Tips for Freezing and Thawing Fruit

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freeze-berries_cHome-grown fruit should be frozen on the day it is picked. Shop fruit such as pineapples or figs may be frozen when cheap and plentiful but should be handled in small quantities. Fully-flavoured fruit is the most successful. Bland fruit such as pears will appear satisfactory but have little flavour. Fruit should be of top quality in peak condition; unripe fruit will have a poor flavour and colour, although it can be preserved for future use in jam-making. Very ripe fruit should be stored as puree.

Cleaning and grading

Fruit should be well washed in chilled water to avoid sogginess and loss of juice, then drained thoroughly and dried on absorbent paper. It must be handled gently when removing stems or stones, to avoid bruising and loss of juice. Copper, iron or galvanised ware should not be used in preparation since it will result in off-flavours. Silver implements should be used for fruit such as peaches.

Some fruit, such as strawberries, should be graded before packing to ensure even freezing and thawing. Fruit may be packed dry and unsweetened in a dry sugar pack, in an unsweetened wet pack, or in syrup.

Unsweetened dry pack

This can be used for fruit which will later be stewed or used for pies, or which is intended for those on a sugar-free diet. It is not suitable for fruit which discolours easily; sugar retards enzyme action which causes darkening. Fruit packed in this way should be cleaned and drained and packed into cartons or polythene bags.

Unsweetened wet pack

Fruit may be packed in this way for people on a diet, or if the fruit itself is very sweet. The fruit can be crushed in its own juice or covered with water and lemon juice to prevent discoloration (juice of 1 lemon to 1 1/2 pints water). It must be packed in leak-proof containers. A sugar substitute or a sugar-free carbonated beverage may be added to the liquid.

Dry sugar pack

Berries are particularly successful when frozen by this method, and it can be used for any fruit which is soft and juicy. Fruit may be crushed or sliced, or left whole if small. It may be mixed thoroughly with the sugar recommended and packed in cartons or polythene bags; or fruit may be packed in layers with sugar in cartons, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.

Syrup pack

Non-juicy fruits and those which discolour easily are best preserved in syrup. This may be made with white sugar and water, the most usual method. Honey flavours the fruit strongly; brown sugar affects the colour of the fruit. Sugar syrup is made up in different proportions, and a medium syrup is normally used, since a heavy syrup tends to make fruit flabby. Use a breakfast cup to measure quantities. Dissolve the sugar in boiling water, then cool it. The syrup is best chilled in a refrigerator overnight before use. The fruit must be packed in leakproof containers, and wholly covered with syrup, leaving headspace. A piece of cellophane pressed over the fruit and into the syrup before sealing will prevent discoloration.

Here is a table of syrups:

tabl

Packing and labelling

Headspace must be left for all fruit in sugar or syrup, and for juice or puree. Allow 1/2 inch for all dry packs; 1/2 to 1 inch per pint for wide-topped wet packs; 3/4 to 1 inch per pint for narrow-topped wet packs. Allow double headspace for quart containers. Label fruit packs carefully, with ultimate use in mind if for pies or jam. Indicate type of pack, and amount of sweetening already included.

Discoloration

In general, fruit containing a lot of Vitamin C darkens less easily than others, so that lemon juice or citric acid added to a sugar pack will help to arrest darkening. Use the juice of 1 lemon to 1 1/2 pints water, or 1 teaspoon citric acid to 1 lb sugar in a dry pack.

Apples, pears and peaches are particularly subject to discoloration. These fruits should be eaten quickly on thawing while a few ice crystals remain, as air reacts on the cells of fruit, causing darkening. For this reason, the fruit must be prepared quickly once the natural protection of skin or rind is broken.

Rapid thawing will help to prevent discoloration of fruit, and unsweetened frozen fruit may be put at once into hot syrup.

Fruit puree is subject to darkening owing to the amount of air forced through the sieve during preparation.

Fruit puree

Ripe fruit can be sieved and sweetened to freeze as puree. The fruit may be left raw, as with raspberries or strawberries. Other fruit can be cooked in the minimum of water or in its own juice (preferably in a covered dish in a low oven). Fruit puree will only keep 4 months.

Fruit syrup

Any standard recipe can be used for Fruit Syrup. This is best frozen in ice cube trays, each frozen cube being wrapped in foil for storage; each should be big enough for one drink or serving of sauce.

Fruit juice

Non-citrus fruit may be mashed with a silver fork, then covered with water (4 cups fruit to 1 cup water) and simmered for 10 minutes before straining through a jelly bag or cloth and cooled for freezing. Juice may be frozen unsweetened or sweetened, and is best prepared by the ice cube method.

Apple juice can be made in the proportion of 1/2 pint water to 2 lbs apples or peelings may be simmered in water, using the same quantities. It must be sweetened as fermentation sets in quickly.

Citrus fruit for juice-making should be good quality and heavy in the hand for its size. Unpeeled fruit must be chilled in iced water before juice is extracted and strained.

Serving frozen fruit

Raw frozen fruit is best served still slightly chilled and frosty. It is best thawed in the unopened container. Unsweetened fruit takes longer to thaw than sweet fruit; fruit in dry sugar thaws most quickly. Provision should be made for the amount of juice released from thawing fruit. Allow 6-8 hours for thawing a 1 lb fruit pack in syrup in the refrigerator; 2-4 hours at room temperature. Fruit will lose quality and flavour if left too long after thawing.

Fruit can be cooked immediately after removal from the freezer.

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