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. Freezing requires less skill and equipment that other home canning methods too. But according to Jananne Finck, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness educator with University of Illinois Extension, we need to follow certain steps to ensure the fruit preserves the best product for later use.
According to information from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), berries should be frozen on the same day they are harvested. Select fully rip, firm berries with a deep red color. Wash and remove caps. Do not allow fruit to soak in the water, rather rinse the fruit with cold water.
There are different options for freezing strawberries. You can freeze berries with or without sugar and leave them whole or slice or crush them. 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 those watching their sugar intake, sugar can be left out or artificial sweeteners can be substituted.
For a whole berry sugar pack, add ¾ 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 ½ 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 ½-1½ - inch headspace. To make medium syrup (30%), dissolve 1¾ 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. This is the method I usually use. 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 containers and the package re-closed. 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 saucepan. Heat to boiling and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add 1¾ cups water. Cool. Makes about 3 cups of moderately thick syrup.
Sugar substitutes may be used in any of the unsweetened packs. But remember, while artificial sweetness give a sweet flavor, they don not furnish the beneficial effects of sugar, such as color protection and thickness of syrup. Follow the directions on the container to determine the amount of sweetener needed.
For more information on freezing strawberries and other foods, visit the NCHFP website at: http://www.homefoodpreservation.com
Source: Jananne Finck, MS, RD., University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator, Springfield Center, Phone: 217/782-6515
Pull date: August 1, 2007