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How to freeze fruit for the best flavor

When freezing fruit, follow these guidelines to minimize color and flavor changes. Remember to freeze fruit as soon as possible after harvesting. Pre-treat with vitamin C. Use high-quality containers and keep frozen fruit below 0 degrees F for a maximum of 8-12 months. Also, unsweetened fruit loses quality faster than fruit packed in sugar or sugar syrups.

Watch our 5-minute presentation

Freezing fruit for sweet success presentation

Freeze as soon as possible

four honeycrisp apples on the tree

When harvested, fresh fruit continues to undergo chemical changes which can cause spoilage and deterioration.

Therefore, these products should be frozen as soon after harvest as possible and at their peak degree of ripeness.

Pre-treating fruit before freezing

Fresh produce contains chemical compounds called enzymes which cause the loss of color, loss of nutrients, flavor changes and color changes in frozen fruit. In fruit, these enzymes can cause brown colors and the loss of vitamin C.

To prevent these effects, follow the recipe to pre-treat fruit by adding ascorbic acid (vitamin C), soaking in a brine, blanching or other recommended pre-treatment options.

Storage temperature and length

To maintain top quality, frozen fruit should be stored at zero degrees F or lower. Most frozen fruit maintains high quality for 8 to 12 months.

      Freezer containers.

      Use high quality containers

      Use high quality containers which are moisture and vapor proof so moisture is kept in the product and air kept away from it. Rigid containers made of plastic are suitable for all packs and are especially good for liquid packs. Freezer bags work well for whole fruit.

        Fruit pack methods

        There are three ways to pack fruit for freezing: sugar pack, syrup pack, and unsweetened pack. Keep in mind, unsweetened fruit loses quality faster than fruit packed in sugar or sugar syrups.

        1. Adding sugar to berries.

          Sugar pack: Sprinkle the required amount of sugar over the fruit. Gently stir until the pieces are coated with sugar and juice.

        2. Sugar syrup: Dissolve the needed amount of sugar in cold water. Stir the mixture and let stand until the solution is clear.

        3. Unsweetened pack: Wash fruit, dry well. Place in container and freeze.

        Steps to freeze fruit

        1. Wash and sort fruit carefully. Discard poor quality fruit or use for another purpose.

        2. Prepare fruit as you will use it when you remove it from the freezer.

        3. Check the chart below to see if an anti-browning treatment is suggested. Use ascorbic acid preparation as recommended in the chart or in the manufacturer's instructions.

        4. Use dry sugar, or sugar syrup in proportions suggested in the chart. Dissolve sugar needed in cold water. Stir. Allow to stand until sugar is completely dissolved. Do not heat. You may hold sugar syrup 2 days in the refrigerator. If you are preparing a sugarless pack of fruit that browns, be sure to treat with ascorbic acid or other anti-browning agents.

        5. Pack into plastic freezer bags, freezer containers or freezer jars. Allow ½-inch headspace for expansion. Pack fruit, such as peaches which darken easily, in rigid containers and cover with syrup. Place crumpled wax paper between lid and fruit to help prevent browning.

        Rinsing strawberries in colander.

        Special tip for cleaning berries: Do not soak berries in water to clean. Instead, place the berries in a colander, dip into cool water, and gently swish, rinse and drain well.

        Special tip for packing whole berries: Whole berries pack well using the tray pack method. After cleaning and drying berries, place on a tray in a single layer. Place tray in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove tray from freezer and pack berries in freezer bags or freezer containers. Freeze. When ready to use, pour out the amount needed and return container to the freezer.

          William Schafer, emeritus Extension specialist; Deb Botzek-Linn, former Extension educator; Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator; and Kathy Brandt, Extension educator

          Reviewed in 2018

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