In-season strawberries are available for a short period, so we often overbuy. Freeezing seems to be the easiest way to preserve food which begs the question – can you freeze strawberries?
For strawberry lovers, there is nothing like the taste of an in-season berry. Those picked too early tend to be bland, and in-season berries from an opposite hemisphere carry with them the issue of excessive food miles. So if you want to preserve that in-season taste, buying as many berries as you can during your local strawberry season is a must. However, that can lead to overbuying, which leaves too many berries spoiling in their little pint baskets. Freezing the berries is a solution if you don’t mind a softer texture once you thaw them.
Image used under Creative Commons from Sharon Mollerus
Frozen Berry Texture
Freezing strawberries, much like freezing other foods, changes the berries’ texture. The moisture in the berry will turn to ice, of course, and that ice will expand a bit. That causes the cells in the berries to soften or even burst once the berries thaw. You will not be able to preserve the firm texture of fresh strawberries if you freeze them. But you can preserve that taste.
Freezing strawberries requires little preparation past what you’d do if you were planning to eat them fresh. However, take a look in your freezer, first. If there isn’t a lot of room in there, work on freezing the berries in batches. That means preparing them in batches, too, if you have a lot.
Wash the berries thoroughly and dry them. Don’t start the freezing process without this washing step because the berries will be impossible to wash once they’re frozen and if they thaw. Any pathogens on the berries will work their way into the meat of the berry as it thaws. So, wash first.
Cut the green tops off the berries, too. They have only ornamental value anyway, which would disappear once the berry thawed. Freezing those would be a waste of space.
Slice the berries if you want. You can freeze them whole or in halves, slices, or chunks.
Place some wax paper or parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread out the berries so none of them overlap or touch. If you’re freezing sliced berries, it’s crucial not to let them touch lest the slices freeze together. Chunks of berries are a little different; those may be OK if a few chunks freeze together. But you don’t want a huge mass of them stuck together.
Place the sheet in the freezer for a few hours. The amount of time will vary depending on how large the berries, slices, or chunks are. Basically, you want them to get to a point where they’re rather hard and not very wet.
At that point, pour them into a zippered freezer bag and store them on top of something or in an empty area of the freezer. That lets them freeze thoroughly without being crushed. Repeat all the steps with more batches of berries.
You’ve got a couple of options for thawing. One is to place them in a bowl in the refrigerator and let them sit for at least a few hours, if not a day. Another is to microwave the berries on defrost for several seconds at a time, testing frequently.
Use After Freezing and Thawing
Thawed berries will be soft — almost mushy in some cases — and you’ll see a lot of juice and water surrounding them. You can use thawed berries in almost the same ways as fresh berries. You won’t be able to pick up a firm berry and bite into it, but you could eat thawed berries with a spoon. Other ways to use them include:
- Eat small frozen berries for a cold snack on hot days
- Mix thawed berries and the juice into plain yogurt for healthy strawberry yougurt
- Use them as an ice cream topping
- Combine the thawed berries, the juice, and a little sugar to make a syrup for pancakes
Shelf-Life After Thawing
Use thawed berries immediately. Don’t let more than a day pass after placing them in the refrigerator to thaw; if you thaw them via the microwave, use immediately. Frozen berries will be fine for as long as your freezer works properly, though ice crystals and freezer burn might increase over time. Discard berries that thawed in the freezer during a power outage.