Caring for and Preserving Your Strawberries
You can easily save some of your fresh Wisconsin strawberries for the winter months. Try some of these easy recipes.
What should I do with my strawberries once I've picked them?
Unlike strawberries from the store, fresh-picked strawberries are sweeter, tastier and more fragile. If you are not planning on preserving them right away, spread the strawberries out in trays so they are not crushing each other. Keep them cool. Most berries are clean so don't rinse them until you want to use them. The more berries are handled, the more damaged they become. When you want to prepare your strawberries, rinse them briefly under cold water and drain them in a colander. Spread them on paper towels to dry. If you have rinsed off your berries and don't use them right away, make them into sauce. They will be less than perfect tomorrow. Don't keep them overnight if possible. Buy and use them fresh.
It's Easy to Freeze Your Strawberries
There are a lot of ways to freeze strawberries on the internet, but here is what I do. I decide what I want to use them for and freeze them accordingly.
For Strawberry Jam: I do not like more sugar in my jam than strawberries so I purchase the low sugar pectin. I use the pink box of Sure Jell low-sugar, no sugar pectin. There is a recipe in the box for low sugar cooked jam that is used for canning. I use this recipe, but I do not can it; I freeze it. Why? It uses more strawberries than sugar and it retains a beautiful color and flavor in the freezer. It is by far my family's favorite way to enjoy strawberries!
For Winter Jam: Most of the time I'm too busy to make more than four batches of jam during our hectic strawberry season. When I have my strawberries and I can't get to them, I rinse them, mash them, and freeze them in gallon bags according to the amount needed for making strawberry jam. Do not put sugar in with them. I add the sugar when I make the jam in fall or winter. It makes the house smell wonderful too.
For Eating as a Sauce: Decide what you may want to use them for. I slice some for shortcake, mash some for sauce and drinks, and freeze some whole for smoothies.
I freeze my strawberries for sauces and short cake in quart-size freezer bags with 1/3 cup of sugar. Just put the berries in the bags, add the sugar and seal it. Let them rest on the counter until they start getting juicy, then gently flip the bags to move the sugar through the berries. Sugar is a preservative of color and flavor.
I do not put sugar in the bags of strawberries for smoothies. I just rinse them, seal the bag and pop them in the freezer. I have had success with the berries not sticking together too much if I freeze them right away. Our daughters take them with them after they visit home and use them over the winter also.
Customers have told me that they freeze the strawberries on trays in the freezer and then transfer them to bags.