Tips for Freezing Strawberries

It’s June, which means strawberries are in season here in West Michigan! Nothing beats a freshly picked strawberry, still warm from the sun. If you are like us and want to enjoy a bit of that amazing strawberry goodness all year round, try freezing strawberries. Whether you’re freezing several flats (which is 8 quarts of strawberries) or a few pints at a time, here are some tips to save you a bit of time (and frustration), in the kitchen.

1. Don’t wait too long to freeze them- Strawberries don’t keep for too long before they get moldy and mushy, especially if they are very ripe when picked. Pick or buy your strawberries on a day when you know you will plenty of time to wash, trim and freeze them. If you didn’t pick the strawberries yourself, ask when they were picked. If they were picked the same day, you can buy yourself a little extra time. If you’re not going to use them right away, or you want to save some to eat fresh later on, try soaking them in a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. This will help keep your berries fresher for a little longer.

2. Set Up Your Prep Station- Trust me, starting with the right set up will make all the difference in the world. I always make sure everything is close in proximity. Starting on the left, have your washed strawberries. Next, a bowl for the tops or over ripe strawberries. After that either a bowl for your trimmed strawberries or, save yourself a step and put them right on the tray you will freeze them on. I like to use large stainless steel mixing bowls because they are easy to clean, hold a lot and stow away nicely if you buy the nesting bowls. I picked up mine years ago at Sam’s Club and use them for everything. I also love my large strainer that fits over the sink. You can purchase one like this on Amazon, or I always have luck finding good quality strainers at TJ Maxx or Home Goods.

3. Lining Your Trays for Freezing- I’ve used a variety of things to line my cookie sheets for freezing fruits and veggies. You can use wax paper or parchment paper for the task. One “greener” solution is using silicone baking mats like these. I have one that’s a Silpat mat, which I highly recommend if you also want a good quality liner for baking. If not, a cheaper version will do. I like that they are non-stick and flexible so you can pick up the sides and pour the strawberries into your bags. Another green tip is using kitchen towels to line your trays. You can gather the corners of the towel and dump the frozen fruit into a bag. When you’re ready to get those strawberries on the trays, make sure they are in single layer, otherwise they will freeze in one big blob.

4. Stacking Your Trays- The biggest problem with freezing fruits and veggies is having the space in the freezer to put the trays. Here a simple solution for getting more trays in your freezer at once: Stackable cooling racks! I put my bigger trays on the bottom, move some berries around to fit the cooling rack on the tray, then put a second tray on top. This helps to utilize the vertical space in your freezer. (And in case you’re wondering, we have a separate fridge/freezer we bought at the Restore a few years ago that we clear out during the summer months for this purpose. We store some….uh…adult beverages for helping with the process in the fridge, along with any large harvests or produce purchases that won’t easily fit in our main fridge).

5. Bagging Your Berries– I generally fill up gallon sized bags since we use our strawberries a variety of different ways. But a little time saving tip if you know you will use a certain recipe later on, freeze the berries in the quantity you will use. For example, if your favorite jam recipe calls for 3 cups of strawberries, measure out 3 cups into each bag and label it. Or if you know you will use your strawberries for a smoothie recipe, mix your strawberries with other frozen fruit to make prep work easier when you go to make your smoothie. This tip also applies to freezing veggies. You may consider freezing veggies and blending them for a stir fry mix. Either way, remember you can wash out those plastic bags when you are done and recycle them anywhere plastic grocery bags are accepted.

img_1180-17357241242535958540.jpgI hope these 5 tips help you save some time in the kitchen when you’re freezing some farm fresh local strawberries! Not sure where to buy fresh, West Michigan Strawberries? Check out my list of places where you can either pick strawberries or buy them pre-picked. The same page features some of our favorite recipes using strawberries!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

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Rhubarb

One of the first things to pop up through the newly thawed spring ground is the perennial vegetable, rhubarb. I have to admit, the last year was the first time I had tried rhubarb. I saw it at the farmers market and decided to figure out later what to do with it. It turns out, rhubarb is a delightful addition to many jams!

One thing I quickly learned to love about rhubarb (sorry, friends, not a fan of the raw taste), was what a great “filler” rhubarb is for jams. Instead of using all strawberries or all blueberries, which can get costly, I used rhubarb to add some bulk and the perfect amount of tartness to the jams I made. I found a delicious strawberry rhubarb jam in this Ball Canning cookbook. The jam is a big hit in our household, so I will be making many batches this year.

The only thing I don’t like about rhubarb, other than the raw taste, is how early it’s ready compared to the fruits I wanted to use for jam. Fear not, my fresh preserving friends. I have a few solutions for this problem: use your freezer to help out. First, you can buy rhubarb in bulk and then freeze it until other fruits come in season. Or, if you plan well enough, you can buy enough fruit when it’s in season, freeze it, then have it on hand the next spring when rhubarb comes up. By some odd luck, this happened this year, which made me quite happy as I could start making some strawberry rhubarb jam while the temperatures were still mild.

If you’re wondering how to freeze rhubarb, wonder no more. It’s really as simple as rinsing, chopping and freezing. For the freezing part, put either some wax paper or a dish towel on a cookie sheet and spread the rhubarb into a thin layer. Make sure the pieces aren’t piled up, as they will freeze into a big ball. I like to use dish towels to save from wasting anything that will just go in the trash, especially because I put up a LOT of fruits and veggies every season. You can also use silicone baking mats like these for this as well, for another greener alternative to wax paper. Place the sheet in the freeze until frozen, then pop that frozen rhubarb in a Ziploc bag or another freezer safe container. (One caution though: the leaves are NOT edible. You will notice most places that sell rhubarb have already taken the leaves off for you. If you grow your own rhubarb or receive some from a kind friend, remove the leaves before chopping up the rhubarb.)

I’m still exploring the many uses of rhubarb, but I’ve come across some delicious looking recipes! Apparently you can make a drink with strawberries, rhubarb and gin. Yes, please! And others use rhubarb in pies, muffins and other desserts. As I try out more recipes, I will be sure to share them with you.

Do you have a favorite rhubarb recipe? Share in the comments below and I will add it to my list!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Asparagus Season is Here!

A moment many Michiganers have been patiently waiting for: when those spears first start popping up through the ground. The appearance of asparagus in roadside stands and markets signifies the start of the growing season, which is cause for celebration, if you ask me. And here in West Michigan, people go gaga over the stuff. Case in point is the National Asparagus Festival in Hart, Michigan, where you can taste asparagus prepared in a variety of different ways, see the crowning of the Asparagus Queen and take a tour of an asparagus farm.

Luckily for Western Michiganers, you don’t have to go far to find fresh, locally grown asparagus. Roadside stands are popping up all over the place with the delicious green spears. Below you will find a list of places you can find asparagus. I didn’t include the weekly farmer’s market because it’s a given you will find whatever is in season there. If you know of any more locations selling local asparagus, comment below, email me or find me on Facebook.

Places to Buy Local Asparagus:

  • Roadside stand on White Lake Drive between Whitehall Rd and Durham Road
  • Roadside stand near intersection of Fruitvale Rd and Old 31 in Montague
  • Post Rd and Lamos Rd in Montague
  • Webster Rd just west of Old 31
  • Bishop Farm in Whitehall, Michigan