Buying, Picking, Handling and Freezing Tips for Strawberries

Buying Strawberries

Reprinted from MAD ABOUT RASPBERRIES AND STRAWBERRIES by Jacqueline Heriteau, Perigee Books/Putnam Publishing Group, New York, NY 10016.

The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local strawberry field. Farm-fresh berries have not endured a long trip to the grocery store. Excessive handling and time will cause berries to deteriorate. You will love the flavor and fragrance of a truly fresh-picked strawberry.

Choose strawberries that are as red and fully ripe as possible. Green or white tipped ones will have little flavor. Strawberries will not ripen further after being picked. You can tell a good berry by its brilliant color and by its sheen. The fresher they are the more shine. Strawberries become dull and dark when they are overripe, on their way to berry heaven. In a grocery store, check berry boxed – they tell tales. They will tell your nose of mildew and mold, which sour berries. Stains indicate overripe berries losing their juice. Try to see the bottom layer to be sure the same quality is throughout.

Look for strawberries that are well shaped and filled out. The large ones may not be the best buy as it takes fewer of them to fill a container. It is best to buy by weight if possible. Smaller, locally grown fruit during the season will be the freshest and most flavorful. Large berries may be hollow inside and too small a berry may have a hard seedy bottom. So look for a happy medium. The stern that is well attached and green is also a good sign of a tasty fruit. Wilted stems indicate tired berries.

Quantities to Buy

Berries are sold by weight or volume. The farm you visit may sell berries by the pint or by the box. Container sized vary form farm to farm; you may buy berries by the point, quart, 2 quart or larger containers. A pint box of medium-sized berries will generally hold 2 cups of berries. Two cups of berries, crushed, yield about 1 cup of puree.

Preparing Strawberries

When you get your exquisitely fragrant, absolutely perfect basket of berries home, spread the berries at once on a tray so they can have air. They are faint from overcrowding. Discard spoiled berries, and store the tray in the refrigerator. Rise berries when you are ready to use the. Don’t rinse unless you must. Most berries are clean. Some strawberries have so many seeds that some need to be rinsed away. Rinse berries under cold running water very briefly. Don’t soak. Remove the stem and leaves after rinsing, not before. Darin in a roomy colander and spread them on paper towels to air-dry out of the sun. If you have rinsed the berries and don’t, after all, use them, make them into sauce-they will be less than perfect tomorrow. Don’t keep berries overnight, if possible. Buy and use them fresh!

Berries taste best at room temperature – warm enough to be fragrant. (Much of our sense of taste is actually a sense of smell.) So refrigerate berries only if the room is hot and the berries won’t be used for many hours.

Always taste one berry from a lot before you start to cook with the others. Sweetness varies. If they seem especially tart to you, add the maximum amount of sugar called for. You can save berries, particularly tasteless strawberries, by adding lemon, orange, or pineapple juice and fruit pieces or by adding liqueurs – Grand Marnier, Cointreau, for Strawberry Sauce. (Be aware that these liqueurs have an alcohol content.) Sugar is the big berry saver. As a rule, I add 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar to a point of berries, depending on their tartness.

Picking Strawberries

The strawberry probably tastes best when eaten freshly picked off the vine as you kneel in the middle of a strawberry patch on a bright sunny morning. Second best – any other way you eat it!

Strawberries are not only delicious but they are good for you. They supply vitamins A and C and calcium. One cup of uncooked berries is a dieter’s delight at only 55 calories.

When picking strawberries, try and pick early in the morning when the fruit is still cool. Gently twist the berry off the stem – don’t pull. Whether picking or buying, look for bright red, well-shaped fruit without hard green areas. Also, very large berries tend to be less flavorful than the small or medium ones.

Strawberries are best used within 1 to 2 days of picking. Cover and store them unwashed in the refrigerator. Do not crowd or press.

Freezing Berries

Reprinted from STRAWBERRY SAMPLER: A COLLECTION OF FRESH RECIPES by Jan Siegrist, New England Press, Shelburne, VT 05482

For long-term storage, freezing is recommended. Fruits retain more nutritional value and flavor by freezing than by any other method of preservation. Strawberries can be frozen and safely kept for up to 1 year. Use quart of pint freezer containers or place the equivalent quantity of berries in heavy plastic bags closed with wire twists.

