Hello everyone, it’s been a while since I posted here but I really wanted to get back into the habit of regular posts – and not just because friends, who are a fan of this blog, have been nagging me to post more often! 😉
So, today I am going to talk about something near and dear to my heart – stone fruit. I love the stuff. But will only eat it when it is in season locally (as the Adelaide Hills grow some of the nicest stuff) and so miss it for the rest of the year.
The same can be said for all fruits that can be grown locally actually. We only buy and eat them when they are locally grown and in season.
So what do we do for the rest of the year?
Well, for one thing, not all these fruits are in season at the same time. Our Autumn/ winter months are all pears, apples and citrus and it’s our spring and summer months that are berries and stone fruit.
Do I go without fruit in the harsh times? Oh hell no! Why? Because I am part squirrel. No, not really. I was just seeing if you were paying attention.
What I do when berries and stone fruit are in season is I bulk buy the stuff not growing in my own backyard (which are cherries and nectarines) and I freeze them.
Yes it means I don’t always have fresh fruit the year round, but if you do it right you retain all the goodness of the fruit as well as the flavour. Frozen berries and stone fruits never come out as firm as before and are best used for smoothies, baking or – my favourite – a compote to have hot for breakfast on granola with dairy free yoghurt. But we will get to that sort of thing later in the post.
I know of people who make jams, chutneys, fruit purees and stews, dehydrate them or even make fruit leather. But I don’t… and for a few reasons. Firstly, I find fruit sweet enough on its own and so making into a jam, puree or stew – where you add sugars and pectin to thicken – you are making it far too sweet for me. I am not a fan of chutney thanks to my allium intolerances and, quite frankly, I am too lazy to even consider dehydrating and fruit leathers.
All I do is freeze the fruit. Bulk buy, clean/ rinse, prep and freeze. Ta da!
There are some who will say you need to blanch the fruit first and then make a syrup to preserve it in and then freeze it… but to me this is again just adding sugar that you don’t need. The fruit is perfect the way it is! If you don’t sweeten it until you use it later on, it can be used for a greater variety of things.
So how do I freeze fruit?
Here is the quick list of what you will need:
- Freezer space
- Baking trays lined with baking paper
- Sharp board, knife and possibly a stone pipper
- Containers to store the frozen fruit in
Here is now the longer reasons you need these things:
This is probably the biggest hurdle you will face. As you need to firstly have the room to freeze the fruit – like a whole spare shelf – and then the room to store it frozen later on.
Now, as I am a devotee of freezing fresh food to make it last longer, I am the freezer Queen. I have my big side by side fridge freezer, I have my 150 litre chest freezer and, if needed, I have an even bigger freezer out in the shed that I put on when we’ve really gone to town on bulk buying local foods.
You won’t need that much freezer space initially… but you will need some. As said, when just starting out you will need enough space to allow you to fit a baking tray covered in fruit into your freezer to, well, freeze. You will then need space to keep the frozen fruit stored… in either plastic bags, old take away containers or even glass jars/ containers.
Baking trays lined with baking paper.
This is needed to freeze the fruit individually. Sometimes, with berries, cherries and small things I skip this step, but find it essential for the bigger stuff like plums, peaches, etc. Why? Because fruit is very juicy when cut up and when those juices freeze they often stick the fruit together in large clumps that make it harder to use later on.
Sharp board, knife and possibly a stone pipper.
Okay, these should be obvious, but hey. You need them to prep your food before you can freeze it on the trays I just mentioned.
Containers to store the frozen fruit in.
I will say now that I am not a fan of plastic and we are slowly trying to move away from using it in our house all together. So I try and avoid plastic bags in my freezer as much as possible. However, I freely admit to still using recycled take away containers. We have grown a rather large collection of them over the years and, rather than add them to landfill straight away, we try and use them throughout the house. I do sometimes also use recycled jam and passata glass jars… but these can be hit and miss as the smallest flaw in the glass can cause it to shatter when frozen and you’ve then lost a jar of fruit.
Important note – don’t eat food from a shatter glass container as you never know if there is a sliver of glass in it. Accept the loss, compost the food, put the glass in the recycle bin and move on.
What to do now you have all the equipment?
The short answer is:
- Wash the fruit
- Prep the fruit
- Freeze the fruit
- Store the frozen fruit
- Enjoy at a later date
The long answer is this…
Wash the fruit.
This seems fairly simply, right? Well it is and it isn’t as wet fruit sticks together more and different fruits need different levels of washing.
Please note that this is simply how I do it and there are some who might not agree with me and want to do it another way. Let them, but my blog, my way of doing it.
