My Great-Aunt Linda (Hobbit-size, witty, and balding) was unforgettable; so was her freezer. Opening it was a glimpse into her boisterous personality. Bags and bags of frozen fruits and vegetables climbed beyond the rim of the door's shelves thanks to knives and spoons she precariously positioned between the shelves and food in order to expand her freezer space.
Lately, I've been channeling Auntie Linda: During the summer, I freeze fruit to make the fleeting season last a bit longer and because when I visit a grocery store or u-pick farm, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach.
When this happens to you, either set up a canning lab or open the freezer.
Tips for Freezing Fruit
1. If your fruit is not organic, wash it. (Organic, delicate berries, like blackberries and raspberries, don't need to be washed.) Set the clean fruit on paper towels and gently cover it with more paper towels. Let it dry completely before freezing.
2. For larger fruits, like strawberries, apricots, and plums, core, pit, and stem them, then cut them into smaller pieces, which are easier to store and defrost.
3. Fruits that brown easily, like apples and pears, should be frozen in a sugar syrup: 1 1/2 pounds of sugar (about 3 cups) dissolved in 1 quart of water and about a 1/2 teaspoon of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can be purchased at many natural food stores.
4. If you plan to use your fruits for a pie filling, you can freeze them in a sugar syrup to help improve their texture (3 cups sugar to 4 cups water).
5. Fruits that are bruised, like bananas, can be mashed or puréed and then frozen and used later for things like smoothies or quick breads.
6. Freeze fruits using the tray freezing method: Place the fruits in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and set the sheet in the freezer until the fruits are solid. Then package the fruits in freezer bags or square freezing containers, removing as much air as possible before storing.
7. When possible, thaw frozen fruits in the fridge, not at room temperature. If you're in a rush, set the freezer bag or container in cold water.
Ideas for Using Frozen Fruit
Freezing changes a fruit's properties, particularly the texture. In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee wrote that freezing creates water crystals that puncture the cell walls and membranes of food. So when frozen fruits are thawed, they're softer and the juices leech out. Which means thawed fruit is better prepared than eaten out of hand.
1. Turn defrosted fruit, including berries, bananas, peaches, and mangoes, into a breakfast smoothie.
2. Toss it over yogurt, granola, or cereal.
3. Add frozen berries or thawed mashed bananas to quick bread, muffin, or scone dough.
5. Stew them into jams, syrups, sauces, or pie fillings. Heidi Friske, the general manager at Friske Orchards in Michigan, explained that they make their pies using frozen cherries. "We suggest making the pie filling first by cooking the cherries and thickening them with a nice glaze," said Friske. You can refreeze the cooled pie filling in small containers. I recently heard of a woman who places her prepared pie filling in a plastic-wrap-lined pie plate, freezes it, and then transfers the filling from the pie plate to a freezer bag. When she needs her pie filling she just plops it into frozen prepared pie dough and cooks the pie for a bit longer than normal. Brilliant, though I haven't yet tried it.
7. Use frozen fruit pieces as ice cubes in cocktails. They float!
8. Mix thawed berries into butter for a sweet and fruity spread.
Let us know how you use your fruit excess!