Freezing produce is a great way to keep items available that aren't in season for cooking or baking. Here you will find the information you need to freeze your fruits properly, and most importantly, safely.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR FREEZING FRUIT
- Choose top quality fruit (produce) at optimum maturity and freshness. Correct freezing techniques will maintain quality but will not improve it.
- If fruit cannot be frozen immediately, refrigerate to retain maximum freshness. For home-grown fruit, the guideline is 3 – 4 hours from garden to freezer.
- Work with small quantities, enough for only a few containers at a time.
- Wash and drain all fruit before removing hulls, cores, pits, seeds or skins. Wash small quantities at a time through several changes of cold water. Do not soak. Lift fruit out of water to prevent dirt from re-depositing on produce.
- Prepare fruit according to chart (see SPECIFIC DIRECTIONS FOR FREEZING FRUITS).
- Enzymes in fruit can cause browning and loss of vitamin C. These changes are more apparent in light coloured fruit, but can be lessened or prevented (see PREVENTING DISCOLOURATION below).
- Use freezer containers. Freezer bags or rigid plastic freezer containers are suitable. Remove as much air as possible from freezer bags. Allow enough headspace in rigid containers for food to expand.
- Label containers with date, contents, amount of fruit and amount of added ingredients. Labelling is especially important if freezing fruit for later use in jams, jellies or pies.
- Freeze prepared product immediately. Leave space between packages so they freeze more evenly and quickly. Large ice crystals form in fruit when too much is placed in the freezer at one time and the freezing process takes too long. Large ice crystals result in texture loss (softening or mushiness) and moisture loss in a fruit when it is thawed. When fruit is frozen quickly, smaller ice crystals are formed, resulting in a better quality product. As a guideline, freeze 2 lb of produce per cubic foot of freezer space per 24 hour period.
- The temperature of a freezer should be 0°F (-18°C) or lower. This very low temperature slows enzyme activity that effects the quality of fruit.
- For best quality and maximum nutrient value, use frozen fruit within one year.
TYPES OF PACKS
There are several ways to pack fruit for freezing. Fruit may be packed in syrup, in sugar, dry (plain) or in unsweetened fruit juice or water. The type of pack used will depend on the intended use of the fruit. Most fruits will have a better texture and flavour if packed in syrup or sugar. The sugar, however, is not necessary to safely preserve fruit. Fruits packed using a syrup pack or sugar pack are best used in uncooked desserts. Label the container with the amount of sugar added so adjustments can be made in the recipe used. Fruits packed using a dry pack are best for jam and jelly making or cooked desserts.
Types of Syrup Sugar Water Yields
3 1/2 cups
2 2/1 cups
1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups
Dissolve sugar in warm water; chill. Keep refrigerated until used. Cover fruit completely with syrup. Allow 1/2 – 3/4 cup syrup for each 2 cups fruit. If desired, up to 1/4 of the sugar may be replaced by corn syrup or honey.
The amount of sugar used may vary with sweetness of fruit, intended use and personal preference. As a guideline, use 1/2 cup sugar to 4 cups fruit. Sprinkle sugar over fruit and mix gently until the juice is drawn out and sugar dissolved.
Unsweetened fruit may be packed directly into freezer bags or freezer containers and frozen. Alternatively, fruit may be tray packed. To tray pack, place fruit in a single layer on a tray and freeze. When frozen, package fruit promptly and return to freezer. Tray-packed fruit remains loose and can be poured from the container and the package reclosed.
Fruit may be packed in unsweetened fruit juice or water but will not retain the texture, flavour and colour as well as when packed with sugar. Artificial sweeteners may be added to taste after thawing.
Some fruits darken when exposed to air and during freezing. This darkening may be lessened or prevented by treating fruit with an anti-darkening agent at the time it is peeled and sliced, or as the fruit is packed for freezing, or at both times.
To prevent darkening of fruit, use one of the following anti-darkening agents:
- Ascorbic acid crystals – These are the most economical because of the small amount used. Ascorbic acid crystals are available in drugstores, health food stores and sometimes in stores carrying canning supplies.
- Ascorbic acid tablets – These may be used, but they are difficult to crush and dissolve. Fillers in the tablets may make the packing syrup cloudy.
- Fruit Fresh® – This is a commercial product which may be used by following instructions on the package or the guidelines below.
- Salt or lemon juice – Either of these may be used but are not as effective as Fruit Fresh® or ascorbic acid crystals. Salt or lemon juice are only suitable to treat fruit as it is peeled and sliced.
- Steam – For fruit such as apples that will be cooked after freezing, steam may be used to prevent discolouration. Steam small quantities of fruit at a time, just until fruit is heated through.
As fruit is peeled and sliced, it may be placed into one of the following solutions to prevent discolouration. This is sometimes called an anti-darkening holding solution.
- 1 tsp ascorbic acid crystals dissolved in 4 cups cold water.
- Nine 500 mg ascorbic acid tablets dissolved in 4 cups cold water.
- 2 tbsp Fruit Fresh® dissolved in 4 cups water.
- 1 tbsp salt dissolved in 8 cups cold water. Leave fruit in this solution a maximum of 20 minutes to prevent flavour changes.
- 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice stirred into 4 cups cold water. Leave fruit in this solution a maximum of 20 minutes to prevent flavour changes.
As fruit is packed for freezing, use one of the following anti-darkening methods to prevent discolouration:
In syrup pack:
- 1 tsp ascorbic acid crystals gently stirred into 4 cups cold syrup shortly before using
- 2 tsp Fruit Fresh® gently stirred into 1 cup cold syrup shortly before using
In sugar pack:
- 1/2 tsp ascorbic acid crystals dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water, tossed with fruit before adding sugar
- 1 tbsp Fruit Fresh® dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water, tossed with fruit before adding sugar
- 1 tbsp Fruit Fresh® mixed with 1/2 cup sugar, tossed with fruit
In dry pack:
- 1/2 tsp ascorbic acid crystals dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water, tossed with fruit
- 1 tbsp Fruit Fresh® dissolved in 3 tbsp cold water, tossed with fruit
- 1 tbsp Fruit Fresh® sprinkled over 4 cups fruit and tossed gently to distribute natural juices
In unsweetened pack:
- 1 tsp ascorbic acid crystals dissolved in 4 cups cold unsweetened fruit juice or water shortly before using
- 2 tsp Fruit Fresh® dissolved in 1 cup cold unsweetened fruit juice or water shortly before using.