Summer is so busy with gardening tasks that the best I can do is to pick my blueberries, raspberries and blackberries and store them in the freezer. The same thing happens when the apples and pears have a good year. I wash and pare small mountains of blemished fruits, and freeze them to deal with another day.
The day has finally come. The fact that it’s post-holiday season complicates things, because most of us are well sated with rich cakes and pastries, the most common ways to glorify garden-grown fruits. Beyond baking, here are six great things to do with the half-forgotten fruits hiding in your freezer.
1. Make Berry Smoothies
Consider this a gentle reminder to use frozen cherries, strawberries and other fruits with few seeds to make nutritious smoothies. Blueberries, currants, plus peaches and all their kin will work. If you have bits of kale or spinach in your winter garden, you can add them to the blender, too.
2. Make Juices from Seedy Berries
With seedy blackberries and raspberries, I prefer to remove the seeds and enjoy the tart juice, which makes a delicious addition to herb teas. The procedure is simple: Place a quart (liter) of frozen raspberries or blackberries in a heavy saucepan. Add one-half cup (100ml) water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Mash the hot berries with a potato masher or large spoon. When the mixture is steaming hot, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour through a strainer to remove the seeds – an unexpected treat for backyard birds.
3. Dehydrate Frozen Strawberries, Cherries and Blueberries
The process of freezing and thawing breaks down the cell walls in frozen strawberries and cherries, which is a good thing if you want to dry some of your frozen berries to enjoy as chewy, nutritious snacks. You can dry frozen strawberry or cherry halves straight up, but I have found that tossing the cut fruit with a coating of sugar, and allowing the mixture to sit in the fridge for a day before putting the fruit in the dehydrator, vastly improves the overall quality of the dried fruit. Frozen blueberries and currants dehydrate faster and better than fresh ones, but expect these berries to be quite tart and slightly seedy when dried.
4. Make Blueberry or Raspberry Vinegar
Salad season is coming soon, and wouldn’t it be nice to be ready with homemade raspberry vinegar, or maybe a deep purple version made with blackberries or blueberries? Add frozen raspberries or blueberries to any type of vinegar and allow to sit at room temperature until the fruits discolor, usually 5 to 7 days. Then strain them out, and bottle your blueberry or raspberry vinegar in clean bottles.
5. Make Low-Sugar Refrigerator Preserves
It is quite easy to make small batches of fruit preserves or syrup for immediate use by thickening the heated fruit with organic cornstarch, and using only enough sugar to flatter the flavor of the fruit. Place frozen fruit in a heavy saucepan and gently heat until thawed. Add sugar to taste, starting with 2 tablespoons of sugar per cup of frozen fruit. In a separate bowl, dissolve organic cornstarch in a small amount of cold water, using 1 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of frozen fruit. Bring the fruit to a strong simmer and pour in the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly for one minute. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and store in clean jars in the refrigerator. Use within three weeks.
6. Use Frozen Fruit in Sangria or Wine
One of my hobbies is making homemade wine with my backyard fruits, but making “country wines” is a slow and mysterious process that’s not for everyone. Berries readily release their juices when mashed and fermented, but “dry” fruits like apples and pears require fine chopping or grinding to release their juices when they are fresh. However, chunky pieces of the same fruits give up their juices easily after they have been frozen and thawed – the best way to get raw apple juice from apples, whether or not you are into wine.
As an alternative to making wine from scratch, you can add frozen fruit to inexpensive commercial wine, transforming it into a form of sangria. Red wine is traditionally used, but you can get bright rosy colors and punchy berry aromas by using white wine instead. Either way, soak the frozen fruit in wine overnight in a large bowl, then strain and re-bottle your fruit-enhanced wine.