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Monday, May 26, 2008
Freezing is one of the best ways to preserve strawberries. Freezing will retain more of the original flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of fruits than any other home food preservation method when processed correctly.
But according to Jananne Finck, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator, we need to follow certain steps to ensure the best possible product.
According to information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, berries should be frozen on the same day they are harvested. Select fully ripe, deep red, firm berries. Wash and remove caps. Do not allow the fruit to soak in the water; instead, rinse the berries with cool water.
There are different options for freezing strawberries. You can freeze berries with or without sugar and leave them whole, sliced or crushed.
The method of freezing is determined by personal preference. A sugar or syrup pack is recommended to maintain the texture and flavor of fruit; but, for those watching their sugar intake, sugar can be left out, or artificial sweeteners can be substituted.
For a whole berry sugar pack, add 3/4 cup sugar to 1 quart (1 1/3 pounds) strawberries and mix thoroughly. Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved or let stand for 15 minutes. Put into containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal, label and freeze.
If whole berries in a syrup pack are preferred, put berries into containers and cover with cold syrup— leaving 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch headspace.
To make a medium syrup (30 percent), dissolve 1 3/4 cups sugar in 4 cups lukewarm water, mixing until the solution is clear. Chill syrup before using. Yield is about 5 cups of syrup.
For unsweetened packs, the dry pack is good. Simply pack the fruit into a container, seal, label and freeze.
A tray pack is an alternative that makes the fruit easier to remove from the container. Simply spread a single layer of prepared berries on shallow trays and freeze. After a couple hours, when the fruit is frozen, promptly package, label and return to the freezer. The fruit pieces remain loose and can be poured from the container, and the package can be reclosed. Be sure to package the fruit as soon as it is frozen to prevent freezer burn.
In addition to a dry pack, unsweetened fruit can be packed in water, unsweetened juice or pectin syrup. The pectin syrup is often used for fruits such as strawberries, which retain texture better than if frozen in water or juice.
To prepare pectin syrup, combine 1 package powdered pectin and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add 1 3/4 cups water. Cool. This makes about 3 cups of moderately thick syrup.
Sugar substitutes may be used in any of the unsweetened packs or added just before serving. If added before freezing, note that artificial sweeteners do not furnish the beneficial effects of sugar, such as color protection and thickness of syrup. Follow the directions on the sweetener container to determine the amount needed.
For more information on freezing strawberries and other foods, visit the NCHFP website at www.homefoodpreservation.com.
Source: Jananne Finck, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, email@example.com