Strawberries have a notoriously short shelf life. Once picked from the strawberry plants, they will only last a few days before the decay process begins in earnest. Because of this fact, and because so many people just love eating strawberries, multiple preservation methods have been developed to allow the enjoyment of the strawberry harvest long after it is over. This post is here to serve as your guide to freezing strawberries.
Before delving into how to freeze strawberries, it is important to mention a few bits of information. Freezing strawberries generally produces an end product that is far superior to canning them. Canning strawberries is a sufficient method of preservation. However, canned strawberries do not generally maintain the structural integrity of the berries. Consequently, canned strawberries are usually just mush at the time of use. Frozen strawberries, on the other hand, maintain most of their culinary qualities (depending on how much they are thawed when they are used).
How the Freezing Strawberries Page Works
This main Freezing Strawberries page serves as a hub for everything related to learning how to freeze strawberries. The preliminaries of the strawberry freezing process are covered first. Then, instruction is provided regarding all of the common strawberry freezing methods. Additionally, technical information regarding the processes is also provided so that your strawberry freezing experience will be a resounding success! I recommend beginning at the top to understand the basics prior to initiating the freezing process using any of the specific methods (which are all listed and explained below). If you are a veteran strawberry freezer, feel free to jump directly to your desired method for guidance. (For a more introductory and brief information guide, see this page.)
Freeze Strawberries: Preliminaries
Pick an Appropriate Strawberry Variety to Freeze
Different strawberry varieties have different properties. Some are firm, and some are soft. Some are exceedingly sweet, and some are quite tart. Some are gigantic, and some are miniscule. Which strawberries are best for freezing? When selecting a strawberry variety to freeze, the best ones for this preservation method are those that produce firm red strawberries that have a slightly tart flavor. And, of course, always pick fully ripe strawberries to freeze. Once picked, wash, sort, and de-cap them before processing them further. (Additional information on strawberry cultivars can be found on the Strawberry Varieties page)
How Many Strawberries Do You Need to Freeze?
It takes approximately 2/3 of a quart of freshly-picked strawberries to yield one pint of frozen strawberries. For more help with strawberry measurements, including metric equivalents, visit this post on strawberry conversions.
How to Freeze Strawberries: Options
There are actually quite a few options once you’ve decided to begin freezing strawberries. Generally, it is best to have an idea about how the frozen strawberries will be used prior to beginning. The intended use will guide the form in which the berries are frozen. Also, remember that frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh ones in Strawberry Recipes, just remember that whole strawberries, when thawed, will have a texture that is quite a bit softer than that of fresh berries. To mitigate this effect, frozen strawberries are best used/served when a few ice crystals still cling to the fruit.
Strawberries can be frozen as a puree, crushed, sliced, or whole. When freezing strawberries that are large, a better result is obtained when the berries are crushed or sliced. Freezing in a sugar pack or syrup pack also increases the quality of the end product (the different methods are be detailed below) by producing both improved flavor and texture over unsweetened packs.
Strawberry Freezing Containers
The importance of choosing appropriate containers when freezing strawberries can’t be overestimated. When choosing a container, it is important to keep both moisture and air from passing through the walls of the container. Because of this, any paper or waxed-paper container (like juice or milk cartons) is unsuitable. Additionally, the storage container must be able to hold up under extremely cold temperatures. Ordinary glass jars will break quite easily. Freezer jars with tempered glass are able to resist breakage from hot and cold temperatures and can be used when freezing strawberries. A less-expensive and equally effective option is to use plastic freezer bags.
When using jars, a small amount of air is required between the top of the strawberries and the jar lid. This air is called “headspace” and allows for the slight expansion of the water in the strawberry pack so that the jar doesn’t break (even tempered jars can break if overfilled). Use the table below to ensure that enough space is left between the top of the jar’s contents and the lid:
Headspace Required Between the Packed Strawberries and the Lid When Freezing Strawberries
A Few Notes:
1. Liquid packs are: strawberries packed in syrup, sugar, water, and juice or pureed or strawberry juice
2. Exception to the above table: headspace for freezing strawberry juice should always be 1.5 inches, even in a pint container
3. Dry packs are: strawberries that are tightly packed without any added liquids, sweeteners, or sugar