Ways to freeze strawberries to preserve them through the winter including whole, sliced with sugar, and as freezer jam. Also with a comparison of two different low sugar pectin products for freezer jam – which is best?
I finally had a chance to pick some strawberries at a farm a few minutes down the road. By this time of the year in Oregon (late June), much of the main strawberry crop is finished producing, but I managed to find enough, thankfully. My strawberry patch is being rehabilitated this year, so I am only getting handfuls here and there. They are still delicious, though!
One benefit of waiting to pick (almost too long) is that the price is lower at most farms. At the farm I visited, the standard bucket they provide was $5.00, down from the $7.00 they charge at the height of the season. They said it holds about 6 pounds, but after weighing ours at home we had 13 pounds total from two buckets, making the berries .77 a pound. Not bad!
The photo above shows the entire 13 pounds processed and ready for the freezer. I used three easy techniques to preserve the berries in the freezer: freezing whole, sliced, and as freezer jam.
Freezing Strawberries Whole
On the tray are small, whole berries to be frozen which should fill two quart-sized freezer bags for smoothies. Read more details on this, including my favorite easy berry smoothie recipe here.
Freezing Strawberries Sliced
Behind the tray are four quart bags of sliced and sweetened berries. Adding just a bit of sugar to the sliced berries helps them retain color, texture, and flavor.
To make sliced strawberries to freeze: sprinkle just 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar to 8 cups of hulled and sliced strawberries. Mix it all gently together before adding them to freezer bags or other freezer containers. Label and date.
How to use sliced strawberries: these berries are SO good in the dead of winter for breakfast or anytime for a snack. We all think they’re best when they are only partially defrosted. Put them in a warm water bath while getting breakfast ready and they should be thawed enough to move to a bowl by then.
Freezing Strawberries as Freezer Jam
On each side of the tray in the photo above are batches of freezer jam. I make freezer jam not only because it’s easier than cooked and canned jams, but because our whole family just likes the fresher flavor of the jam better, since it’s made with less sugar and no cooking.
Commercial or Natural Pectin?
To be honest, I’ve been bothered in the past by the idea of commercial pectin, and I tried a “natural” pectin (Pomona’s) that was expensive and had a distinct aftertaste, sort of like fake sugar. So I’ve been sticking with the commercial stuff for now.
There is a way to make a pectin out of green apples, but then the jam usually has to be cooked and loses that fresh flavor we love so much. Everything’s a give and take, isn’t it?
Freezer Jam Commercial Pectin Comparison
Since I used two different pectins this time I thought I’d do a little comparison to share with you:
No Sugar Needed Sure-Jell
- Uses 4 cups of crushed fruit to 3 cups of sugar.
- The water, pectin and sugar need to be brought to a boil and then boil for a minute before adding the fruit (you don’t ever boil with the fruit in, though).
- It makes 6-8 8-ounce containers (the package says 6, I got 8).
- Can usually be found on sale for $1.99-$2.50 (I had a $1/1 coupon so mine was .99).
- It takes about 10-12 minutes (after prepping berries), depending on how fast your mixture comes to a boil to complete the jam.
- It’s a pretty stiff jam.
Ball No Cook Freezer Jam
- Uses 4 cups crushed fruit to only 1-1/2 cups of sugar.
- There is no boiling required at all.
- Makes 5 to 6 8-ounce containers (again, I got more that the package said…maybe my containers are small? Though they are the normal freezer containers).
- It’s usually priced at around $1.30 per package.
- It takes about 5 minutes after prepping the berries.
- It makes a looser jam.
Both of these pectins have their pros and cons, but I really like the Ball no-cook type the best and have been using it since I discovered it a few years ago. I know it doesn’t make as much in a batch, but it uses less sugar, costs less, and takes less time. But the biggest reason is that we all find the flavor just a little brighter and fresher without the heating that the berries get with the Sure Jell.
UPDATE: Read more about how I make freezer jam here, including more thoughts on commercial pectins.
Even with the purchased pectin, berries, and sugar, this is a pretty frugal way to get some high-quality, local fruit products put up for the winter. When I broke down the prices, it worked out to about $1 for each of the bagged strawberries, and .41 for each 8-oz of jam.
Plus the satisfaction of doing it yourself (with a child’s help is even better!) = priceless.
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