Preserving Strawberries

Twenty-five pounds of strawberries came and went pretty quickly; after tonight’s strawberry tart I’ve got less than a quart left. I think I might actually have to go picking again!

Final totals: About 5 quarts frozen, 2 pints dried, 2 and 1/2 ice cube trays of purée, plus about 1 cup in the fridge, 3 and 1/2 pints of strawberry-rhubarb jam, one glazed strawberry tart and lots of random strawberry snacking – over ice cream, on granola, in salads, and out of the box. Happy preserving!

Check under “strawberries” on the Preserves page for the latest in strawberry preserving. For all sorts of strawberry recipes, click on berries in the Categories section.

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Preserving Strawberries

FREEZE

Basics:  Individually quick freeze washed and hulled berries (whole or sliced), laid out, without touching, on a plate or baking sheet, for at least one hour. Once berries are frozen solid, transfer to a doubled Ziploc bag and store frozen for up to 6 months. Alternatively, mix berries with approximately 1/4  to 3/4 cup sugar per quart berries, allow to rest and maceratae at room temperature for about an hour, then fill quart-sized containers, pushing berries beneath the juice, and freeze for up to 1 year. Make sure to label with the amount of sugar you used for modifying recipes later on.

Details: There are a couple of different methods. One, commonly called Individual Quick Freeze, or IQF, involves placing whole or sliced berries on a plate or cookie sheet, making sure the berries do not touch each other, and then placing the plate/sheet in the freezer for about an hour. Once the berries are solidly frozen, they can be transferred to a Ziploc bag or other container; this avoids the one-big-clump-of-frozen-berries syndrome that happens if you try to simply freeze berries in a bag or container. I usually store mine in a doubled-up Ziploc bag after an hour or longer of IQF. This method does leave the berries more susceptible to freezer-burn; the doulbe-bagging helps to prevent this, and I’ve found that the berries will stay in reasonably good shape for about 6 months. Longer than this and they tend to dry out and succumb to freezer burn.

The other method involves freezing berries with sugar; the sugar creates a syrup and works to protect the berries from drying out and/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 longer-term storage (a year or more), and it does save a bit of space, as as the berries pack down a bit after macerating in sugar. The basic method I’ve seen involves tossing a quart of washed, hulled berries with sugar, allowing the juice to release, then squishing them into a quart container and popping in the freezer.

I did my own experiment with the first big haul of berries: I froze three quarts in plastic containers; one with 1/2 cup of sugar, one with 1/4 cup sugar and one with 1/3 cup honey. The 1/2 cup of sugar worked best: honey does not macerate the berries as well, so not much juice was released, and 1/4 cup of sugar wasn’t quite enough to produce enough juice to cover the berries. The frozen berries in sugar syrup were lovely over yogurt or ice cream, but the IQF berries easier to use in a dessert like a pie or crumble.

Use: Any recipe that calls for fresh or frozen berries.

DRY

Basics:  Wash, hull and slice strawberries (I prefer wedges), laying them individually, without touching, on the trays of a dehydrator, or on baking sheets. Dry in the dehydrator at 135 – 140 degrees F for 12-18 hours, or in your oven as low as it will go (range is usually 150 – 200 degrees F) and start checking at 8 hours. Store in airtight containers for up to 1 year. A little oil spray will make it easier to remove the dried berries from the dehydrator trays or baking sheets. About 3 and 1/2 lbs of strawberries yielded 2 cups of dried berries.

Details: I dried two batches of berries in my dehydrator; for the first I followed Doris & Jilly’s advice and sliced berries, thinly, to about 1/4-inch, and laid out in the dehydrator trays. For one (out of a total of five) tray, I sliced wedges (slicing berries into quarters, or sometimes six wedges) instead of slices. Then I dried them at 125 degrees F for about 16-18 hours. I started checking them at 12 hours, but didn’t start pulling any off the dehydrator until 16 hours or so. The dried berries are quite delicious; crisp, chewy and packed full of strawberry flavor. I preferred the wedges to the thin slices however; the thin slices reminded me oddly of Commumion wafers – they get stuck to the roof of your palate and stick there!

