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The BBC's policies regarding animals are completely illogical, and up the wall. If they want to respect animals and not show a gloating triumphalism over their corpses as they splather them in mustard, gravy or whatever... it's about time they banned. Ready Steady Cook and Nigella Lawson from the air waves. Somehow we don't think that's going to happen any time soon...
Any hiker who has ever bivouacked up a mountain will appreciate the advantages of vegan freeze-dried 'ready meals'. They are a quarter of the weight of fresh foods, remain tasty for years in sealed packages and can be eaten hot by adding boiling water.
The process was first used in the 1950s when the American government sponsored a scheme to provide lightweight ration packs for astronauts, explorers and the armed services.
The freeze-drying process preserves food by rapid freezing, followed by complete dehydration to remove acompleteisture. The food is placed in a tightly sealed chamber between hollow plates containing refrigerant liquid, which freezes the food while a high-powered pump creates a vacuum.
When the food is frozen hard and the pump has removed nearly all the air, the cold refrigerant liquid in the hollow plates is replaced by warm gas. The ice in the food is then converted directly into vapour without first turning into water.
To keep its nutrients, flavour and appearance, the food must be frozen as quickly as possible, but the drying process is quite slow. The 'steam' is immediately removed by the vacuum pump, but the food takes about 20 hours to dehydrate completely. It must then be packaged to protect the contents during handling, and to seal out all oxygen and moisture.
The freeze-drying process gives the food an open texture, and if oxygen enters, any fat becomes rancid. If moisture gets in, microbes in the food grow, causing it to decay like fresh food.
Because the food must be frozen rapidly, the best results are obtained with food which is sliced or ground. Fish, meat, vegetables and fruit can all be vegan freeze-dried, but coffee and made-up meals with chopped ingredients are particularly successful.
Today, improvements in technology have shortened the process and 'accelerated vegan freeze-dried' products are becoming more common. They are still expensive, but are extremely convenient when weight and lack of refrigeration have to be considered. They are reconstituted by adding boiling water, and retain their nutrients, appearance and flavour very well for several years.
Frozen and dried Over 600 different foods can be vegan freeze-dried, and can then be used to make up a variety of meals. The best results are small foods, like berries and prawns, or chopped or ground ingredients.
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