Strawberry season has just started where I live and I’m already stockpiling the precious fruit! This is the first summer that I have a deep-freeze and it is standing at attention, waiting to be packed full of produce, starting with local, sun-ripened berries.
OK, so you’ve been to the U-Pick or the roadside stand, and now you’ve got more strawberries than you know what to do with. Strawberries are sensitive to both heat and cold and are very delicate, so it is wise to ‘put them up’ as quickly as possible. Yes, they are best enjoyed just as they are: fresh and sweet, or perhaps stirred into a quick Strawberry-Rhubarb Micro-Mini Jam, but the majority of your berries should be frozen so you can enjoy them all year long.
With the recent study on ADHD linked to pesticide exposure on produce, particularly strawberries and blueberries, you may want to stockpile your local berries this spring and avoid the supermarket varieties for the rest of the year. After all, freezing strawberries is about the simplest preserving you will do all season.
While you feast on a bowl of berries and cream, consider your options for freezing the berries. Why yes, there are options! Please don’t lump the ruby jewels together in the bottom of a plastic bag, so that they freeze into an indistinguishable lump that is destined to become freezer burnt. Your berries deserve more than that!
Here are suggestions for a few different methods for freezing strawberries. I use all of them, as they each have their benefits.
Bags of whole, frozen strawberries are handy to have around for adding to smoothies or baking. This method of freezing on a tray or sheet ensures the berries freeze individually, rather than in an inconvenient brick.
They can be frozen without adding sugar, at a higher risk of getting freezer burn, so it is best to use them up within six months if they are indeed sugar free. Otherwise, a light dusting of sugar before freezing will both help preserve their color and prevent freezer burn.
How to Freeze Whole Strawberries
- Wash and gently dry the strawberries. Don’t soak them long in water as this will result in a loss of flavor and nutrients!
- Hull the berries and remove any ones that are spoiled. (Save those ones for your coulis, below)
- Place the strawberries on a baking sheet, not touching one another, and freeze until solid.
- Transfer the strawberries to plastic resealable bags or airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to six months.
Strawberries in Simple Syrup
This tried and true ‘old school’ method calls for freezing the berries whole in a mildly sweet sugar-water. You can use jars or plastic containers to freeze them in.
Packed in liquid, the berries retain their color and shape when reconstituted, making them a standalone dessert. They can also be spooned over yogurt or ice cream, or heaped onto scones and topped with cream for a classic strawberry shortcake that is not lacking in flavor.
Tip 1: Make the simple syrup before you go berry picking or acquire your fruit. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge, and will be waiting, already chilled, for the moment your fresh strawberries arrive.
Tip 2: Add a subtle, natural flavoring to the simple syrup such as orange zest, green cardamom pods, or vanilla bean. Your jar of berries is now a seasonal dessert; thaw, open and eat with a spoon come January for a reminder of warmer days.
How to Freeze Strawberries in Simple Syrup
Make a simple syrup by combining 4 cups water to each 1 cup sugar. Dissolve the sugar in either cold or hot water; if hot water is used, be sure to chill the syrup before using.
Place whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with cold syrup; use about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of syrup for each pint container. Package and freeze.
To Thaw: Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter. Never immerse frozen jars into hot water.
Strawberry coulis, or sauce, adds vibrant color and fresh flavor to many desserts, and is well-worth the effort and freezer space. Spoon it over pancakes or crepes, serve it over chocolate cake, or drizzle it over ice cream. No matter how you enjoy it, strawberry coulis offers a large reward for a minimal time investment.
While some recipes suggest cooking the berries or even adding cornstarch, all that is really needed for a tantalizing sauce is a few drops of citrus juice (to bring out the flavor of the berries) and perhaps a sprinkling of sugar if the berries are tart. This is then blended to a smooth consistency and that’s it!
Be sure to set aside some strawberry sauce for a refreshing strawberry-limeade concentrate below!
Recipe: Strawberry Coulis
- 400 grams (about 1 pound) strawberries, washed and hulled, about two pints
- 1 Tablespoon sugar, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
- Combine strawberries, lemon juice and sugar in a blender or food processor.
- Pulse until berries are somewhat chopped then blend until smooth and the sauce looks glossy. Taste and adjust sugar if needed.
- If desired, pass puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds. (I usually skip this step.)
- Pour into two 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace at the top of the jar, and freeze.
Makes 2 cups.
Note: Sauce will also keep up to four days in the refrigerator.
Turn all your bruised and less-attractive berries into this snazzy summer cooler. By having this concentrate on hand, you can whip up fresh and beautiful drinks at a moment’s notice.
Full credit to Cheri over at Kitchen Simplicity for wooing me with her beautiful photos and introducing me to this most practical and delicious way to preserve strawberries.
Recipe: Strawberry-Limeade Concentrate
- 3/4 cup strawberry coulis (recipe above)
- 3/4 cup sugar or whole cane sugar
- 1 cup lime juice (approximately 8 limes)
Mix ingredients together and freeze in ice cube trays.
To serve: In a drinking glass, stir together 1 cup cold water and two frozen cubes of concentrate and stir to combine. Enjoy.
On our Facebook fan page, we’ve been swapping recipes and ideas for favorite strawberry treats. Now that they are here, how will you be serving the berries?