How to freeze fruit
Ahhh… Summer is here. Time to let the kids loose in the sprinkler, slip off those shoes, slide back into a lawn chair to relax with some icy lemonade, close those eyes… BREET!! A screeching coach’s whistle wakes you from your relaxed reverie. What on earth… It’s me.
I’m suited up in my gym shorts to tell you summer is not the time to relax. Of course I’m sort of joking, summer is a time to relax, play, have fun. But if you’re frugal-living and healthy-eating enthusiasts, it’s also the time to harvest. And every single year, come November, December, January, when my family’s snacks consist of yet another carrot stick and dinner consists of yet another yam, I always wish I’d stocked my freezer just a little more. Freezing is an easy way to preserve fruit without having to spend your sunny days canning or making jam. In other words, my summer motto is:
Get as much fruit–frugally–into my freezer with as little work as possible. (So I can go slide back into that lawn chair with the lemonade…)
First, let me say: I love canned peaches, and I love strawberry jam. No doubt about it. If you enjoy canning and making jam, awesome! Will you send me some? But for my family, I try to keep food raw and whole as much as possible, without adding any sugar. So simply freezing fruit in gallon ziplocks is the easiest way to preserve raw, whole fruit we can use all year long.
Our Favorite Northwest Picks:
Strawberries: NW strawberries are to die for. They are also among the top three worst pesticide-laden foods, so then again, maybe they are not worth dying for. If possible, skip the Costco ones and find a local organic or no-spray source. Pick Your Own’s site is a great source for finding local farms. You can call and ask about practices (many local farms have natural practices but have not been certified organic).
Wash and hull strawberries and let dry on a towel on the counter. Then freeze in ziplock bags. We pull out a bowl-full, let thaw just slightly, and eat them as a sweet cold snack. They also make great smoothies. (Emily has a great post here on freezer jam!)
Black/Rasp/Boysen/Marionberries: We’re cheap, so we usually stick to blackberries because, well, they’re free. You know how we frugalistas flock to a crazy money-making coupon deal? Flock to blackberries like that! They are free food! Often you can find them surrounding parks, baseball fields, paths. Every year we hit some friends’ rural property and keep our eye out for bears.
My kids also eat these plain and frozen, although I prefer them in a smoothie mixed with a little bit of orange juice to sweeten. They also are a great addition to homemade applesauce or oatmeal. But have your kids wear black when eating them; they stain!
Peaches/Nectarines: Peaches and nectarines are also a high-pesticide food, so look for an organic source, if possible. Azure Standard is our favorite. This helpful post has more information on Azure. If you value local, organic produce, it’s definitely worth looking into! To tell you the truth, we have never managed to freeze peaches and nectarines because we eat them too fast. I always think we’ll eat half and freeze half … never happens. But this year I’m determined; I’ll hide them if I have to!
The trick is ripening them. The easiest way is to stick them in a brown paper bag with several ripe bananas, then chip-clip the top and sit in a warm place. I do this with 20 lbs at a time, paper bags lined up all along my kitchen wall. They will ripen to perfection, then you can freeze. More helpful tips on freezing peaches and nectarines here.
Cherries: Frozen cherries are AMAZING. So good. I have to cut my kids off, or they would eat these all day long. They freeze easily and remain soft and easy to eat frozen. Oh, my mouth is watering! And Azure Standard has phenomenal deals on organic and transitional cherries.
But… you have to pit them. Yes, this takes work. You will usually find me on a sunny afternoon, outside while my kids are in the sprinkler, sitting in that lawn chair, pitting cherries. It’s worth it. Again, if they are bing cherries, have your kids wear black (or nothing!).
Blueberries: These are our favorite. Our family picks organic blueberries for $1/lb. at a farm on Engstrom Road in Colton, Oregon. Such a deal! (I’m not sure if I want you all to know about it.)
Simply wash, let dry a bit, and toss in a ziplock. These are delicious plain, or tossed into smoothies or applesauce. My kids love eating frozen blueberries year round.
Apples: Finally, our classic NW favorite. Although apples keep well in a cool place, I do freeze them for applesauce. To make it WAY easier and more efficient, leave the peels on. They will cook down, then after you blenderize the applesauce you won’t even know they’re there. A simple corer/slicer (Amazon) makes this job fast and fun (again, we do it outside on the deck), and you can freeze them sliced/cored in ziplock bags. Then just dump them into a large stock pot and cook down for several hours.
Amazing homemade applesauce in no time. No canning required, just grab a bag from the freezer and make a fresh batch whenever you want. Toss in some frozen blackberries or blueberries for a real treat.
Here’s what I love about summer freezing: You can do all the prep outside. No need to slave over a hot stove. Sit out in that lawn chair and pit, peel, core. I even use my garden hose to wash! This keeps the mess outside, out of my kitchen, and keeps me out enjoying these blessed summer days. We don’t get very many here in the Northwest, so enjoy them while they last!
Alright, now I’ll put my whistle away. Have fun freezing this summer!
Kari Patterson is pastor’s wife, preschool mom, writer, speaker, reader, blogger and frugal living enthusiast. She writes all about the beautiful mess of life over at KariPatterson.com.
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