For the second batch, I decided to go with all wedges. Also, being the New England Yankee that I am, I hated the thought of all that delicious strawberry juice just evaporating into the air (even though it does make the house smell fabulous); therefore, I used the Rose method to release & collect some of the juice prior to drying. I washed, hulled, and sliced about 3 and 1/2 lbs of berries into wedges, then piled them all into a Ziploc bag to freeze overnight. The next day I pulled out the frozen berries and allowed them to thaw for about 8 hours in a colander suspended over a large bowl. I collected about 3 and 1/2 cups of strawberry juice, which I then boiled down to about 1/2 cup of strawberry syrup. I put the now-thawed berry slices in the dehydrator, and dried them at 125 degrees F for about 18 hours. However, I found these berries to be less intensely flavored than the ones that I did not freeze/thaw; in future, I will simply dry fresh berries and let the house smell fabulous.

Use: In homemade granola, in muffins or scones, rehydrated in a marinade or dressing, solo as a snack!

PURÉE

Basics: See Rose’s Strawberry Purée recipe for details on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s method of freezing berries to release juice, concentrating the juice, then adding back to the puréed berry flesh. Delicious, concentrated berry flavor that needs no added sugar. Alternatively you can purée washed, hulled berries in a food processor or blender, then cook the entire purée to reduce the volume and intensify the strawberry flavor; or you can simply purée fresh strawberries, but they are such a watery fruit that the flavor will be somewhat subdued. Freeze the purée in ice cube trays or small plastic containers or process 4-oz or 8-oz jars (1/4-inch headspace) in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Details: I froze about 4 lbs of whole washed, hulled berries overnight. I collected 4 cups of juice from the frozen berries, reduced it to about 3/4 cup, then added back to puréed berry flesh (along with lemon juice and salt). I froze two-and-a-half ice cube trays with tablespoon-sized portions, then saved the rest in the refrigerator for use over the next week. Delicious!

Use: In vinaigrette, oatmeal or yogurt, cream-cheese frosting, cake filling, drizzle over ice cream, cheesecake, or any dessert that could use a strawberry kick.

CAN & JAM

Neighbor Nancy has good instructions for canning whole or sliced berries in a simple syrup and also for canning strawberry lemonade. For more strawberry preserving ideas from the Ball Jar site, see recipes here.

Use:  for pies or strawberry shortcake, over ice cream or waffles, in yogurt or oatmeal or any recipe that requires lightly sweetened berries.

All manner of canned strawberry preserves below:

Use: on toast, but also as a cake layer filling, to make mini-tarts, as the center “surprise” of muffins or cupcakes, as the base for a vinaigrette or marinade, over ice cream, or to give as gifts to friends.

FERMENT & INFUSE

See Homemade Berry Cordial for a recipe for strawberry liqueur. Check out Sean’s Strawberry Vodka on Punk Domestics, or infuse a vinegar a la blueberry-basil vinegar.

SEASON

Late spring into early summer.

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9 comments

  1. Ann

    This is a seriously comprehensive list of ways to put-up strawberries! I will definitely be referring to this post often for ideas and inspiration. Thanks.

  2. I always freeze whole (hulled) strawberries in wide mouth canning jars… but I do have room for them in my chest freezer. I wash them, let them dry on towels at room temp for a couple hours and then pack loosely in jars – I haven’t had much trouble with getting them out of the glass, but sometimes I do have more trouble than others. Often, I defrost a whole quart, then sugar and slice them when they are still partially frozen. I get a whole year out of them when freezing in glass, without much freezer burn at all.

    I am totally making strawberry puree this year, however… I never thought of that before! Thanks a lot!!

    • Maybe the glass canning jars are better at keeping air out than Ziploc bags? Either way, I’d never have room, even with our handy-dandy chest freezer. I usually do some of each, and prioritize using up the Ziploc-ed berries first. And, yes, puree! I didn’t make any last year and I missed it.

  3. Another fabulous, thorough post of strawberry ideas. Thank you. Last year someone gave me a lot of unseasonal strawberries in December: I roasted them with ginger, pureed them and froze them in glass. I made a marvelous toast spread.

  4. Pingback: Strawberry Sauce with Balsamic Vinegar « Gregoryo’s Blog

  5. Pingback: Strawberry Picking Tips - JessBFit Personal Training & Yoga

  6. Pingback: 36 Outstanding Strawberry Ideas

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