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Contact: Barbara Ingham, 608-263-7383
Email: bhingham@facstaff.wisc.edu
Entry Date: August, 2003
File Under: Food Safety

Preserve summer's best flavors by freezing fresh fruit

Madison - Freezing fruit can be an easy way to enjoy the bounty of your garden and orchard all year round. Compared with other preservation methods, freezing saves time and nutrients, and keeps fruit fresh-tasting and colorful, says Barb Ingham, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension food scientist.

Follow these guidelines for safe preparation and preservation of peak-of-the season fruit.

Freeze fruit in containers or bags designed for freezer storage. Rigid plastic containers or glass jars with tight fitting lids work well. Plastic freezer bags are convenient but do not use food storage bags because the plastic is not thick enough to seal in moisture.

The cut surfaces of some fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches and pears darken quickly when exposed to air. You can prevent browning by sprinkling with a commercial ascorbic acid mixture such as FruitFresh®; dipping in a solution of vitamin C-prepared by crushing three 500 mg tablets of vitamin C per quart of water; or dipping in a solution of bottled lemon juice: three tablespoons per quart of water. Fruit must be drained before packing into a freezer container.

While you can freeze almost any fruit without sugar, most fruits will have better color, texture and flavor if frozen with some sugar. Fruits packed in syrup are best for dessert; those packed in dry sugar or unsweetened are best for cooking. Adjust cooking recipes for any sugar added in freezing. If freezing fruit to use in making jams or jellies, do not add sugar.

-- Dry, unsweetened fruit. Treat fruit to prevent browning, drain and pack fruit firmly into a freezer container with no added sugar. Alternately, spread small whole fruits or fruit pieces in a single layer on shallow trays (baking sheets) and freeze. Once frozen, remove fruit from the trays and pack into a freezer container.

-- Dry sugar pack. Treat fruit to prevent browning, drain and sprinkle fruit with sugar to suit your taste. Mix gently and pack in freezer containers.

-- Syrup pack. Dessert fruits can be packed in syrup. Thin syrup will not mask the taste of mild-flavored fruits. Medium syrup is recommended for whole fruits and those that tend to darken. Heavy syrup may be needed for sour fruits.

Blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and strawberries can all be successfully frozen. Sort berries and wash gently. Drain well. For an unsweetened loose pack, place on trays in a single layer, freeze for one to two hours, then pack in freezer bags and return to the freezer. For sugar pack, sprinkle sugar on berries and gently mix until sugar is dissolved. Slice strawberries or crush other berries and mix with sugar. Pack in freezer containers. Syrup pack may be used; leave one-inch headspace.

Try a syrup pack for cherries (sour or sweet). Stem, sort and wash the cherries. Drain and pit. Sweet cherries lose color quickly, so add antioxidant to sugar or syrup pack. A sugar pack is recommended for all cherries to help maintain flavor and color. Pack crushed or pureed cherries with sugar and antioxidant. Syrup pack with antioxidant may also be used; leave one-inch headspace.

Freezing rhubarb. Wash, trim, and cut stalks into one- or two-inch lengths. Pack raw, or heat in boiling water for one minute and chill in ice water to retain better flavor and color. Pack raw rhubarb without sugar, especially if you will cook with the rhubarb later. Caution: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Use stalks only.

Note: Label and date all packages that are placed in the freezer. For best quality, use frozen fruits within one year.

For best results, follow recipes that are tested to ensure safety and quality. Sources of tested recipes include your local county UW-Extension office, or the "Complete Guide to Home Canning" (USDA Agriculture Bulletin no. 539), available on the web at http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html .

For tested recipes, see Freezing Fruits and Vegetables (B3278), part of UW-Extension's Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series by Barbara Ingham. The series also includes Canning Fruits Safely (B0430), Homemade Pickles and Relishes (B2267), Making Jams, Jellies and Preserves (B2909), Canning Vegetables Safely (B1159), Canning Salsa Safely (B3570), Tomatoes Tart and Tasty (B2605), and Canning Meat, Wild Game, Poultry and Fish Safely (B3345).

These and other gardening and food preservation publications are available from your county UW-Extension office or from Cooperative Extension Publications (877-947-7827) and online at http://cecommerce.uwex.edu/. There may be a fee for the publications.