Who doesn't long for locally grown succulent blueberries, firm plums, and crisp apples all year round?
Well, you can, and it's as simple as popping them in the freezer. Okay, okay, it's a little more complicated than that, but we promise—freezing fruit is still ridiculously easy.
Most fruits are best frozen just as they become fully ripe. Choose seasonal, fresh produce at the peak of flavor—that natural sweetness will stick around in the freezer.
Here's how to get started.
Step 1: Wash everything
If you would wash it before eating it, wash it before freezing it. Give all your fruit a thorough wash, and allow them to drip dry.
Step 2: Pitt, stem, and clean the fruit
If you're freezing stone fruits, pitt and slice them. If you're freezing strawberries, remove the stem and slice them, if necessary. You get the idea.
Step 3: Prevent darkening
You know how some fruits, like apples, will start to brown if left out? That's oxidation, and it can also happen to fruits in the freezer. The most effective way to prevent darkening is by tossing the cut fruit with some ascorbic acid (vitamin C). You can also use vitamin C crystals dissolved in a little cold water.
Lemon juice may also prevent darkening, but doesn't work as well as ascorbic acid. Mix 3 tablespoons of lemon juice into one quart of cold water, and soak the fruit in this solution for 2 minutes. Drain the fruit and freeze it however you like.
Some fruits—like whole pears or rhubarb—can even be steamed or cooked for a few minutes to stop them from darkening.
Step 4: Pack it up
With your fruits all prepped, now it's time to pack them into sealable containers, bags, or jars. You can try a few different methods here: syrup, sugar, unsweetened, or tray packed.
If you want to eat a handful of frozen blackberries at a time, tray packing is probably best. Lay out the fruit on a baking sheet, and freeze for an hour or two. Once the fruit has frozen solid, remove the tray from the freezer and pack the fruit into bags, jars, or sealable containers.
If you plan to use your frozen fruit in a pie or cobbler, a syrup pack might work for you. Make a simple syrup of sugar and water (the University of Georgia offers a handy guide to the different concentrations of syrups you can use). After placing the fruit in the container, pour over 1/2 cup or so of the syrup—you want to just cover the fruit. Leave at least a 1/2 inch of headspace and freeze away.
You can also mix dry sugar into the fruit for a sugar pack. Mix gently until the sugar is dissolved, and freeze in airtight containers. This draws some of the juice out of the fruit, and makes its own kind of syrup.
To skip the added sugar altogether, simply freeze the fresh fruit in airtight jars, bags, or sealed containers. If you're trying to avoid excess sugar, unsweetened packs or tray packs are certainly the best methods.
Like with any other frozen food, you'll need to take precautions against freezer burn. Make sure not too leave too much excess room in each container, and when using a tray pack or unsweetened pack, be careful to thoroughly dry the fruit before freezing.
Et voila—you've got a freezer full of fresh, perfectly in-season fruit. A cobbler's sounding pretty good right now, isn't it?
Photo credit: Paul Delmont