The first fruit of the season
Preserving strawberries safely will extend their flavor for later in the year.
Is there anything better than biting into a fresh, plump and juicy strawberry straight out of the garden or farmers market? One of the easiest ways to extend the fresh flavor is to freeze strawberries.
To freeze whole strawberries, there are three ways to prepare them. Michigan State University Extension recommends three methods: syrup pack, sugar pack and unsweetened pack.
To freeze strawberries using a syrup pack, it is necessary to prepare 50 percent syrup. 50 percent syrup is a one-to-one ratio of sugar to water. For 50 percent syrup, four cups of sugar are dissolved in four cups of water. This will yield six cups of syrup. The syrup should be cooled before pouring it over the fruit.
Select plump, firm and deep red colored strawberries. Wash them and discard any shriveled, soft or moldy fruit. Using the old computer adage “Garbage in, Garbage out,” freezing does not improve the flavor of the strawberries. Remove the stems and caps, and put the fruit in a rigid container. Pour the cooled 50 percent syrup over the fruit leaving a 1/2 inch headspace in the pint container. Seal the container, label with the date and put into the freezer.
The sugar pack method requires adding 3/4 cup sugar to one quart (about 1 1/3 pounds) of cleaned strawberries and mixing thoroughly. Allow the strawberries to stand for 15 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Next, pack the strawberries into rigid containers leaving 1/2 inch headspace for a pint container. Seal the container, label with the date and put into the freezer.
For the unsweetened pack, wash, clean and stem the strawberries. Remove any excess water. Lay the strawberries on a tray in a single layer. Put the strawberries into the freezer until the berries are frozen. Next, remove the berries and put them into freezer bags or rigid containers. This method allows the easy removal of single berries.
For sliced or crushed strawberries, wash, clean and stem the berries. Then, either slice or crush them. Add 3/4 cup of sugar to one quart (about 1 1/3 pounds) of strawberries. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, or allow the berries to stand for 15 minutes for the sugar to dissolve. Next, pack the berries into rigid containers leaving a 1/2 inch headspace for a pint size container. Seal the container, label with the date and freeze the berries.
Freezing is the preferred way to preserve strawberries for that “just-picked” flavor. The only way to can strawberries is in the forms of jams, jellies or syrups. Plain canned strawberries produce mushy berries that lack color because the red color faded into the canning liquid. This is not a desirable product.