Strawberry season is winding down in Ohio, but they will probably still be around for another week or so in some other places. We love strawberries, (we love most berries) and when I can, I’ll freeze some to use later. They go bad pretty quickly, so here are some tips from the California Strawberry Commission to help you get the most out of your strawberry picking/eating season.
Here are 10 tips from California Chef, Luca Rutigliano:
1) Choose strawberries with a consistent red color from top to bottom.
2) Make sure the stem is green and the skin is shiny and firm.
3) Inspect berries in container for signs of bruising or mold.
4) Refrigerate strawberries immediately after purchasing.
5) Before eating, rinse under cool water, pat dry and then remove stems.
1) After rinsing, gently blot dry.
2) Slice stem off at top of berry.
3) Place cut side down on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
4) Place uncovered in freezer for 24 hours.
5) Transfer strawberries to a freezer bag or container.
Serving Tips from the California Strawberry Commission
1) Strawberries are most flavorful served at room temperature.
2) Serve just as they are or sliced in cereals, salads and served with any meal, any time of day.
3) For 50 ways to eat strawberries, download the free strawberries iPhone App: http://bit.ly/8LANJo
‘How to Select and Store Strawberries’ –
Tips for Selecting, Storing and Freezing Strawberries
These are three things that I freeze to be used at a later time. I don’t like waste, so I can’t see throwing good food away (or into the compost) when it can be preserved for later use. The last weeks or so before the first big frost peppers seem to kick into over drive. We pick the big and medium ones and hope that before a hard freeze comes along the plants will put in all of their energy into making those smaller peppers grow. On one end of the road, and down the other there was a frost last week, we covered the peppers, tomatoes and other plants, but in the morning we had a thick fog and no frost. We were lucky, but it was a warning to us that we needed to take some time and get the peppers ready for freezing before they froze on the vine – not a pretty sight.
- Peppers – Peppers freeze well, but you won’t have the same firm peppers when they are thawed. They will be soft, but can be used in cooking. My suggestion is that you dice, or slice your peppers while they are still frozen. So I take them out when I am preparing them, I don’t defrost them. These peppers can be used when cooking up your ground beef, or in slices for fajitas (as long as you don’t want them firm). Use them in casseroles, stews and stocks. Anyway you use peppers for cooking, you can use these peppers, though their texture is a lot softer. I slice the peppers in half, the clean out the core, de-stem them, rinse and pat dry. You can store your peppers already diced, or sliced, or leave them in half. I usually sort my peppers into different zippered bags so that they aren’t mixed. I don’t want to accidentally pick up a hot pepper or get it mixed in to a recipe unintentionally. Then squeeze out as much air as possible. My sister in law mentioned to me that she diced hers and placed it into a sandwich size bag and then placed all of her sandwich size bags into a bigger gallon freezer bag. This makes it easy to grab a meal size amount in one little bag.
- Onions – I freeze onions all year long. I don’t like to waste, so when I have a half of an onion, I prep it for later and stick it into the freezer. Like peppers, it won’t be as firm, so you can slice and dice it up ahead of time, or quarter it as you wish, but if you slice it when you are putting your meal together, do it while it’s frozen. Again, putting it into smaller sandwich bags, then put the sandwich bag into a bigger gallon bag. I never worry about running out of onions as long as I have some in my freezer.
- Ginger – I saw this on Rachel Ray. I hate to see ginger sitting in my refrigerator going bad and thought it was an excellent suggestion. Scrape the ginger, place it into a zippered bag, squeeze out the air and freeze. You just grate the ginger frozen, taking just what you need and put the rest back into the freezer. Cool Idea, huh?
If you have an abundance of broccoli growing in your garden, or even if you buy too much and you don’t want it to go bad, you can freeze your broccoli to use at a later time. The band went to a competition yesterday, and after we play our set, the band parents set up tables and feed the band. One of our favorite sides for the kids is veggies and dip because it’s healthy and because they can eat it their fingers and not have a mess. There was an overload of broccoli this time and the band parents were giving it away. I told my husband I would take it and we could freeze it, since I knew we wouldn’t eat it all before it went bad. Freezing Broccoli is an easy process that can be done for other vegetables like carrots and cauliflower.
Steps to Freezing Broccoli.
- If you have a head of broccoli, break it down. You can take the florets with stems, longer than what I had(veggie tray size). Mine were already cut up into small pieces. Cut off the woody stem. Keep only the good stuff.
- Soak the broccoli in salted water to remove any bugs (this is especially important in the home grown broccoli) for about 15 minutes – a half hour and drain.
- Blanch broccoli for about 3 minutes in boiling water.
- Drain and immediately plunge into a big bowl or pot of ice water for about the same amount of time.
- Drain thoroughly and I like to dump it onto a clean dry towel to dry a little further.
- Place into ziplock freezer bag or use those vacuumseal kits to seal and remove air. You can also use freezer containers with a tight seal.
- Place into freezer in a single layer – after they are frozen, you can stack them.
My husband looked at the basket of peaches I bought over the weekend, but didn’t have time to work with yet. He pulled out one and said – these are going bad, we should do something with them now. He proceeded to put all the ones he thought were bad into the compost bucket, then went to the basement to work on his mother’s computer. I guess that was his part of the we should do something. I thought about ignoring them in retaliation, but I couldn’t. I’m over ambitious sometimes and buy more than I should because I have great and wonderful plans. That’s all well and good until the peaches start to rot, ugh. So, I took the quick way to saving my peaches.
- First you rinse the peaches off.
- Then start a vat of boiling water.
- Put the peaches into the vat.
- If you have a nice metal strainer, or colander put the peaches into that first, because it makes it easier to pull out of the hot water.
- Meanwhile fill a couple of bowls with cold water and ice.
- Drain the water off the peaches, or use a slotted spoon to remove the peaches from the water and put them into the ice water for a couple of minutes.
- SLIDE the skins off, slice and de-pit. It really slides off so easily.
- Place peach slices into a bowl.
- Sprinkle with some sort of ascorbic acid, or in our case we used True Lemon and gently stir.
- Sprinkle with sugar and gently stir, let it sit to dissolve.
- Place in freezer bags, but remove as much air as possible (I have one of those freezer bag – air remover thingys).
- Then place flat in the freezer.
We had a bumper crop of strawberries this year. We ate most of them, but I did freeze a large zipper lock bag full. Imagine my disappointment when I took a few out the other day and they thawed out to a bowl of mush. Apparently there’s more to strawberry freezing than putting them in a zipper lock bag. So I did a little research.
I came across several different websites all offering instructions on how to freeze berries, straw or otherwise, and here is what I came up with:
- Wash your berries. Should be a given, but I’ll throw the reminder for those of you who bypass this step for some reason or another.
- Spread your berries out into a single layer on a baking pan and stick in the fridge for an hour.
- Remove your pan o’berries and place in the freezer overnight.
- Remove and store in zipper lock bag.
- Date bag and place in the freezer.
Now I can’t tell you for sure if this method works, but there are people who swear by it, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. Do you store berries? If so, how do you keep them from turning mushy after they thaw. (Diana will tell me to can not freeze because she’s not afraid to play around with glass jars and hot water.)
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