Destination Sublimation (The Basics of Freeze-Drying)

As a kid growing up in the 60s, I have fond memories surrounding the USA’s first lunar landing, especially all the crazy-fun space drinks and snacks that came along with it, like Tang, Pillsbury Food Sticks and astronaut ice-cream. Although Tang and the food sticks were kinda gross, the astronaut-ice cream was the stuff of magic. It was light as a feather, crispy and didn’t melt at room temperature. Best of all, it looked just like a regular old slice of ice cream. Behold the brainy beauty of freeze-drying.

When OuttaMyKitchen! dog treats were initially developed, they were dehydrated, not baked. While both are perfectly reasonable cooking methods, the shelf-life of the finished product is limited. And, for customers and retailers alike, the shelf-life of real food, like OMK’s yummy dog treats, is a valid and important concern. After conducting some research into methods of food preservation, freeze-drying was clearly the optimal means of retaining freshness of foods without altering their appearance or nutritive value.

What makes freeze-drying so special? How is it different from dehydrating? While dehydrating use circulating heat to remove moisture by evaporation, which changes it from liquid to a gas, freeze-drying employs sublimation, whereby ice (water’s solid form) is directly transformed to its water vapor (water’s gaseous form). This transformation is a function of atmospheric pressure. At sea level, ice will melt into water before evaporating. When pressure becomes sub-atmospheric (like inside a vacuum), that same ice will sublimate directly into water vapor as it heats, bypassing the liquid phase entirely, removing water nearly completely. In freeze-drying, this is achieved by creating a vacuum, which lowers the atmospheric pressure by sucking out air. So, in short, a freeze-dryer consists of freezing and heating elements and a vacuum pump. It’s a time consuming process that cannot be rushed; each batch of treats requires 24-27 hours to dry.

Freeze-dried foods are light and crispy and look exactly the same as they did before being processed. It’s sort of Willy Wonka-esque. A strawberry looks (and tastes) exactly like a strawberry, only it’s dry, crunchy and much lighter in weight. OuttaMyKitchen’s freeze-dried treats have a pleasing tendercrisp texture, much like that of shortbread. They can be easily snapped into smaller pieces for training or for smaller dogs. Same great flavor, new texture and extended shelf-life…what’s not to love? Oh, I almost forgot to mention, they’re now grain-free!

SteveBaxter, commandeering the freeze-dryer cart.

SteveBaxter, commandeering the freeze-dryer cart.

Buckwheat: It's Not Just For Pancakes Anymore

Dogs, just like humans, are omnivores. Like humans, dogs can also have food allergies. While dog foods and treats typically contain some source of grain as an ingredient, many dog-parents today—especially those whose furbabies are on limited diets—wish to avoid giving their puppers grains altogether.

Here at OuttaMyKitchen!, we want ALL dogs to enjoy our yummy treats…that’s why we have reformulated our original recipe without grain. We’re proud to announce that our chicken, salmon, lamb and venison treats are now grain-free! Here’s a little bit of insight into what went into that decision.

First off, what exactly do grains do for our dogs and why are they included in many of the foods they consume? Just as they do for humans, whole grains, like brown rice and oatmeal, provide nutrients as well as fiber and minerals. They also assist in keeping bowel movements formed and regular. Some dogs are unable to tolerate grain, a problem typically manifested by gastrointestinal upset. Doesn’t mean whole grains aren’t good for dogs, it simply means some dogs don’t tolerate them. What to do?

After a bit of research, buckwheat came to the rescue. But, you may be saying, buckwheat has the word “wheat” in it. How is it not a grain? Buckwheat is neither a cereal nor a grain. It is a fruit seed, related to rhubarb and sorrel. Best of all, it’s a nutritional powerhouse that’s also delicious and safe for dogs.

In closing, dog treats aren’t meant to be a primary source of nutrition for any dog. However, much like humans choose snacks wisely, the same informed deliberation goes into deciding upon snacks for our beloved canine friends. OuttaMyKitchen!’s grain-free treats contain meat or fish as the first ingredient. They also contain a tasty mixture of green vegetables, pumpkin and berries. Steamed buckwheat then marries these ingredients all together, along with a touch of rosemary and a sprinkling of sweet potato powder, ready for the freeze-dryer.

SteveBaxter, our mascot and the inspiration for OuttaMyKitchen!, heartily approves of these new treats. So does his girlfriend, Miss Georgia Sweet Tea, the pug. We hope your pup(s) will enjoy them, too!