In freeze drying, food is dried by eliminating moisture from it. This helps in preserving it for a longer time. It is also helpful in making the food light, compact and long lasting. Today, there are many methods for food preservation available; cream cheese is a food item that can be preserved through any of these methods since it is soft in nature and easily melts in the mouth.

Understanding Freeze Drying

Freeze drying is also called ‘lyophilisation’. The heating of the shelves in the freeze drier is such that most of the water present in the product will boil away, or sublimate, with the ice at the surface going directly from a solid phase (ice) to a gas phase (vapour) with an intervening liquid phase, omitted from the process. This avoids degradation and provides good retention of biological materials (nutrition, colour, shape and size) without cooking.

How to Freeze Dry Cream Cheese

The processing involves making the cream cheese freeze-dry, which is more complex than the method just given, but it can be done at home with a freeze-drying machine. To dry the cream cheese, you first place the product into your standard deep freezer to pre-freeze it. Your crew will then need to process the cream cheese with an industrial food-grade freeze-drying machine to remove all water.

Tips for Successful Freeze Drying

Here a few critical things to know about proper freeze drying of cream cheese. One, it is good to end your freeze-dryer run on a hot or warm cycle; this lessens the chance of condensation when removing the cheese from its frozen deep-cryo state into room-temperature air. Second, keep your cheese in a Ziplock baggie for a few days; this way you can test for moisture before dropping the cheese into a permanent storage Mylar bag.

How to Reconstitute Freeze-Dried Cheese

Once this cream cheese has been freeze-dried, it can be reconstituted, which means reverting it back to how it was before having been dried. This can be done slowly or quickly.

Slow Reconstitution

Slowly reconstituting your freeze-dried cheese is the key to success in restoring its texture, without it remaining crunchy within or altering the way it melts. It takes roughly 4-6 hours. Add small amounts of water to the cheese, as you stir it in a glass bowl, until it starts to pool up at the bottom. Remove the cheese when the amount of water at the bottom has reached a plateau, pausing before adding more water because it doesn’t take long for all the cheese to become soggy. You want the dried stuff to feel wet but not soggy. Empty the bowl, discarding any excess water, and transfer the cheese into an airtight container or Ziplock bag before placing it in the fridge for several hours.

Rapid Reconstitution

If you want it to reconstitute quickly, use warm water, but don’t let the water get too hot, ‘or you’ll melt the cheese’; alternately, lay the block out on some towels and ‘spray it with a fine mist of water. That sounds soft on the outside’, he said, ‘but it will still be a little crunchy in the middle.’ B36 2nd ed. Ultimately, you don’t have to reconstitute your cheese, Before you eat it. It also makes for a tasty snack in its dried state. But remember: only keep reconstituted cheese for a week or so in the fridge. It’s best to only reconstitute what you need.

Storage of Freeze-Dried Cheese

The other thing is proper storage. Keep your freeze-dried cheese sealed in its packaging with no air or moisture exposure. The ideal method is to vacuum seal it in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. This is the easiest, most economical, completely airtight method for saving it. Once you open a pack to use the cheese, it will retain its freshness if you seal the container back up between uses and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Powdering Freeze-Dried Cheese

Cheese can also be ground into powder prior to freeze-drying so that it can be easily sprinkled on food. Parmesan cheese powder is quite wonderful and is commercially available. It adds a concentrated flavour boost to most dishes. I prefer using my mini food processor to chop the freeze-dried chunks of cheese, but it’s easy to use a coffee grinder or a rolling pin inside a Ziplock bag. No matter how you get it, ground cheese powder reconstitutes right in the dish without having to be sprinkled on top and then rehydrated in the food. I love making soups, sauces and dips this way. The ground cheese also makes a good topping to add a last-minute cheese flavour and kick to most foods – try it with mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, or stew. You can do the same thing with cheddar or any other hard cheese.

Melting Freeze-Dried Cheese

Freeze-dried cheese won’t melt until it’s still pretty dry somewhere. For cheese to melt nicely, you have to reconstitute it first, with water. For example, to make a pizza topping, you’d want your properly reconstituted cheese poured out onto a pizza. Dry, freeze-dried cheese would just go brown and crispy. But for a casserole topping, you can reconstitute and melt the cheese at the same time, because the cheese in a casserole will absorb moisture from the casserole. For instant melted cheese, put a pile of freeze-dried cheese with some water in the microwave, and heat it up slowly while stirring occasionally until it’s gooey.

Types of Cheese Suitable for Freeze Drying

With a few exceptions, all types of cheese from hard to soft will freeze-dry. You can keep cheddar, mozzarella and Monterrey Jack in your food store as you can blue cheese and feta as well as soft cheeses. You have the widest ranges of cheese available for your meals.

Other Dairy Products You Can Freeze Dry

Thanks to the freeze dryers, most dairy products can be freeze-dried including but not limited to cream cheese, milk, eggs, other creams, yoghurts, kefir, even ice cream products (even though when frozen for extended periods of time they will no longer freeze well). Some of these can be safely stored over the long term (15 years or more).

Conclusion

Cream cheese and easy ways to freeze dry other types of cheese and dairy products are a great strategy for preservation. It allows you to store these items long term and use them when you head out backpacking or even add them to an emergency food supply. However, to do this you must store your freeze dried foods properly as well as know how to rehydrate them for optimal taste and texture. Next time that you have too much cream cheese or any other dairy product, think about freeze drying it!

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