By Megan Gross, Horticulture/Natural Resources Extension Agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
You dont have to be a gardener to take advantage of the harvest. And this time Im talking fruits, like the soft, juicy-sweet, farm-fresh peach that takes you directly to that white-painted porch swing in Savannah. Or the tangy-pulped cherry reminds you of childhood each and every time you eject the seeds, machine gun style, from your saliva flooded mouth.
Although very few of us in this area are able to grow our own fruits, we are very lucky to have a wide variety of Colorado grown, farm fresh items from which to choose. Farm fresh peaches, apples, cherries and berries are delightfully available at local fruit stands and farmers' markets.
Now, speaking for myself and a few folks whom I have witnessed, its easy to get caught up in the farm fresh moment and purchase a little more than the average family of twenty could possibly eat in the two week (or so) shelf life of farm fresh fruit. While some of us could probably become vendors ourselves with all that we have purchased, its more likely well preserve our fall bounty and savor it all winter long.
As a rather lazy food preserver, I am proud to boast that freezing is the simplest and least time-consuming way to preserve food at home. Properly frozen fruits retain much of their fresh flavor and nutritive value. Their texture may be somewhat softer, however, than that of fresh fruit.
To prevent evaporation and retain the highest quality in frozen foods, packaging materials should be moisture/vapor proof. Glass jars, metal and rigid plastic containers qualify. Many packaging materials designed for frozen food, including most paper bags and heavily waxed cartons, are not moisture/vapor proof, but are sufficiently moisture/vapor resistant to be used satisfactorily.
Always wash, stem, pit, peel or slice fruits before freezing them; in other words, prepare them so they are ready to eat. Some fruits require pretreatment to prevent darkening. Ascorbic acid (the most effective), citric acid, or lemon juice may be used for treating these fruits. Steaming for a few minutes before packing is enough to prevent firm fruits, such as apples, from darkening.
Fruits may be stored in a syrup pack (made by mixing sugar and water), a sugar pack (sugar only), an unsweetened pack (no liquid or sugar; may use natural juice to sweeten), or a tray pack. The tray pack is best for small, whole fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and cherries. Simply spread the fruit in a single layer on a shallow tray and freeze; then remove and quickly package in labeled freezer bags or containers. Remove as much air as possible from containers and allow no headspace. Seal and return promptly to freezer.
Most fruits maintain high quality for eight to twelve months at zero degrees F or below. Unsweetened fruits lose quality faster than those packed in sugar or syrup. Longer storage will not make the food unfit for use, but may impair its quality.
If you have any questions about the specifics of food preservation, contact the your local Extension Office.
Photo: Judy Sedbrook
© CSU/Denver County Extension Master Gardener 2010
888 E. Iliff Avenue, Denver, CO 80210
Date last revised: 01/05/2010