How to Freeze Fruit: Step by Step
- Prepare first so you can process your fruit fast
- Select high quality fruit in season
- Use a sharp knife to remove stems and over/under ripe areas
- Use ascorbic- citric acid
- Freeze in sugar, syrup or juice in containers or dry on a cookie sheet
- Don’t cheapen out on storage containers
- Pack in useable sizes
- Label with type of fruit, how it was prepared and the date
- Freeze quickly for highest quality
- Eat immediately after thawing
Plan ahead so you know how much fruit to buy, how you will slice it and how you will freeze it. Have containers ready, a clean work space and if your freezing fruit in syrup have your syrup prepared and cooled.
Select High Quality Fruit In Season
You can save a lot of money if you freeze fruit in season. If you can grow your own not only do you know when it’s in season, you know when it’s at it’s peak. Farmers Markets are also a good source for fresh fruit.
Please don’t plan to spend money buying fruits at the grocery store to freeze without talking to the manager first. Are they local? When do fresh shipments come in?
If your fruit was picked, shipped, shelved and sat there for a few days it’s lost many of it’s vitamins already and your money might be better spent in the frozen section than the produce section.
Fresh picked and frozen the same day is the best way to keep the nutrients and that is what large producers do.
If you can’t get truly fresh fruit I recommend buying frozen fruit. Why work hard to freeze fruit that is nutritionally sub-par?
Use a Sharp Knife
Rinse or wash your fruit first so it’s nice and clean, except blueberries because the skin can toughen.
Remove the stems and any pieces that are over or under ripe along with pits or seeds. At this point you are ready to slice, dice, puree or juice your fruit. Fruit can also be frozen whole, crushed, jellied, or as pie filling.
Do not use copper or iron equipment, those metals react with the acid in the fruits. Earthenware, glass and stainless steel are safe to use.
Use Ascorbic-Citric Acid
What is ascorbic-citric acid and why should you use it? Ascorbic acid is Vitamin C, and Citric acid is just like it sounds. Ascorbic-citric acid does three really important things to help us preserve fruit.
- Stops enzymes that cause fruit to ripen and rot
- Prevents discoloration or browning of fruit from the air
- Prevents Vitamin C loss
Ascorbic-citric acid forms a natural barrier to air oxidation, the cause of browning and vitamin loss, by oxidizing themselves so that the fruit does not become oxidized.
The most popular and easy to find type of ascorbic-citric acid is Fruit Fresh, available in most grocery stores usually in the canning section.
Note that fruit purees with or without sugar, need even more protection from oxidation because air gets worked into the puree where as a whole or sliced pieces of fruit on need their surfaces protected, so add a little extra Fruit Fresh.
Freeze Fruit in Sugar, Syrup or Juice or Dry on a Cookie Sheet
Sugar helps to maintain frozen fruits flavor, color and texture but it is not required. Fruit frozen without sugar is perfectly safe. And although you can use sugar substitutes, they do not give the same protection as using sugar.
There are many “packs” to choose from when freezing fruit. Sweetened or unsweetened, wet or dry.
Use crumbled up parchment or cellophane under the lid on top of the fruit in rigid containers to push it down into the syrup, if necessary. Allow room for the syrup to expand, usually 1/2 inch in rigid containers, more if the container is narrow.
On a side note: If you have a vacuum sealer do not use it with wet packs as it can vacuum up the syrup or juice too.
Unsweetened Dry Pack
Lay fruit on a waxed paper lined baking sheet, flash freeze and repack. The benefit to freezing on a cookie tray is that fruit pieces aren’t frozen to each other. Thus, you can use a larger bag and take out only what you need instead of using one whole package.
Use one tablespoon of ascorbic-citric acid per 4 cups of sliced fruit. This method is good for fruits to be used as garnishes or added to something like a fruit smoothie.
Coat fruit in sugar with 1 tablespoon ascorbic-citric acid per 4 cups of fruit. Let stand 10-15 minutes so the juices from the fruit can dissolve the sugar, then freeze fruit in 1/2 cup to 4 cup portions. This method is good for cooked desserts like pies or fruit sauces.
Unsweetened Wet Pack
Freeze fruit in unsweetened or naturally sweetened liquid. Generally, fruit juice is used. However, water, a pectin syrup or carbonated soda, like lemon lime for tart fruit, are popular substitutes. Leave about 1/2 inch expansion room in rigid containers for the liquid.
Very light, light, medium, heavy or very heavy syrup covers the fruit before freezing. This method is good for uncooked desserts using fruit such as fruit salad. Choose type of syrup to use based on the tartness of the fruit and your personal preference.
Plan to use 1/2 to 2/3 cup syrup per pint (2 cups) of fruit. It’s better to make too much than to run out. It’s also best to make the syrup the day before so it is cooled in the fridge in time to freeze the fruit.
Use 1 teaspoon of ascorbic-citric acid per cup of water to syrup mixture.
- Very Light(10%) = 1/2 cup sugar to 4 cups water yielding 4 1/2 cups syrup.
- Light (20%) = 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water yielding 4 3/4 cups syrup.
- Medium (30%) = 1 3/4 cups sugar to 4 cups water yielding 5 cups syrup.
- Heavy(40%) = 2 3/4 cups sugar to 4 cups water yielding 5 1/3 cups syrup.
- Very Heavy (50%) = 4 cups sugar to 4 cups water yielding 6 cups syrup.
Up to one quarter of the sugar amount can be substituted with honey or corn syrup. I don’t eat or recommend eating artificial sweeteners. However, if you want to use them, the box should have directions on substituting for sugar.
Do not use molasses or brown sugar to freeze fruit because of the dark color. It makes your fruit look odd and unappetizing.
Don’t Cheapen Out on Storage Containers
Make sure you use moisture-vapor proof freezer containers that are water tight. This keeps your frozen fruit from getting freezer burn, absorbing other flavors, or leaking if they start to thaw.
Don't try to save a few pennies and risk losing the fruit you froze and all the time it took.
Pack in Useable Sizes
2 cups= 1 pint= ½ quart
1 quart (4 cups) = 4 large serving, enough sauce for 4 people or enough fruit for one 9 inch pie.
In my experience it’s better to freeze in smaller quantities and thaw two containers than to thaw one large container and waste a portion of it. That said, you know best what you’ll be using this fruit for and should decide what size portions to freeze in based on how you’ll use it.
Label With Type of Fruit, How it Was Prepared and the Date
Your label should include the type of fruit frozen, if it was whole, sliced, pureed, etc. and if it was wet or dry, sweetened or unsweetened. If you freeze fruit in syrup add the percent or type of syrup to the label also. Include the date and your done.
Freeze Fruit Quickly for Highest Quality
Faster freezing means smaller ice crystals and better quality when thawed. Only freeze 3 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer space per 12 hours for best results.
Also, make sure there is space for the cold air to move around the container in the freezer. Do not stack warm containers on top of one another and when possible do not stack warm fruit on top of other already frozen items so they don't risk defrosting.
If using plastic freezer bag lay them flat on a cookie sheet so they don't freeze in odd shapes and take extra space in the freezer.
Thawing Frozen Fruit
Thaw fruit in it’s freezer container and eat immediately after thawing.
For pies, only thaw until the pieces can be separated. For sauces you can add frozen fruit straight to the saucepan.
Frozen fruits do soften when thawed. Thus fruits to be eaten without being cooked should be served while they still have some ice crystals.
- Fridge 5-8 hours
- Room temperate 2-4 hours
- Cold water 30 minutes to 1 hour
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