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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The Smoothie that Keeps on Giving

Last year I read a book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. In it, the author details the journey her family took in living a year of eating only locally grown and raised foods. Of course, each family member was allowed to pick a food item that would be their “exception food”. Mine would for sure be coffee! Being a mom of 2 boys, I cannot function without coffee. Reading this book made me wonder what changes my family could make to eat “closer to home”. I admit, the winters are difficult when we have a picky eater who actually likes raw, fresh veggies and turns his nose to steamed or canned veggies.

My husband and I decided we would stock up on whatever we could when things came into season, and stored these for the winter season. When I compared prices to what we could pay in the grocery store, I found the prices we paid at the grocery store were actually about the same as buying direct from the farmer.

 

We started with picking strawberries from Scholl farms in Montague. Since our boys tapped out early while strawberry picking, we ordered the rest through Stibitz farm. We ended up with 7 flats of strawberries in the freezer. The next fruit in season was cherries and we picked 60 lbs of cherries at Gavin Orchards in Coopersville. Last we picked blueberries at Palmer’s in Whitehall. Okay, the boys didn’t last long enough for us to pick a years supply, so we went back to purchase prepicked blueberries. I have to say, it’s March now and we still have a great supply of those fruits, plus the jams we made from them.

How does this make for a smoothie that keeps on giving? Because when we chose to buy all our fruit local, we helped the families who own these farms. When they make money, they have the opportunity to spend their money in our community as well. Buying from local sources also gives local farmers more money to possibly expand their operation, hire more employees, or update their equipment. The money stays here in our community, building up a healthy local economy. Everyone wins.

We didn’t stop with these fruits. We also stocked up on peaches, pears and apples, green beans, broccoli,corn, tomatoes and cabbage for sauerkraut, and even plums for a canned Asian plum sauce.

 

You might be thinking,”How much did that cost upfront?” Yes, buying 60 lbs of cherries at once isn’t cheap. But when my husband and I committed to buying this way early in the year, we also decided on ways we could cut back so we would have room in our budget for the bulk purchases. For example, not eating out as much, making more foods from scratch, eating simpler meals and learning to use what we already had in the pantry.

Even though we spent a lot of money up front on bulk fruits and veggies, we found our grocery bill during the winter went down considerably. We weren’t making as many trips to the grocery store which not only saved on gas, and time, but also meant we weren’t wandering around the grocery store,buying things we didn’t need. And you know what that means? We don’t have to cut back as much this year as we prepare to shop this way again! Now we have MORE money available to eat out at our favorite local restaurants! Which means an even bigger local win!

Come back throughout the year to follow my family as we once again buy as much local produce as we can, and share ways we put up the food for the winter when local food is hard to find.

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In the meantime, let me entice you with this “rainbow smoothie” using the cherries, strawberries, blueberries and spinach we have in our freezer from last year’s growing season. Even in writing this, I’ve decided to make changes. I’ve come across a great family farm called Small House Farm that makes their own ground flaxseed meal. I plan to swap out my store bought flaxseed with their ground flaxseed. Oh, and I should say, I say “recipe” but it’s very versatile, based on whatever fruit we have left. I do, however, stand firm in using a juice that’s acidic like orange juice for the base. Otherwise you get a smoothie that’s a little overwhelmingly sweet. I will let you know if I find a good substitute for orange juice. I also don’t skip the frozen banana. I’ve tried other foods, but the smoothie is much creamier in texture with the banana in it. Until then, for me it’s worth it to keep those non-local ingredients since my kids will actually drink it.

Rainbow Smoothie Recipe

(makes 3-4 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup cherries
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • A handful of frozen spinach
  • 1 cup other liquid (water, coconut water, almond milk, or other juice)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 T. Ground flaxseed
  • 1-2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)

Blend until desired consistency.

Notes on kitchen products:

We love this blender. We tend to destroy our small appliances since we use them so frequently. I like that this one has a glass pitcher that won’t stain. And you can buy replacement pieces easily online. It made this blender a good economical purchase for us, especially compared to the much more expensive blenders you can find on the market these days. This one is awesome for the price. Best part is the “Frozen drink” setting. You know, just for the smoothies. (Wink wink, nudge nudge).

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I recently purchased these straws from Seraphina’s kitchen because I hate using disposable straws and it drives me batty when my kids chew on and ruin straws. These straws are awesome because if you’re kids do chew on the end, you can cut that part off! If you don’t like the bend in the straw,you can cut the bend off. They also come with little brushes to clean the inside of the straw!! Then you know the inside is actually getting clean.

This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you should make a purchase, at no cost to you.