One day last week, I found myself with a huge cache of strawberries. After giving away some, eating a bunch, and making fruit salad and buttermilk strawberry ice cream, I wanted to store the remainder. But before now, I have not done well storing strawberries – even when I’ve carefully removed them from their container and refrigerated them in a paper towel-lined bowl, they haven’t lasted more than a day. And when I’ve left them out on the counter overnight, I’ve woken up to a moldy disaster.
Like any self-respecting blogger, I went online to research my way out of my ignorance. As you might expect, there is no single “right answer;” I found lots of advice, much of it contradictory. One thing was certain – if you’re not going to use strawberries in the next few hours, you should refrigerate them.
I decided to follow a variation on Amateur Gourmet Adam Robert’s technique. Adam is smart, he consulted someone he trusted and he’s practical. Most important – he has a sense of humor about everything, including cooking and his knowledge, or lack thereof. My kind of guy.
My Adventures Storing Strawberries
Using a paper towel-lined baking pan, I laid out the strawberries, unwashed and with the stems still on. The regularity of the pattern doesn’t matter, but placing them stem-side down, i.e. not falling over on their sides, keeps their skin intact and unbruised. To avoid bruising, it is also important not to let them touch each other.
I purchased the strawberries on Monday afternoon and began my experiment on Tuesday. (They spent Monday night refrigerated in their cartons.) I left them refrigerated on the pan for 3 days; they were beautiful on Wednesday, not bad on Thursday and still acceptable, though beginning to show signs of aging, on Friday. The pictures below are from the second and fourth days of refrigeration on the pan.
I bought these strawberries in a plastic clamshell packaging from a store, so they were a bit more durable (and maybe less tasty) than farmer’s market berries. But I’m betting this storage method would work well with local, fresh berries too.
Onto my next experiment – freezing and defrosting strawberries.
How to Freeze Strawberries
Use a tray or a shallow pan covered with paper towels, just as if you were refrigerating the strawberries. But instead of leaving them unwashed, clean the strawberries under cool water, drain them well in a colander or on paper towels, cut off the stems, and place them on the tray/pan with tips facing up, making sure they don’t touch each other.
Once the strawberries are frozen, you can move them to a plastic bag for longer-term storage. The picture below of frozen berries (on the right) next to fresh ones shows that the former appear lighter in color due to the ice crystals that form as they freeze.
How to Defrost Frozen Strawberries
Although they do soften somewhat and lose a bit of juice, strawberries do reasonably well defrosted overnight (at least 6-8 hours) in the refrigerator. Take them out of the pastic freezer bag, and put them in a plastic low-sided container or on a tray lined with paper towels not touching each other. Although not perfect for a fruit salad or other dish in which texture matters a lot, they would do fine in a strawberry shortcake.
Don’t be tempted to rush the defrosting by leaving frozen strawberries out at room temperature. I tried it and after 90 minutes the strawberries were mushy and lost much of their juice. Ever the optimist, I did note that they were still edible – fine for a smoothie, puree, ice cream or other use that would blend them and allow me to re-incorporate the juice.
And here’s the strawberry buttermilk ice cream they went in. It’s a testament to my self-control that there is enough left for this picture several days after I made this batch. Want to come join me for a bowl?