Select fruit for freezing carefully. Immature or overripe fruit will produce a product of low quality. Start with the best and you’ll be happy with the results. Harvest fruits when they are ripe, but before they start to soften. All fruits to be frozen, with the exception of strawberries and blueberries, should be washed thoroughly in several changes of clean water, but don’t let fruit soak in a pan of standing water. This will make them mushy. Washing accomplishes several objectives:
• Decreases the number of microorganisms on the fruit;
• Removes surface dirt;
• Decreases pesticide residues (If possible, harvest or buy fruit that has not been sprayed or dusted with pesticides);
• Decreases possibilities of insects, eggs, and larvae;
• Increases the visibilities of bruises so they may be trimmed out.
Berries, cherries, and grapes are the most easily frozen fruits. Spread them on cookie sheets in single layers (this keeps them from sticking together) and pop in the freezer. When frozen, pack them in freezer bags and they’re ready for use. Be sure they are thoroughly dry before freezing them or they’ll stick together in an aggravating clump.
Last year we harvested blackberries that had grown alongside a dirt road and they needed some serious cleaning before they were fit for the freezer. We spread them on screens on the grass and set the hose nozzle on a gentle spray. It took a while, since we had to turn them over to give them a thorough shower. We air dried them and, for good measure, brought them inside and spread them on a layer of paper towels to absorb any remaining water. It was a bit of a pain. That’s why I love cranberries. Buy a few extra bags at holiday time and just toss them in the freezer, as is. They keep beautifully.
Any fruits can be frozen in syrup, in dry sugar, or left unsweetened, although the texture may be softer than that of fruit frozen with sugar. Fruits that will be served uncooked are often packed in syrup, made either from cane or beet sugar, corn syrup or honey. Allow about two-thirds cup of syrup for each pint of fruit; one and one-third cups for each quart of fruit. Dissolve the sugar in hot or cold water. If hot, cool before using. Light syrup uses four cups of water and two cups of sugar to yield five cups of syrup.
Fruits intended for use as pie fillings may be packed in sugar, using one cup of sugar for each two to three pounds of fruit. Sugar and fruit should be gently and thoroughly mixed until the sugar has dissolved in the juice.
Some fruits, such as peaches, apples, pears, and apricots, darken quickly when exposed to air and during freezing. They may also lose flavor when thawed. The cut surface of the fruit contains enzymes, which cause browning once exposed to air. Prepare small quantities at one time, if you are freezing a variety that darkens quickly. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) prevents discoloration and also adds nutritive value. Crush six tablets of 500mg vitamin C in a gallon of water. Soak fruit in this solution for two minutes, drain, and then freeze. Lemon juice or orange juice is sometimes used for this purpose, but these juices are not as effective and can mask natural fruit flavors.
Fruits may be frozen in freezer bags, rigid waxed or plastic-lined cartons, or (my least favorite) glass canning jars with wide mouths. If you are using the glass jars, you’ll be freezing with syrup, so put a piece of crumbled waxed paper between the fruit and the lid to keep the fruit submerged in the liquid. This prevents the product from darkening and drying out. If using jars, remember to leave ample headspace for expansion during freezing.