Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Freezing summer fruits that normally don't freeze well


I have these wonderful pears, from one of our trees, that we harvested just 10 days ago. I am keeping most of them in the fridge, and ripening just a few at a time, in a bowl on the table. They're absolutely beautiful. When I tried freezing pears once before, the thawed pears turned to mush. From what I have read, pears are not typically selected for freezing. Neither are melons.

Then I remembered what my mom used to do with summer melons, particularly cantaloupe and honeydew. She made melon balls and froze them in a light syrup. When we ate them, she served them partially frozen. They melted in our mouths, like a spoonful of sorbet.

So, I began thinking, I could freeze pears in a syrup, and serve partially frozen, and avoid the thawed mush. I looked through cookbooks, and visited extension offices online, and found you could freeze pears in a 40% solution (3 cups sugar and 4 cups water).

Freezing works best with summer pears, picked still green and ripened at room temperature, in a dark place, like a pantry. You wash, peel, core and quarter or halve pears, as if for canning. Bring to a boil, a 40% sugar solution. Simmer the prepared pears for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pears from the syrup, and place in freezer containers. Allow to cool. Pour cooled syrup over pears, adding 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid per quart of pears, to prevent discoloration. And freeze.

I have a dozen of my largest pears now ripening in the pantry, for the next few days. I'll freeze these and see how we like them served partially thawed. If we enjoy these, freezing a few pears could give us a nice change from the usual oranges, apples and other home-frozen fruit from our garden, in winter.

And what about melons?

To freeze melons, use firm melons (not overripe or mushy). Make into balls with a melon baller tool. Prepare a very light syrup in proportions of 1 cup of sugar to 1 quart of water. Cool. Place melons balls into freezer containers, leaving a bit of headroom for expansion (1/2-inch to 1-inch). Cover with the very light syrup. And freeze. Serve partially thawed (ice crystals should still be on the balls).

Fruit packed in sugar syrup should keep well, frozen, for 1 year to 1 & 1/2 years.

14 comments:

  1. Interesting! I've always wondered how it is that grocery stores can sell frozen melon. They must have a process unavailable to the rest of us!

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Hmmm, I've never bought frozen melon. Perhaps the store-bought frozen melon is also better served partially thawed. But I did work in a frozen food factory one summer (asparagus). They flash froze everything. This supposedly helped the product retain more of its "fresh" texture, than home freezing.

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  2. Were you peeking in my fridge? I have almost 10 pounds of pears in my fridge and I was wondering what to do with them (besides gobble them all up in a day or two). Thanks for this brilliant suggestion!

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    1. Hi Jayne,
      I'm hoping our family enjoys the pears this way. It would be a nice change from our other winter fruit. I'm more comfortable with freezing than canning, so this may work well for me. Enjoy your pears!

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  3. I have canned and frozen many things, but not pears. I'll keep this in mind.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      Now that surprises me! You, of all people, have had a great deal of canning experience!

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  4. This is the first year I've had fruit trees and I'm really excited. I can't wait for my pears to ripen. They started out green, of course, and are now reddish but are still really hard. My Dad said he is expecting they will be ripe around frost time. I'm scratching my head about that since the time of the first frost can vary. I hope they keep good in the fridge because the tree is hanging really full and they look great...no bug bites even thought we didn't spray insecticides. :) I wish I knew what variety they are. It would have been nice if the seller had given us a list of the varieties of the apple, peach and pear trees. I wish I had thought to ask last year.

    I will be interested to see how you and your family like eating the partially thawed pears.

    Now I'm off to research some frozen food info. My hubby just told me that apparently he didn't get the door to our stand-up freezer shut all the way last night when he got something out. My freezer bags of shredded zucchini were partially thawed. Some steaks near the front of the freezer were starting to thaw a little around edges. I hope everything is okay. It seems it's always something. :)

    Angie

    Angie

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    1. Hi Angie,
      From what I understand, pears are better if you pick them slightly under ripe (if they're yellow-green pears, they should be just barely yellowish green and firm), and allow to ripen at room temp, a few at a time, or in a cool basement or garage, off the tree. If you cup your hand under one on the tree, and lift up slightly, it should break off the stem easily. For our tree, if I find one or two this ripe, then I know the whole tree is ready to pick, even though the rest will require twisting or bending of the stem. If I wait until they are all ripe, then I find more brown spots inside, and more fruit has fallen off the tree.

      You could have summer ripening pears, in which case they should be ripe enough to pick within the next couple of weeks. Or they could be fall ripening pears, which for us means early October. Summer ripening pears have the thinner skin (that's an indication they won't keep terribly well). Fall ripening ones have that tough, thicker skin, often brownish. The fall ripening ones can keep for several months in cold storage, into January in our area.

      Ouch, on the freezer goof! I hope most of it can be saved!

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  5. Ok Lili, don't mean to be picking on you, but since no one else mentioned it, I would. How is a 40% solution equal to 3cups sugar + 4 cups water...that seems to be 75%. Or is there another way of calculating in baking/freezing/canning, than in science. Once again, just giving you a hard time. Happy preserving! Lisa

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    1. Hi Lisa,
      I believe the 40% refers to density and not volume measures. I tried to Google a simple explanation and got sent to this horribly scary chemistry page! Ack! But anyways, I think it is density. A 40% solution is also often called a Medium syrup. Interestingly, I found in some really old cookbooks, that the name "Medium syrup" could have different ratios of sugar to water. So, I specified 40% and gave the ratio recommended for that percentage.

      Good question, though. For me, understanding the science behind cooking processes helps me when I go out on my own and experiment with something new, that I can't find good directions for, otherwise.

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  6. I don't usually use a lot of pears, but freezing melons sounds like a great idea, since I probably couldn't eat a whole one in one go. Thanks for the tips :)

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    1. Hi Economies,
      I do know that we really enjoyed the frozen melons that my mom put up. And an especially good way to deal with whole melons for a single person.

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  7. I've never frozen pears, but I will freeze berries, etc. And can a lot of fruit. Always delicious in oatmeal and yogurt!

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    1. Hi Pamela,
      We freeze a lot of berries, too. Blackberries mostly. And you're right, they're wonderful on oatmeal and my kids love them in yogurt!

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.