There's little better than fresh, ripe fruit eaten out of hand. However, when that's not possible, do the next best thing: freeze your fruit. It's easy to do, economical and a no-brainer way to extend the life of anything sweet and fresh that's sitting on your counter.
Why Should You Freeze Fruit in the First Place?
Sticking your fruit in the freezer does alter the texture of it, but it's the best way to preserve every bit of flavour without the help of any sugar or additives. It's useful if you have a surplus of something, or if you find fruit on a crazy sale. It's also helpful if you don't buy a particular ingredient regularly, but know you'll need it in pinch at some point down the road. Keep frozen berries, apples, cherries or bananas on hand to make desserts; use frozen tropical fruits to flavour smoothies while keeping them cold at the same time. Freeze the juice and zest of citrus to use mid-cooking anytime you need it, whether it's to add acidity to a pan sauce or zest in a cake. Last but not least, for a refreshing treat, fruits such as grapes, melons and bananas taste wonderful eaten straight out of the freezer.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Freeze Any Fruit
Here's a simple method that will allow you to freeze almost any fruit. It's pretty straightforward (although, depending on the fruit's water content and structure, you may want to refer to our notes below). The key things to remember are that moisture and air are the enemy of frozen foods.
- Wash and dry your fruit thoroughly.
- If the fruit has a skin, peel it. Carve away any bruises, gashes or other undesirable spots.
- If your fruit is larger than bite-sized, cut or slice it into uniformly-sized pieces of your chosen size.
- Pat your fruit dry again with a towel or paper towel. Aim to remove as much moisture as possible.
- Transfer fruit to a tray covered with baking paper. Spread fruit into a single layer. Cover with plastic cling wrap; transfer tray to the freezer, and freeze for several hours or up to overnight.
- Remove your tray from freezer. Gently peel fruit off the baking paper, and transfer to labelled freezer bags. Squeeze as much air as you can out of freezer bags before sealing them. Your fruit is ready to go, and will last for 6 to 9 months.
Important Things to Remember for Certain Fruits
Because every fruit is different, there are a few tips for each that will help you freeze it more effectively. Here's what you need to know for:
- Apples: Sweet apples tend to hold their flavour better in the freezer than tart varieties. Peel their skins and slice them before freezing; if you're freezing a large batch and want to prevent browning, then soak the apples in a saltwater solution as you're prepping them.
- Bananas: Peel first, then slice, before freezing.
- Berries: Wash blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, stem if necessary, and dry thoroughly before freezing whole. (Strawberries take well to being sliced too.)
- Citrus: The best freezer method for preserving lemons, limes, grapefruit or oranges is to save the zest and the juice separately. Juice the citrus and transfer juice to an ice cube tray to freeze. (You could also freeze in a seal-tight plastic bag and lay it flat to freeze.) You could simply zest citrus directly into a freezer bag, but here's a tip we love, courtesy of Baking Bites: divide citrus zest into single serving portions (such as teaspoons or tablespoons) for convenience.
- Kiwi: Peel first, then slice, before freezing.
- Mangoes: Peel and cut a mango before freezing it.
- Melons: Rockmelon, honeydew and Crenshaw varieties freeze well; watermelon does not due to its very high water content.
- Pineapple: Peel and core pineapple before slicing and cutting, then freeze. If your pineapple is particularly ripe, save the leftover juice and freeze that too.
- Stone fruit: Peel peaches and plums before slicing and freezing. Apricots do not require peeling. Cherries should be pitted before freezing.
Why Not Just Buy Pre-Frozen Fruit?
First, a disclaimer: I buy frozen fruit all the time. I'm an avid smoothie drinker and I love to play around with flavours, so I often buy bags of specific items that aren't seasonally available, like cherries and peaches, to throw into my blended drinks. But I still also freeze my own fruit, because it's the best way to control quality, especially level of ripeness. Case in point: Note the store-bought frozen strawberry, blueberry and blackberry mix I bought on the left, and compare that to the strawberries I froze myself on the right.
Another example: Store-bought, already-frozen pineapple often includes the mouth-irritating core of the the fruit. But when I plop my own frozen pineapple into the blender, I know my smoothie will only have sweet, tender pieces of pineapple in it. The same goes with mango pieces; check out the freshly opened prepackaged version on the left and the home-frozen on the right.
Freezing your own fruit also allows you to control variables like size and cut. And while store-bought frozen fruit often comes with chunks of ice in it, if you thoroughly pat your fruit dry, you won't have to deal with any frost-related dilution.