When you have more strawberries than you can eat or when strawberries can be obtained at a reasonable cost, you can freeze them to use later. The frozen berries than can be used to make fresh strawberry desserts, toppings or jam at any time of the year at your convenience.
Also, for long-term storage, freezing is recommended. Fruits retain more nutritional value and flavor by freezing than by any other method of preservation. Strawberries can be frozen and safely kept for up to 1 year. Use quart of pint freezer containers or place the equivalent quantity of berries in heavy plastic bags closed with wire twists or zip-locks.
Strawberries are easy to freeze. They can be frozen several ways: dry-pack, sweetened or unsweetened; floated in a sweet syrup; or tray-frozen whole. The dry-sugar pack is especially easy and gives the best flavor and color for sliced or crushed berries. For whole frozen berries a syrup pack is recommended because it produces a plump, well-shaped berry after thawing. For special sugar-free diets, strawberries can be frozen unsweetened, but they will not be as high in quality as sugar- or syrup-packed berries.
The initial preparation of the berries is the same for all methods. Choose firm, ripe berries. Rinse in ice water before dulling. (Fruits rinsed without the stem loose more vitamins than those de-stemmed after washing.) Drain well in a colander then lay them on several layers of paper towels, being careful not to crush or bruise the berries.
No matter which type of pack you choose to use, follow these general directions for preparing and packaging strawberries for freezing:
- Use only firm, fully ripe berries.
- To avoid bruising and soaking the berries, wash only a few at a time in cold water.
- Drain on absorbent paper or in a colander or sieve.
- Remove the hulls with the tip of a floating blade peeler.
- Chill the fruit in ice water to lower its temperature for fast freezing.
Tips for freezing strawberries
- Do not fill containers completely; allow a headspace of 1/2-inch for pints, 1/4-inch for 1 1/2 pints, and 1-inch for quarts.
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may be purchased in crystalline or tablet form or as a commercial ascorbic acid mixture to help prevent darkening of foods. If using the crystalline form, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid in each pint of water. For a dry-sugar pack, mix the ascorbic acid with the sugar. If using tablets, use 1,500 milligrams per pint; crush the tablets so that they will dissolve more readily. When using a commercial mixture, follow the manufacturer's directions.
- Seal containers and label with the name of the product and the date frozen.
- Freeze promptly, then store at 0°F or below.
- Sugar and syrup packs produce a better quality product than unsweetened packs.
- Strawberries can be frozen whole, sliced, or crushed, depending on their intended use in meals.
- Strawberries can be stored in the freezer at 0°F for 8 to 12 months.
- Frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh berries in recipes; however, the freezing process will make the texture much softer.
- Strawberries are best served with a few ice crystals still remaining. If thawed completely they will become mushy.
Dry Pack Sweetened
Slice washed, hulled berries into a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/3 to 3/4 cup sugar for each quart of berries. (This amount can vary depending on personal taste.) Gently turn berries over until the sugar dissolves and juice forms. Fill freezer containers, shaking to pack closely. Leave 1/2 inch headspace for pints, 3/4 inch for larger containers. Seal and freeze. 2/3 quart fresh berries equals 1 pint frozen.
Dry Pack Unsweetened
Rinse, drain and hull the berries. Pack whole, sliced, or crushed berries in containers, shaking to pack tightly. Cover whole or sliced berries with water or berry juice. For better color retention, add ascorbic acid to the water or berry juice. Strawberries can be frozen with out without water added. Fruits frozen without sweetener will keep, but they may lose some of their flavor, texture and color. Cover crushed berries with their own juice.
Sweet Syrup Pack
Rinse, drain and hull the berries. Prepare a sugar syrup. To make 5 1/2 cups (enough for 10 12-pint containers or about 8 quarts fresh berries) mix 3 cups sugar with 4 cups water and boil until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until cold. Slice the berries into freezer containers and cover with the cold syrup. Allow 1 1/2 cups fruit and 1/3 to 1/2 cup syrup per pint container. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze.
Place rinsed, hulled berries in a single layer on trays. Freeze until solid. Pack tightly in freezer containers or heavy plastic bags. Seal and freeze.