Making jam and canning fruit aren't the only ways to preserve summer fruits while they're in season: There's also the freezer! Cobblers, pies, and "fresh" fruit smoothies in the dead of winter? Game on. Here's the best way to freeze those fruits so they stay in perfect condition for months to come.
It's tempting — and maybe intuitive — to just throw those fruits in a freezer bag and be done with it. But frozen this way, the fruits often freeze together into one solid brick, which makes things difficult when you need just a few cups to make a dessert or want to fit them nicely into a pie crust. Thawing the fruit turns them into a watery, pulpy mess — fine if they're already encased in pastry dough, but less ideal for working with initially.
A better and easier way to freeze fresh fruits is to first prepare them just as you would if you were going to use them immediately — peel and core apples and pears, remove the pits from peaches, and chop them into small bite-sized pieces. Berries and other small fruits can be left whole. Then freeze all the fruits in a single layer on a baking sheet. The small individual pieces freeze solid and can easily be transferred into a freezer container for longer storage. Removing as much air as possible from the bag or container will also help protect the fruit from freezer burn.
As I mentioned earlier, frozen fruits will become mushy and watery once they thaw. They may not look the prettiest, but they still taste just as good! This means that they're best when used in baked goods like pies, cobblers, and crumbles — or even folded into quick breads or scones. Don't bother thawing them before making your pastry; use them straight from the freezer. Just don't plan on using frozen fruit like fresh fruit to decorate a tart or top off a beautiful custard — better to cook them into a sauce or a quick jam first.
During times when fresh fruit is a season or two away, this frozen summer fruit feels like your own little piece of heaven. Freeze it now — thank yourself later.
Seal tightly, pressing out as much air as possible, and return the fruit to the freezer.
How To Freeze Fresh Summer Fruit
What You Need
Any amount of ripe fruit
Freezer bags or containers
- Wash and dry the fruit: Rinse the fruit under cool running water, using a bit of soap or fruit wash if you prefer. Lay the fruit on a single layer on a clean dish towel and allow to dry. The fruit needs to be completely dry before freezing or the fruit will quickly develop freezer burn.
- Slice the fruit: In general, prepare the fruit the way you expect to be using it. If you will be using the fruit in a pie, slice it into chunks or wedges. If you will be blending it into smoothies, roughly chop. Here is a general guide for the most common kinds of fruits:
• Apples and Pears: Core and cut into slices or chunks. Peels can be left on or removed as preferred.
• Peaches, Nectarines, Plums and other Stone Fruit: Remove the pits and cut into slices or chunks. Peels can be left on or removed as preferred.
• Cherries: Remove the pits and stems from all the fruits. Leave whole or slice in half.
• Blueberries, Raspberries, and other Berries: Berries can be left whole
• Strawberries: Hull the strawberries and cut into chunks or slices as preferred
• Melons: Remove the rinds and slice into chunks or use a melon baller to scoop rounds.
- Arrange the fruit on a baking sheet: Line a baking sheet with parchment, then arrange the fruit in a single layer on top. It's ok if the fruits are touching slightly, but avoid layering or overlapping the fruits. This allows the fruits to freeze individually, making them easier to store and, eventually, use.
- Freeze until the fruits are solid: Clear some space in your freezer and slide the tray of fruit inside. Freeze until the fruits are solid, about 4 hours. You can leave the fruits overnight, but be sure to package them within a day or two or they will start to develop freezer burn.
- Label the freezer containers: When ready to pack the fruit, label your freezer bags or other containers with the name of the fruit and the amount. This makes it easier to find the fruit you want (and identify similar-looking fruits!) and pull out the specific quantity that you need.
- Pack the fruits into freezer containers: Once the fruits have frozen solid, pack them into freezer containers. Lift the edges of the parchment to dislodge sticky fruits and use a spatula to transfer the fruits to the freezer container. Avoid touching the fruit as it will start to thaw quickly. Seal tightly, pressing out as much air as possible, and return the fruit to the freezer.
- Freeze fruit for up to 3 months: Fruits will keep for several months — at least 3 months and sometimes longer — before starting to develop ice crystals and freezer burn. There is usually no need to thaw the fruit before using it.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)