Table of Contents
Freeze drying is a method of preservation that involves removing the moisture from food items, thereby extending their shelf life. This process makes food light, compact, and long-lasting, making it an ideal method for preserving various food items, including cream cheese.
Understanding Freeze Drying
Freeze drying, also known as lyophilization, is a process that removes water from a product by sublimation. This means the water in the product is converted directly from a solid (ice) to a gas (vapor), skipping the liquid phase. The process retains the nutritional content, shape, color, and size of the original product, making it an excellent preservation method.
How to Freeze Dry Cream Cheese
While the freeze-drying process may sound complex, it is quite simple and can be done at home using a freeze dryer. To freeze dry cream cheese, you first need to pre-freeze it in your standard freezer. This reduces the freeze-drying time significantly.
Tips for Successful Freeze Drying
There are a few crucial points to keep in mind for successful freeze drying of cream cheese. Firstly, it's beneficial to end your freeze-dryer cycle on a hot or warm cycle. This prevents the risk of condensation when taking the cheese out from the freezing to room-temperature air. Secondly, store your freeze-dried cheese in a Ziplock baggie for a few days. This allows you to test for moisture before transferring the cheese to a Mylar bag for permanent storage.
How to Reconstitute Freeze-Dried Cheese
Once your cream cheese has been freeze-dried, you might want to reconstitute it, which means restoring it to its original state. There are two ways to do this: slowly and rapidly.
Reconstituting freeze-dried cheese slowly ensures that it doesn't remain crunchy inside or change how it melts. This process takes around 4-6 hours. The process involves adding small amounts of water to the cheese as you stir it in a glass bowl. Once water starts to gather at the bottom of the bowl, it indicates you've added enough water. The cheese should be wet but not soggy. Drain any excess water and transfer the cheese into an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Then, put it in the refrigerator and let it sit for a few hours.
For a quicker reconstitution, use slightly warm water. However, ensure the water isn't too hot, or it will melt the cheese. You can also lay the cheese out on some towels andspray it with a fine mist of water. This makes the outside of the cheese soft, although it might remain a bit crunchy in the middle. It's also worth noting that you don't have to reconstitute cheese before you eat it. It also makes a tasty snack in its dried state. However, remember that reconstituted cheese only lasts for around a week in the fridge, so it's better if you only reconstitute the amount you need.
Storage of Freeze-Dried Cheese
Proper storage of freeze-dried cheese is vital to maintain its quality. Keep freeze-dried cheese in sealed containers away from air and moisture. The best way to store freeze-dried cheese is in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. These bags are easy to use, inexpensive, and completely airtight, making them an ideal storage solution. Once opened, a package of freeze-dried cheese can last for up to a year if you keep the container sealed in between usage and stored in a cool, dry place.
Powdering Freeze-Dried Cheese
Freeze-dried cheese can also be powdered for versatile use. This can be done by passing the freeze-dried cheese chunks through a food processor or coffee grinder, or by using a rolling pin to crush the cheese inside a Ziplock bag. Cheese powder brings a burst of concentrated flavor to many dishes and can be added directly to dishes without rehydrating. It's particularly good for making soups, sauces, or dips, and can be sprinkled as a seasoning on most foods.
Melting Freeze-Dried Cheese
Freeze-dried cheese will melt easily unless it's still dry somewhere. To achieve a lovely melting cheese topping, the cheese must be reconstituted back to its normal consistency with water first. For example, for a pizza topping, it's better to use properly reconstituted cheese. Dry cheese will just turn brown and crispy on your pizza. However, for a casserole topping, you can reconstitute and melt the cheese at the same time, as the cheese will absorb moisture from the casserole. If you want instant melted cheese, you can put some freeze-dried cheese in the microwave with some water, heating it gradually and stirring it regularly until it's gooey and melted.
Types of Cheese Suitable for Freeze Drying
Almost all cheeses, both hard and soft, can be freeze-dried. Cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterrey Jack all freeze-dry well, as do blue cheese, feta, and soft cheeses. This means that with a freeze dryer, you can have a whole selection of cheeses in your food store, opening up a plethora of culinary possibilities.
Other Dairy Products You Can Freeze Dry
In addition to cream cheese, freeze dryers can preserve most dairy products, including milk, eggs, other creams, yogurts, kefir, and even ice cream products. While these may not keep for 25-30 years or more when freeze-dried, some can be safely stored for 15 years or more.
Freeze drying cream cheese, along with other types of cheese and dairy products, is a practical method of preservation. It allows you to store these products for an extended period, making them ideal for backpacking or emergency food supplies. It's essential to store freeze-dried foods properly and understand how to reconstitute them for the best taste and texture. So, next time you find yourself with an excess of cream cheese or any other dairy product, consider freeze drying.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: Can I freeze dry cream cheese at home?
Yes, you can freeze dry cream cheese at home using a freeze dryer. The process involves pre-freezing the cream cheese, placing it in the freeze dryer, and then storing it properly after the process is completed.
Q2: What is the shelf life of freeze-dried cheese?
If stored properly, freeze-dried cheese can last up to a year once opened. Unopened, it can last much longer, with some products maintaining their quality for over a decade.
Q3: Can I eat freeze-dried cheese without reconstituting it?
Yes, freeze-dried cheese can be eaten in its dried state. It makes for a tasty and lightweight snack, ideal for backpacking trips.
Q4: How do I reconstitute freeze-dried cheese?
To reconstitute freeze-dried cheese, you can add small amounts of water to it and let it sit for a few hours. This process can be done slowly or rapidly, depending on your needs.
Q5: Can I freeze dry other dairy products?
Yes, most dairy products, including milk, eggs, other types of cream, yogurts, kefir, and even ice cream products, can be freeze-dried for long-term storage.