the food, leaving the dry food behind. The dry food retains its original size and shape. The food is then packaged into airtight containers so that moisture from the air will not re-enter the food. The whole freeze drying process can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.

So, yeah, it’s a bit complicated, but fascinating all the same. Freeze-dried food has so many advantages to other food storage options. It is extremely light-weight, requires no refrigeration, and the food retains its color, shape, texture, and most importantly…flavor! Freeze-dried food may cost a bit more to start with because of the complex equipment that is needed to make it, but in the long run, it will be an asset. Freeze-dried food can last up to 30 years and sometimes longer! I challenge anyone to show me a can of mushy green beans that can do that! Freeze-dried food is definitely the way to go for emergency food storage.


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