Preparing fruit for freezing

County Agent’s Corner

Pack and label containers

Using the right container to freeze fruits is essential. Be sure to always use a moisture-proof container so fruits don’t dry out and a vapor proof container to keep other odors out. You can’t go wrong with freezer bags or rigid freezer containers.

Last week, I talked about different ways to preserve fruits; there’s a couple more options that work well. Dry packing is good for small, whole fruits like berries. It’s easy and you don’t have to worry about adding sugar. You simply pack the fruit in the freezer container, seal securely, and freeze.

To make it easier to get fruit out of containers try tray packing. Freeze fruit first, then pack it in the container. To freeze, spread fruit in a single layer making sure the pieces don’t touch. When the fruit is frozen, pack in containers and quickly return it to the freezer before it starts to thaw so the pieces remain loose. Now you can grab what you need instead of defrosting the whole package. Always remember to package fruit as soon as it’s frozen to prevent freezer burn.

Helpful tips

• Write the name of the product and freezing date on each package.

• Follow manufacturer’s directions when using rigid freezer containers.

• Glass jars can break so don’t pack them full. Always use new (flat) lids and scald them before using.

• A wax-type carton, such as a milk carton, usually won’t seal airtight, can crack at 0 degrees, and isn’t vapor proof.

Quick-freeze

It’s always important to freeze fruit as quickly as possible so the cells don’t break down. That’s what causes thawed food to be soft. To ensure it freezes fast, place fruit in the coldest part of the freezer leaving a small space between each package.

Store fruit correctly

It usually takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours for fruit to completely freeze. Once it’s frozen, pack your containers as close together as possible. It’s also good to keep a record of how many containers you have of each fruit so you can check them off as you use them.

The colder the better! Make sure your freezer setting is at 0 degrees. Research shows that food frozen and stored at temperatures above 0 degrees loses flavor, texture, color, and nutritional value.

Thaw fruit properly

Try to thaw only enough for one meal at a time. Once fruits thaw, they quickly lose freshness, texture softens, and flavor and color changes. Berries that have been frozen taste better when they still contain a few ice crystals. The texture of peaches and similar fruit, though, improves with complete thawing.

For best flavor and color, always leave fruit in the unopened container as it thaws. Turn the container occasionally as it’s thawing to keep fruit coated with syrup to help prevent darkening. Slow thawing in the refrigerator is best. Fruits packed with dry sugar thaw faster than those in syrup.

For good, quality frozen foods, one step depends on another. If you’d like a copy of this publication, call and ask for HE-0016-B. For more information on this topic and many others, as well as information on our many programs, contact your local Blount County Extension Office at 205-274- 2129 or follow us on Facebook.