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Picking and freezing strawberries

Here are some tried and true tips to picking and freezing strawberries.

The Technique

  1. Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger an the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.
  2. With the stem broken about � inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.
  3. Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds three to four berries. Carefully place -- don't throw -- the fruit into your containers.
  4. Don't overfill your containers or try to pack down the berries.

Great Tips
Whether you pick strawberries from your own garden or at a Pick-Your-Own farm, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Be careful that your feet and knees don't damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of a row.
  • Use shallow buckets. Heaping strawberries more than five inches deep will bruise the berries.
  • Only pick the berries that are fully red.
  • Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries.
  • Remove berries that show rot, sunburn, insect injury or other defects and destroy them.
  • Pick berries for immediate use any time, but if you plan to hold the fruit for a few days, try to pick in the early morning or on cool, cloudy days.
  • Berries picked during the heat of the day bruise easily and will not keep well.
  • Keep picked berries in the shade and cool them as soon as possible after picking.
  • Berries that have been handled carefully will keep up to three days in the refrigerator.

Freezing Strawberries
Strawberries are easy to freeze using a dry-sugar or syrup pack. The dry-sugar pack is especially easy and gives the best flavor and color for sliced or crushed berries.

For whole frozen berries a syrup pack is recommended because it produces a plump, well-shaped berry after thawing. For special sugar-free diets, strawberries can be frozen unsweetened, but they will not be as high in quality as sugar- or syrup-packed berries.

Twelve pounds or eight quarts of fresh strawberries will yield approximately 13 pints of frozen berries. No matter which type of pack you choose, follow these general directions for preparing and packaging strawberries for freezing:

  • Use only firm, fully ripe berries.
  • To avoid bruising and waterlogging the berries, wash only a few at a time in cold water.
  • Drain on absorbent paper or in a colander or sieve.
  • Remove the hulls with the tip of a floating blade peeler.
  • Chill the fruit in ice water to lower the temperature for fast freezing.

When packaging for freezing:

  • Allow a � inch headspace for pints and one inch for quarts.
  • Add ascorbic acid (vitamin C) according to package directions to prevent darkening.
  • Label containers and freeze promptly.

Dry Sugar Pack

  • Halve, quarter or slice clean berries into a bowl or shallow pan.
  • Sprinkle sugar over berries using 1/3 to 3/4 cup sugar for each quart of fruit.
  • Stir very gently until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Package and freeze.

Syrup Pack
Make a syrup using 1-1/4 cups water to each cup of sugar. Dissolve the sugar in either cold or hot water. If hot water is used, be sure to chill the syrup before using. Use about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of sugar for each pint container. Place whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with cold syrup. Package and freeze.

Unsweetened Pack
Pack whole, sliced or crushed berries in containers and cover with water or berry juice. For better color retention, add ascorbic acid to the water, berry juice, or crushed berries. Cover crushed berries with their own juice. Package and freeze as discussed earlier.

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