Sometimes having comfort food on hand can make all the difference in your mental game during a crisis. But most “luxury” treats don’t really fit into a long-term storage plan too well.
Take ice cream for instance. No refrigeration, no ice cream, right? Not so fast. We all know that ice cream is made mostly of water.
So it stands to reason that if you remove the water, you should be left with the essence of ice cream, but without the refrigeration requirement, right? Can you really dehydrate ice cream?
You can dehydrate ice cream, but it won’t last very long. Dehydrated ice cream is safe and edible, but dry, powdery, and brittle. It is generally not suitable for long-term storage, and will not reconstitute easily.
This is depressing news for people who’d love to easily and cheaply store some ice cream, just in case.
Home dehydrators are more popular and affordable than ever, but sadly ice cream just isn’t a good candidate for them.
Keep reading and we will tell you more, and also suggest an alternative for those folks who have to have some ice cream on hand no matter what.
It is Possible to Dehydrate Ice Cream
It is technically possible to dehydrate ice cream using a typical at-home dehydrator and trays that will contain it as it melts.
However, the results are far from ideal and it is generally not recommended and it will also be very difficult to reconstitute later on.
Additionally, because of the sheer volume of water present in ice cream it will take a long time to dry out and will usually dry unevenly, complicating matters even further.
The end result of dehydrating ice cream is a product that will still taste sweet, and can keep for a while without refrigeration.
However, the other characteristics of the result will be less than satisfactory for most purposes.
Dehydrated Ice Cream is Dry, Powdery and Brittle
Dehydrated ice cream has a texture will be completely different from the smooth, creamy consistency that we all know and love. While it may still taste sweet, it won’t have the same rich mouth feel.
But more importantly, some parts will be dry and powdery, almost like talcum powder, while others may still be more solid or clumpy. This makes it very difficult to properly store or reconstitute later on.
Hard to eat, hard to store, and difficult to even produce successfully, there isn’t much to recommend this stuff.
In short, unless you are prepared to add the resulting mess to a dry cake mix, to your coffee, or just eat it straight away as is, we recommend that you look for other ways to preserve and store your ice cream.
Freeze-drying Ice Cream Works Much Better
Fortunately, there is a better way to enjoy long-life ice cream. Freeze drying works much better and results in a product that tastes closer to the real thing.
Freeze-dried ice cream already has a great success record, both for taste and for shelf life: it was and is enjoyed by astronauts up in orbit on space missions!
Ice cream that has been freeze-dried and properly packaged will last for a year, at least, and tastes much better than simply dehydrated stuff.
The texture won’t be exactly the same as fresh ice cream, obviously, but it is solid, easy to handle, and reliably dry throughout.
Take a bite and it quickly melts in your mouth. It tastes pretty good, or at least close enough for most people.
You’ll Need a Freeze Dryer if You Want Long-life Ice Cream at Home
If you are dead set on making your own ice cream for long-term storage, you’ll need to invest in a freeze dryer yourself.
Not a painless thing for most of us, as these appliances are still quite expensive. Typical units start around $3,000 and go up from there.
For those who absolutely need to have some ice cream on hand, though, it may be worth the investment. After all, you’ll never know when an ice cream emergency might strike!
However, it’s important to note that homemade freeze-dried ice cream will only last for a few months unless it is then vacuum sealed in a mylar bag- it’s not the same as store-bought ice cream that can last for a year plus.
Consider Buying Astronaut Ice Cream Instead
If you are still reeling from the sticker shock over the prospect of purchasing a freeze-dryer for nothing more than some ice cream, you aren’t alone.
But if you cannot stand the thought of going without an occasional decadent treat, there is an alternative that might help: buying astronaut ice cream.
Yes, you can purchase the very same freeze-dried ice cream that is served on space missions, or a close enough facsimile.
It comes in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, and can be found online or in some specialty stores, including in outdoor meal sections of sporting goods departments in some big box stores. Prices start at around $7 per packet.
Though pretty spendy per serving, you’ll get the reliability of factory production and excellent packaging, and as a sort of luxury item for crushing cravings it isn’t too bad.
Look at it this way, you can buy tons of this stuff for the cost of even a small freeze dryer, and it will store easily and be ready to eat when a craving hits.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.