Monday, June 28, 2010

How To: Freeze Strawberries

A visit to our local U-Pick strawberry field is almost unavoidable around here. When I realized that we would be on vacation through the end of U-pick dates I recklessly decided to throw berry preservation into my week of nutz-o. Having strawberries in the freezer is worth the extra stress for me. Even though I know I could have picked up a couple flats for even cheaper at the grocery store I have peace of mind knowing that these berries were grown right down the street without pesticides, GMO's, or chemical fertilizers, and they required very little fuel to make their way to my door. My sister, her boyfriend, and me and my two girls picked 79.2 pounds of strawberries in about 3 hours. It was hard work. Strawberries grow close to the ground and they hide. Still worth the effort! Once you get them picked (or pay someone to pick them for you) the process of freezing them whole or making them into freezer jam is a cinch.
Here's how we freeze the berries whole.
1. Keep your berries cold. Once picked they need to stay very cold to remain fresh and not deteriorate quickly. Take them home to the fridge or coolers full of ice until you can get them processed. Pick when you know you can process within a day.
2. Soak the berries in cold water to clean the dirt and sediment away. It will sink and your clean berries will be floating at the top.
3. Set up your area with a sink full of water, a compost bowl to the side of your dominant hand, a colander for collecting berries on the other side and some sheet pans for freezing the berries in layers. You'll also need quart sized freezer bags and a permanent marker. I do not use a food sealer (yet) and my berries last just fine for a year.4. Hull the berries in one quick motion with a small pairing knife, discarding the hull to one side and the finished berry to the other side.5. Once you have a colander full of clean berries drained of their excess water you are ready to preserve. At this point you are ready to freeze whole berries, bags of crushed berries for sweet treats, or make freezer jam.6. Place your berries in one layer on a sheet pan (you'll use as many sheet pans as you can fit in your freezer space at one time). Freeze for about one hour or until firm to the touch. This will be enough to keep the berries from sticking to each other in the freezer bags.7. Label your bags before you fill them. The frozen berries will be hard to write on and will prevent the marker from working. I've tried it thinking I'd save time and just stuff the bags full and label them later. It didn't work.
8. Now put your bags quickly back into the freezer so they don't have a chance to start thawing at all. This method of "sheet freezing" allows you to select just the number of berries you want for your recipe. That's it!
Stats: One flat of strawberries is about 10-12 pounds and fills about 10 quart sized bags of whole berries depending on size. I brought home about 35 pounds (3 flats) of berries and froze 25 quart bags and made 13 pints of freezer jam. I also had some berries left for eating fresh and making spinach salads with all that garden spinach I had just harvested.
Tomorrow I bring you strawberry freezer jam my way.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for such an informative post -- complete with incredibly RED photos! Now my longing for a deep freezer in my basement is even greater! Augh -- I need more room!

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  2. Brilliant post Heather! Thanks! I've always wondered how to freeze strawberries without having them all stick together... And incidentally, I got a strawberry huller at Bed Bath and Beyond for under $5 and I LOVE IT. I feel like I'm not wasting any part of my precious berries. (I am a maker/lover of strawberry freezer jam.)

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  3. Holy Cow! That's a lot of strawberries! I'm assuming you can freeze raspberries the same way as I'm allergic to strawberries....but they do look so good!

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