Freezing fresh fruit in season is the very best way to hold on to the taste of summer. It’s surprisingly easy and well worth the time it takes to do it.
We love the taste of summer fruits and vegetables–freshly picked and bursting with flavor. In fact, we love summer’s bountiful harvest so much that we are always looking for ways to hold onto it all the way through the winter months when the produce aisles at the grocery store are downright discouraging.
So today I want to talk a little about the old craft of “putting by” for the winter.
There are a couple of ways to preserve summer’s goodness, but my favorite is freezing. In my opinion, the flavors of produce stay truer through the freezing process than through the canning process.
Freezing fruit and vegetables is very simple. Obviously, you can put everything in a container and simply stash it in the freezer. It’s sometimes necessary, however, to be able to retrieve the exact amount of fruit that you need. If the fruit is all frozen into one giant lump, it’s hard to get that exact amount.
To rectify that situation, I spread pitted cherries, for example, out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (one that has sides is important if the fruit rolls!) It’s important to have the fruit as dry as possible. I pick my cherries at a place that doesn’t use sprays on their fruit, so I don’t even wash the cherries before I freeze them.
So I stick the tray of fruit in the freezer until the cherries are completely frozen. Once the cherries are completely frozen, I scoop them off and put them into labelled ziplock bags. Those bags go back into the freezer immediately. Voila! I have sweet, perfect cherries in my freezer that I can use all winter long. The biggest challenge is keeping my kids out of them. On the other hand, cherries are practically a miracle food and are packed with anti-oxidents, so I’m actually okay with them snacking on frozen cherries. I do the same with blueberries.
If you freeze peaches, you’ll need to use a spatula to remove the fruit from the cookie sheet after it’s frozen. I personally like to remove the skin from peaches before I freeze them because the skin doesn’t freeze well.
If you freeze cherries, you need to pit them first. I just froze 25 pounds of sweet Michigan cherries that I’m going to thoroughly enjoy this winter! Blueberries are the easiest to freeze. If they’re clean and dry, you don’t even need to freeze them on a cookie sheet first. Just pour them gently into a ziplock bag and pop it in the freezer. Blackberries and raspberries shouldn’t be washed before freezing because they’ll be too wet and turn into a sodden mess. Just pick off the leaves, sticks, and other debris and spread them out on the cookie sheet.
I recommend that if you find great local fruit, buy a lot of it and freeze as much as you have room for. Some fruitstands will give you discounts if you buy a LOT of fruit. It’s a worthwhile investment of grocery dollars to buy local, seasonal fruit and freeze it.