One of my favorite treats from our garden is fresh strawberries! We grow ever bearing strawberries, so we have a pretty steady supply of berries starting in June and not finishing up until late October. Of course we eat a lot of the berries fresh or use them as toppings for cereal or pancakes. But when they are coming on strong there is often no way even the 6 of us can keep up with them. So we had to come up with a way to preserve as many as we could. Freezing Strawberries is something we have been doing for many years now. We used to make a lot of strawberry freezer jam, but in the last few years we have really cut back on our sugar intake and most strawberry jams take a ton of sugar. So now we just freeze them using the following quick and easy steps:
1. Clean the berries very well. We usually let the berries soak in water for a bit to loosen up and dirt. Then we rinse the berries to be sure they are very clean. Then we dry them by letting them sit for a while on a towel on the counter.
2. Make sure you choose only ripe berries when freezing strawberries. There’s nothing worse than digging into our frozen berry supply in January and biting into a sour berry!! So if the berries you are choosing to freeze are not quite ripe you can leave them out on the kitchen counter for a day or two so that they ripen up nicely.
3. Remove the tops. We have tried all the fancy top removers and all the pinterest ideas and when it comes right down to it, the best and quickest way to remove the tops of strawberries is with a knife. Yes there is a bit of waste some times , but it’s so much quicker to just cut the tops off. When you are dealing with 100’s of berries that’s the best way to go. While you are taking off the tops be sure to remove any bruised or damages spots as well.
4. Cut the berries in half. No matter what the size of the berry, when we are freezing strawberries we go ahead and slice them in at least 1/2. This gives us a nice bite sized berry and also makes mashing or processing easier if that is what we choose to do later when we use them in the winter. This also allows us to check for bugs and worms. Because we grow all of our garden organically there are times when a little bug or worm can get inside. Nothing turns a 9 year old off eating frozen strawberries on her pancakes more than finding a worm in them. So cutting them in half lets you take a look inside to be sure they are clear!! (We still can’t get that 9, now 11 year old to eat frozen strawberries without us first cutting each in half so she can see they are worm free!!)
5. Freeze them flat. Any fruit or veggie that we freeze we do this first. Lay all of the fruit your are going to freeze out on a cookie sheet in one single layer. Try to keep the berries from touching each other. Then put the cookie sheets in the freezer over night. We do it this way so that we get a better finished product. If you stick the berries into a freezer bag or other container before they are frozen they will stick together in one giant clump of berries! Freezing them flat first means each berry is frozen individually so that as long as they stay frozen they will be easy to remove from the container. This extra step makes all the difference in the world in our finished product. Now we can just take how ever many berries we need from the bag instead of having to defrost the whole bag or chisel out the right amount from a frozen chunk!
6. Put them into the container of your choice – Once the berries are frozen simply put them in what ever container you choose. We try to use a plastic freezer bag that is BPA free (although we are not perfect about this). You can also store them in glass or metal containers. Be sure to label the container so you know which berries to use first. Frozen berries can last up to a year in your freezer, although ours usually don’t make it much past March (because we eat them all up!!)
7. Sacrifice some fresh berries now – We have a rule around our place. Any time we pick berries (other than just a small handful) we freeze 1/2 of them. Some times that is painful because we REALLY love fresh strawberries! But sacrificing some berries to the freezer now makes us very happy in January!!
What do we use these berries for? Thawed berries are mushy. So you are not going to be thawing them out and eating them whole. But they are perfect for toppings. We thaw out a handful and used them as toppings in oatmeal, hot cereal and as a mix in for plain Greek yogurt. They are also great for cobblers. And we used them for smoothies and in homemade ice cream!! Mashed up berries also make a fantastic sugar free topping for pan cakes, waffles and French toast!
Our 4 by 15 foot strawberry patch usually give us around 30 pounds a year. We will end up with 4 or 5 gallon sized bags of strawberries in the freezer by the end of the season (we would have more, but we are not very good at keeping our only eat 1/2 rule).
If you have questions for us about freezing strawberries, or even better, other ideas on how to use frozen strawberries please leave us a comment below!!
**Any canning or food preservation advice given on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA or USDA, you are encouraged to verify our food preservation advice on the USDA food preservation website or in your favorite food preservation book!