Last year around this time I posted a tried-and-true method for freezing seasonal berries. But I neglected to write about my actual favourite method of freezing berries: in homemade syrup.
The syrup, simply made with about equal parts sugar and water, coats the berries beautifully, preventing freezer-burn, preserving the fruity berry flavour, deterring mushiness, and generally behaving like an all-star in your freezer.
In recent years, most people have been touting the benefits of unsweetened frozen fruits, and I agree with them. But unsweetened fruits only go so far. Especially strawberries – they get freezer burn easily, they taste sour and mushy after a few weeks or months in the freezer. In the end, you can pretty much only use them for smoothies.
Strawberries in syrup, on the other hand, can be used in everything: as a delicious fruity mid-winter shortcake filling, on top of pancakes pancakes or porridge, in yogurt, and in smoothies and sorbet. The syrup somehow keeps the summer-fresh strawberry flavour right in those lovely local berries. You can rinse the syrup off the berries and use the fruit as-is in muffins and crisps, OR (my favourite) you can drain the syrup into a pot, boil it down until thick (about 10 minutes) and then pour back over the drained strawberries for an intense hit of local strawberry goodness. Try that on pancakes and shortcake in January…! Yes, summer-fresh berries just made a visit to your kicthen. (You can thank me later.)
Frozen Strawberries in Syrup
Yields 3 to 4 litres.
This method works beautifully for raspberries as well. For the best way to freeze peaches or cherries, please see this post. Blueberries are alone among summer fruits in that they are best when frozen unsweetened.
5 cups granulated sugar (I use EcoSweet cane sugar)
4 cups water
about 5 pounds fresh local strawberries
canning jars with lids, or large zipper-lock freezer bags
1. Combine the water and sugar together in a large pot. Heat on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely melted. Renove from heat and let cool to room temperature. You can speed the cooling process up by pouring the syrup into a large metal bowl to cool off, rather than keeping it in the pot.
2. Wash and drain berries. Remove stem and hulls. Slice strawberries directly into the clean jars, filling the jars a little more than 3/4 full.
3. Once the berries have been sliced and packed into the jars, ladle the syrup into the jars, until the berries are covered. Make sure to leave at least 3 cm of headroom, to allow for expansion in the freezer. If you don’t leave enough headroom, the jars will crack. The strawberries may float, defying your attempts to cover them completely. That’s fine. Just don’t add any more syrup because you will be encroaching dangerously on your very important headroom.
Alternatively, use plastic freezer bags, filling 3/4 full. To fill freezer bags easily, place one inside a large 4-cup measuring cup before filling.
4. Label, date, and freeze.
5. To use: thaw the berries at room temperature for about 6 to 8 hours. Drain berries, reserving the syrup. Drained berries can be used directly in muffins, crisps, pies, etc. (If you like, you can rinse them gently first to remove the syrup.)
OR you can pour the syrup into a saucepan and boil it for about 10 minutes, until it is a mass of thick bubbles. Place drained berries in a bowl. Remove thickened syrup from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Pour syrup over berries and stir to mix. The taste of summer-fresh strawberries just made a visit to your kitchen!