Strawberry Freezer Smackdown

Assuming the weather holds, this weekend I plan to pick gobs and gobs of strawberries at Gaventa & Sons Farm in New Jersey. We’ll eat some, make some jam, and freeze the rest. But how to freeze? That is the question.

All the old home ec books say that the best way to freeze strawberries is to put them in a simple syrup and freeze in solid containers. For years I have resisted this on advice from my mother, who sold me on the idea of individually quick-freezing berries. If done right, you end up with bag fulls of individually frozen berries that you can then dump into smoothies, pies, or whatever else you’re making without thawing the whole bag. The basic procedure is to put clean berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet, then stick them in a freezer for a few hours, then transfer them immediately to freezer bags. Last year, though, I had so little room in my freezer that I was forced to use both methods.

Now, you may recall that I’ve been on a strawberry and rhubarb compote kick. So, a couple of days ago I pulled a quart container of berries from the freezer, stuck them in the fridge, and promptly forgot about them. When I finally opened them up, I was amazed:

sugared-strawberries
Those are some fine lookin’ berries! Seriously: they look like they could have been sugared earlier this week. I would gladly put these over ice cream or yogurt, stick them in a fruit salad, use them to make a pie—whatever. The point is that they look and taste great.

Compare, then, with a bag of the “individually frozen” variety:

freezer-burnt-berries
I’m not quite sure that the picture conveys how nasty these were. They’re clearly freezer burnt. Some are quite dried out. At some point they also thawed and refroze into a giant clump, defeating the purpose of the individual freezing technique.

I have no idea whether this is a question of competence (did I do it wrong? was my freezer not cold enough? eh? eh?) or simply about unrealistic expectations for the lifespan of frozen food, but for me, it seems pretty clear that the sugar pack method is foolproof. Those berries are AT LEAST a year old, possibly two, and they taste like they were picked yesterday. I’m sold.

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13 comments to Strawberry Freezer Smackdown

  • Jenn Sutherland

    Great post! I agree, that for super long-term freezer storage, simple syrup is best for flavor. I still freeze most of my berries IQF style – I do double bag them in the freezer, and so far have avoided any freezer burn. I pulled out my last bag from last summer for rhubarb sauce last weekend, and they were still perfect, tasty berries.

    Sadly, I don’t have enough freezer space for much more than a few gallon size bags of all my favorite summer fruits, but carefully hoarded (and hidden from the husband), they last us through the winter!

  • Wow, your pictures alone tell a compelling story. I’ve always been in the individually freeze berries camp and have had similar issues with freezer burn and chunks. I’m curious about the proportions berries to simple syrup, are the berries covered in syrup or just coated? Any guidance would be helpful. Definitely going to try this method. Thanks!

  • dorisgoat

    If you’re using whole berries, you should cover them with a light syrup (1 c. sugar for 2 c. water). If you’re slicing them, simply mix (gently!) a quart of sliced berries with 3/4 of a cup of sugar. Good luck!

  • i just took the last of my berries out of the freezer. i individually freeze them and then place them in a bag. the last of mine have come out looking like fresh frozen perfectly shaped individual berries.

    I am wondering if yours were really dry when they when in the freezer, and if they were frozen enough before you placed them in the bag?

  • dorisgoat

    It’s entirely possible. Like I said, I wasn’t sure if the problem was with me, or the technique. What I like about the sugared technique is that it’s nearly impossible to do wrong!

  • edibleaudiblewritable

    Fun post!

    I’ve got a question for the post-simple-syrup melt down: is it possible to rinse the syrup off the berries without doing much damage to the fruit? My hesitation (in spite of the pictorial evidence) is that the berries would be too sweet.

  • dorisgoat

    That’s a good question. I think it should be fine, but since most uses for frozen strawberries (jams, jellies, pies, compotes, ice cream, etc.) require some sugar anyway, I would just reduce the sugar in whatever recipe you’re using.

  • […] on last year’s experiment, I decided to use the sugar method exclusively to freeze my berries. Several readers pointed out […]

  • […] and getting nice and vanilla-y. The rest I frozen in quart-sized yogurt containers, using the sugar syrup method recommended by Doris and Jilly (if you haven’t checked out their site yet, do it. […]

  • […] and works to protect the berries from drying out or from freezer burn.  Doris and Jilly have a good comparison of the two methods on their blog.  I think that the sugar method is definitely the way to go for […]

  • […] 9, 2009 by dorisandjilly Earlier this summer I posted a little rant about individually quick frozen fruit…which doesn’t mean that I not open to giving it another try. Several of you posted […]

  • I was having my light and natural strawberry jam cooked and had it just posted on my blog, in which I also recommended your syrup freezing method to my readers for storing the berries.

    Thank you for sharing!

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