When it comes to soft berries like blackberries, raspberries, logan berries, etc. I tend to just give them a quick rinse under my filtered tap water and gentle leave them to dry on an old terry square nappy (I have a few, they are clean and I find essential in my kitchen). Gently pat the berries dry if needed, but I usually just leave them ten minutes or so and they dry fairly well.
Firmer fruits like strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines, etc. I will actually soak/ rinse in a water and vinegar solution to help clean them. I don’t use herbicide or pesticide sprays in my garden, but we do have loads of birds and bugs and other things that mean the fruit will need washing. And, if it is bought fruit – even if organic – it can have “organic” sprays and residue on them, as well as anything left behind by someone who may have given them a fondle to test their ripeness.
This doesn’t tend to happen with the softer berries – all hidden in their little containers – which is why I don’t go to the same extent. Plus, being softer, they don’t cope with the more rigorous washing that well.
What is the water to vinegar ratio used? Again, others will have a different recipe, but I use one part white vinegar to three parts water.
Meaning, if I was to use cups of each, I would use one cup of white vinegar to every three cups of water. Why didn’t I list them in what I need to freeze fruit? Well, because this isn’t freezing fruit, this is me just washing fruit. Not all fruit I wash is then frozen. 😉
So, in a super clean kitchen sink or a nice big bowl, make your white vinegar and water solution and then clean add the fruit. Soak it for a minute or so, give each piece a gentle rub in the water and then out onto a nappy to be pat dried by you. We want the fruit as dry as possible, but be gentle.
Prep the fruit.
This is where your sharp knife, cutting board and possible stone pipper is needed.
What is a stone pipper? Well, it’s the thing you use to take cherry stones out of the cherry. Mine looks like this. I use it a lot in the summer as my cherry tree loves me and my son loves frozen cherries in his porridge during the winter.
So, using that rare commodity – your common sense – figure out what fruit actually needs prepping.
Again, your softer berries probably won’t. Just look them over, make sure they’re all ripe, not icky and there are no leaves, twigs or insect beasties still along for the ride – rinsing them should have fixed this problem. There, they are now prepped.
For strawberries, I will top them (slice off the green top bit) and then quarter them, maybe eighth them if really big. Check for “yucky bits” and cut out as desired.
For cherries, I use my pipper and take out the stones. I check for those yucky bits, done.
For plums, nectarines and similar, I will cut them in halve from the stalk hole at the top to the base and then remove the stone from whichever half it has stayed in. I will also, you guessed it, check for those yucky bits and remove.
There, fruit all prepped.
Freeze the fruit.
This is where you will need the baking trays. Again, it’s a personal choice if you do this step, but I tend to for the larger fruit as it makes it much easier to deal with later. All freezing the fruit on the tray does is ensure it’s all in separate, easy to use, pieces. Not one giant clump of icy fruit that is later on hard to pry apart and use. Freezing the fruit separately is more important for those who follow actual recipes and need accurate amounts of fruit. Unlike myself… who tends to work on what amount looks right and then just chuck it in.
With the soft berries, strawberries and cherries I do tend to skip this step as I do find they will keep themselves mostly separated once frozen. Strawberries can be a bit hit and miss though so it really does become a judgement call of personal choice.
However, for plums and bigger, I will take the halves and lay them, skin side down, on the tray and then pop the full tray in the freezer until they are frozen solid. This tends to take all day or all night. So just be prepared to have limited space in your freezer when you do it as those trays need to be kept flat to ensure the fruit stays separated.
Store the frozen fruit.
We are on the home stretch now, yay! I feel this step really does speak for itself. You take your preferred container, you put the frozen fruit in it, you store it in the freezer.
When it comes to soft berries and strawberries, I just stick the washed and dried fruit straight into the containers and then into the freezer.
Depending on the type of container you use, you might want to label your fruit too as they can tend to start to look very similar once all frozen. Berries and the large stone fruit especially.
The jury is out on how long fruit can be frozen for and still retain its nutritional value. My personal belief is 6 to 8 months… but it rarely lasts that long unless I really try.
Enjoy at a later date.
That’s right; your fruit is ready to be used later. Remember it is now going to be very soft and mushy and so is best to be used in something rather than served on its own.
My top five uses for frozen fruit are:
- Fruit smoothies
- Homemade dairy free ice cream
- Cake, muffins or slices
- On top of porridge
- Turned into berry compote with a bit of coconut nectar and water
And, yes, I will hopefully have recipes for all of these appear on my blog soon. Well, as soon as I learn to turn them into a recipe – rather than my ‘bung it all in’ approach – as right now nothing is written down.
Do you feel I missed a step? Have any questions? Just ask away in the comment section below.
By the way, this is a berry compote I made last year and served, still warm, on banana buckwheat pancakes with coconut yoghurt. The meal is wheat, grain, dairy and refined sugar free but still soooooo yummy!