Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

A freeze-dried scoop

From 'preppers' to campers alike, freeze-dried foods provide long-term nutrition.


January 10, 2019

Provided Photo

Laurie Carlson with two of her grandsons. Carlson has a peculiar hobby in freeze-drying foods, dubbing her kitchen "Prepper's Pantry."

Laurie Carlson of Holyoke was at loose ends after she finished renovating her cabin a couple of years ago. But then, she met someone that told her about freeze drying foods, and she found her new passion.

"It was a lady that I had met through my cousin that told me about freeze drying foods," she said in a telephone interview. "I have always been preserving foods by canning, dehydrating and drying."

Carlson ordered her first freeze dryer in the spring of 2017, and now she has two. The freeze dryers are going constantly as she dries a variety of foods. The dryers remove the water from the foods.

"Buying a freeze dryer was a lifesaver for me," she said. "Every day I cook something and put it in the freeze dryer."

Carlson registered with the Minnesota Cottage Food Law and sells some of the foods that she freeze dries.

"It isn't really a business," Carlson explained. "It is a hobby. But, by selling some of the foods, it helps me to stay in the hobby. I don't make any money at it."

Carlson calls her hobby Prepper's Pantry.

There are people who believe in hoarding food and supplies in the event of a natural disaster or a horrific event, such as Doomsday. Those people are known as preppers, and they prepare for a time when food sources are scarce and they need stores of food and other supplies to survive.

"I am a prepper at heart," said Carlson. "People prepare for a disaster. It could even be a financial disaster. Having food on hand is a back-up. You can just store the packages of freeze-dried foods in a tote and put them in the garage. It is OK for the foods to freeze."

Carlson said she carries a backpack of freeze-dried foods and other supplies in her vehicle and she encourages others to do the same. The foods are stored in sealed mylar bags.

"My daughter-in-law was coming back from North Dakota during the winter storm last week and the driving was treacherous. She had her two children with her, ages one year and five years old. She always carries a back pack of freeze-dried food with her, and so do my two sons. Those backpacks are lifelines."

Carlson dehydrated her foods in the past.

"That can remove up to 30 percent of the nutritional value," she said. "And you can only keep them for up to four years."

Freeze-dried foods retain 97 percent of their nutritional value and will keep for 25 years, Carlson added. However, they cannot be in high temperatures, such as hot cars in the summer.

Intense sunlight will discolor the foods. She gave the example of freeze-dried foods being stored in a jar on a shelf where the sunlight reaches it. However, the flavor remains the same.

Freeze-dried foods are tasty and some of the foods can be eaten in their dried form. But water can be added to rehydrate the foods. Such foods would be chili or spaghetti and meatballs, for example, said Carlson.

Backpackers going to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and hunters are some of her customers, she said. The freeze-dried foods are lighter in weight and easier to carry. It is not necessary for them to carry water to rehydrate the foods.

"All they need is a personal water filter straw," Carlson said. "The straws turn 1,000 gallons of contaminated water into drinking water."

Carlson said she is always experimenting with freeze drying different foods. Someone suggested that she freeze dry Milk Duds.

"They came out as large as ping-pong balls," she said. "They were all caramely and chocolaty. They were delicious."

But freeze-drying foods from her sister's garden, her garden and her fruit trees are providing the nutrition that keeps Carlson healthy.

"For as much as I cook, I should be fat," she said. "Instead, I feel so much healthier."

Carlson said she has an old dog but that dog is still energetic after eating freeze-dried foods.

"I am starting to make doggy treats with freeze-dried carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. A lady in Alaska sells those treats by the five-gallon bucket. She can't keep any in stock, they sell right away."

Carlson said she can freeze dry foods for other people.

"There was a family who loved grandma's calico beans," she said. "The grandmother made a huge batch of calico beans and I freeze dried them. She wants those beans served at her funeral, and there were enough beans left for her five grandchildren. They can eat them any time in the future."

Carlson found Harvest Right Freeze Dried Foods, a community of freeze dried food preservers on Facebook. The members of the group exchange ideas.

"People had tried different things," said Carlson. "I have told them about things that I have tried myself. We all have the same interests. This isn't grandma's way of preserving food."

To find out more about Prepper's Pantry, contact Carlson at her email address, or at (218) 522-0581.


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