Strawberries can be frozen several ways: dry-pack, sweetened or unsweetened; floated in a sweet syrup; or tray-frozen whole. The initial preparation of the berries is the same for all methods. Choose firm, ripe berries. Wash in ice water before dulling. (Fruits washed without the stem loose more vitamins than those de-stemmed after washing.) Drain well on several layers of paper towels, being careful not to crush or bruise the berries.

Dry-Pack Sweetened

Slice washed, hulled berries into a bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup sugar for each quart of berries. (This amount can vary depending on personal taste.) Mix gently until the sugar dissolves and juice forms. Fill freezer containers, shaking to pack closely. Leave 1/2 inch head space for pints, 3/4 inch for larger containers. Seal and freeze. 2/3 quart fresh berries equals 1 pint frozen.

Dry-Pack Unsweetened

Wash, drain and hull the berries. Crush gently and pack in containers, shaking to pack tightly. Fruits frozen without sweetener will keep, but they may lose some of their flavor, texture and color.

Sweet Syrup Pack

Wash, drain and hull the berries. Prepare a sugar syrup. To make 5 1/2 cups (enough for 10 12-pint containers or about 8 quarts fresh berries) mix 3 cups sugar with 4 cups water and boil until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until cold. Slice the berries into freezer containers and cover with the cold syrup. Allow 1 1/2 cups fruit and 1/3 to 1/2 cup syrup per point container. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Tray Freezing

Place the washed, hulled berries in a single layer on trays. Freeze until solid. Pack tightly in freezer containers or heavy plastic bags. Seal and freeze.

Using Honey

Honey can be substituted for sugar when freezing strawberries. Use a mild-flavored honey such as clover, locust, or alfalfa. To substitute, reduce the amount of sugar called for by half. For example, if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup sugar for each pint, use 1/4 cup honey. You can also make a syrup by blending 1 cup honey with 3 cups hot water. Chill and proceed as for sugar syrups (1/2 cup syrup for pint containers, 1 cup for quarts).

Thawing Berries

Frozen strawberries are suitable for use in many recipes. Berries tend to lose their texture and soften when thawed, the appearance of the dessert may change somewhat, depending on the recipe. When substituting for fresh berries, use the same measure of frozen berries. If your berries were packed with sugar, reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe. A rule of thumb: for every pint of frozen, sweetened berries, reduce the amount of sugar called for by 1/2 cup. For berries frozen in a sugar syrup, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe accordingly.

Nutritional Information

These nutrients can be found in a 3/4 cup (100 g) serving of strawberries:

  • Calories 37
  • Protein 0.7 g
  • Fat 0.5g
  • Carbohydrates 8.4 g
  • Vitamin A 60 units
  • Vitamin C 59 mg
  • Calcium 21 mg
  • Phosphorous 21 mg
  • Iron 1 mg
  • Sodium 1 mg
  • Potassium 164 mg

 STRAWBERRY EQUIVALENTS

  • ¬†1 quart weights about 1-1/2 pounds
  • 12 pounds=8 quarts=13 pints frozen
  • 1 to 1-1/2 quarts is required for a 9″ pie.
  • 1 cup sliced fresh berries = 1-10oz. pkg. frozen sweetened berries

“Berry Best” Strawberry Tips

Strawberries stored with stems stay firm longer than those without stems.

Refrigerate fresh strawberries in shallow containers as soon as you pick them, and wash berries in cold water only when you are ready to use the. Do not allow berries to soak.

Freeze whole strawberries on a cookie sheet until firm; transfer to heavy plastic bags or 5 qt. plastic ice cream buckets. Serve slightly thawed.

Many people like frozen berries served icy, barely thawed for a great taste and texture.

Freeze your berries prepared the way you want to use them. Sliced, sugared, chopped, or in small, easy-to-use packages.

Strawberries are best used within 1 to 2 days of picking. Cover and store them unwashed in the refrigerator. Do not crowd or press.

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