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Freezing: A great way to preserve summer fruit

If you go to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning or shop the produce section of the grocery store, you can’t miss the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many of these are grown in Colorado.

One of my favorites is the Colorado peach, certainly the tastiest peach grown anywhere. The dilemma is that they are abundant only for a few weeks in August.

Food preservation is one way to make summer fruits available all year and freezing is one of the easiest methods of preserving fruit. The following information on freezing fruits was taken from the Colorado State University Extension Fact Sheet No. 9.331, Freezing Fruits, written by P. Kendall, Ph.D., R.D. and can be found in its entirety at www.ext.colostate.edu.

Properly frozen fruits retain much of their fresh flavor and nutritive value, though their texture may be somewhat softer than fresh fruit. Berries and cherries are best frozen soon after harvest, while peaches, apricots, plums, apples and pineapples may need to be held a short time after harvest to fully ripen before freezing. Sort, wash and drain fruits carefully, discarding parts that are green or of poor quality. Do not allow fruits to soak in wash water as they will lose nutrients and flavor. Prepare fruits as they will be used: stemmed, pitted, peeled and sliced.

To prevent evaporation and retain the highest quality in frozen foods, packaging materials should be moisture- and vapor-proof. Glass jars and metal and rigid plastic containers meet these criteria. Many packaging materials designed for frozen food, including most plastic bags and heavily waxed cartons, are not moisture- and vapor-proof, but are sufficient to be used satisfactorily. Paper cartons from cottage cheese or milk are not sufficiently moisture- and vapor-resistant for quality frozen foods. If these cartons are used, keep the food no more than two weeks for best quality. Container shape and size is another consideration. Food can be removed easily before thawing if containers have straight sides or sides that flare out. Square or rectangular, flat-sided containers waste less freezer space than round containers.

Some fruits need pretreatment to prevent darkening and there are several anti-darkening treatments that may be used, including ascorbic acid (vitamin C), ascorbic acid mixtures, citric acid or lemon juice and steaming. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is effective in preserving color and flavor and adds nutritive value, as well. To use, dissolve crystalline or powdered forms in a little cold water. For syrup packs, dissolve one-half teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 1,500 milligrams vitamin C in each quart of cold syrup shortly before using. Stir it in gently so as not to stir in air and refrigerate until ready to use. Special commercial anti-darkening preparations (ascorbic acid mixed with sugar or with sugar and citric acid) also may be used to retard darkening. Follow manufacturer directions.

Citric acid or lemon juice may also be used for treating some fruits, however, neither is as effective as ascorbic acid. Dissolve one-quarter teaspoon crystalline citric acid or three tablespoons of lemon juice in each quart of cold water. Dip the prepared fruit in the solution and leave for one to two minutes. Drain and pack with sugar, syrup, water or fruit juice. One gallon of citric acid or lemon juice solution treats about one bushel of fruit. Steaming for a few minutes before packing is enough to prevent firm fruits, such as apples, from darkening.

There are several ways to pack fruit for freezing, including syrup pack, sugar pack, unsweetened pack and tray pack. Fruits packed in syrup generally are best for most cooking processes. Small whole fruits such as berries packed on trays are good for salads or garnishes.

Before closing, make sure sealing edges are free of moisture or food. Place a small piece of crumpled parchment paper or other water-resistant wrapping material between the fruit and the lid of juice or liquid-packed fruits to help keep the fruit submerged in the liquid. Close and carefully seal the container and label packages plainly, including the name of food, date and type of pack.

Freeze packaged fruits as quickly as possible at zero degrees or below. For quickest freezing, place packages against freezing plates or coils in single layers. Freeze only as much at one time as will freeze within 24 hours.

Most fruits maintain their high quality for eight to 12 months at zero degrees or below. Citrus fruits and citrus juices may be stored for four to six months. 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. Post a list of the frozen foods with freezing dates near the freezer and check the packages off the list as they are removed.

For a list of fruits, along with their recommended preparation method and packing type, refer to Table 2 in Fact Sheet No. 9.331, Freezing Fruits.

CPR and first aid

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.

We will also schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes are $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for individual CPR or first aid. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience. Call the Extension office for information at 264-5931.

This story was posted on August 14, 2014.