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Necessary Equipment for Freeze-Drying
To freeze dry ice cream at home, you will need a few specific pieces of equipment:
- Ice cream (of your choice)
- Freeze dryer (this is the most critical equipment)
- Vacuum sealer (for storing your freeze-dried ice cream)
- Mylar bags (these are ideal for long-term storage of freeze-dried foods)
Remember, a typical home freezer or refrigerator freezer is not capable of freeze-drying. They do not have the capability to lower the pressure, which is a critical part of the freeze-drying process.
How to Freeze Dry Ice Cream at Home
Here's a step-by-step guide on how to freeze dry ice cream:
Step 1: Pre-freeze Your Ice Cream
Start by placing your ice cream in your home freezer. You want the ice cream to be thoroughly frozen before you begin the freeze-drying process.
Step 2: Place the Ice Cream in the Freeze Dryer
Once your ice cream is thoroughly frozen, remove it from the freezer and place it in your freeze dryer. Be sure to place the ice cream on the trays in a single layer to ensure even drying.
Step 3: Start the Freeze-Drying Process
Turn on your freeze dryer and start the freeze-drying process. This will typically take between 20-40 hours, depending on the size and water content of your ice cream.
Step 4: Test the Ice Cream
When the freeze-drying cycle is complete, remove a small piece of the ice cream and allow it to thaw. If it becomes wet, then it's not fully freeze-dried, and you need to put it back in the freeze dryer for additional time. If it remains dry, then it is fully freeze-dried.
How to Freeze Dry Ice Cream Sandwiches
Freeze-drying ice cream sandwiches follow a similar process as freeze-drying regular ice cream. Here's how:
Step 1: Prepare Your Trays
Line the trays with parchment paper to make it easier for you to remove the sandwiches after the process. Pre-freeze the trays to prevent the ice cream sandwiches from melting.
Step 2: Prepare Your Ice Cream Sandwiches
Cut the ice cream sandwiches into serving portion sizes. Increasing the surface area ensures an even and proper freeze drying. Place the ice cream sandwiches on the trays, leaving at least 1/4 of an inch of space between each sandwich.
Step 3: Pre-freeze the Sandwiches
Put the loaded tray in a regular freezer as you load another batch. This will keep the ice cream sandwiches from melting. Keep putting the loaded trays in the freezer until all the trays are full.
Step 4: Begin the Freeze Drying Process
Set your freeze dryer to the recommended time setting. Usually, it's about 24 hours, but you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations.
Step 5: Check the Sandwiches
Once the freeze-drying cycle is complete, check the sandwiches. They should be dry, light, crunchy, and crumbly. If they come out soft and still moist, cold, and wet, put them back and add more time to the drying process until they're done.
Store and Enjoy Your Freeze-Dried Ice Cream
After your ice cream or ice cream sandwiches are fully freeze-dried, it's time to store them.
Step 1: Store Your Freeze-Dried Ice Cream
For long-term storage, Mylar bags are a popular choice among freeze drying enthusiasts. They keep away air, water, and moisture, and don't take up much space. You can store them in batches inside a bigger storage container and they're easy to label.
For a handy snack, any air-tight container will do. You can vacuum seal mason jars so that you can enjoy an ice cream sandwich on demand. Don't forget to throw in an O2 absorber regardless of the storage method you choose.
Step 2: Enjoy Your Freeze-Dried Ice Cream
Freeze-dried ice cream can last for 25+ years under ideal conditions, but why wait that long to enjoy it? Oxygen and moisture are the main enemies of freeze-dried goods, so make sure to check the seal from time to time and keep the storage area at a room temperature not higher than 72°F (22 °C) and humidity at 40% below.
Freeze-drying ice cream at home, whether it's a scoop or an ice cream sandwich, is a fun and rewarding process that allows you to enjoy your favorite flavors in a whole new way. It's also a fantastic method for preserving ice cream for long-term storage. With the right equipment and a little patience, you can make your own astronaut ice cream in your kitchen. So why not give it a try? After all, the sky's the limit when it comes to freeze-drying your favorite ice cream flavors and brands.