I just love this time of year. In many areas, strawberries are one of the first real fruit crops of the season, and it always gets me excited about things to come. While strawberries are undeniably at their best fresh out of the field: warm, sweet, and juicy, they just don't keep long fresh. Fortunately, there is an easy and delicious way to enjoy strawberries year round. If preserved properly, strawberries can come out of the freezer tasting very much like they went in. There's nothing better than enjoying strawberry shortcake in November or strawberry topping on waffles with whipped cream in January.
The first step is to rinse and cut up the berries. Remove any overly ripe parts and rotten spots. Remove the stems and cut into roughly nickel sized pieces. For every quart of prepared berries, squeeze about half a lemon's worth of juice into them. Please note that all of the measurements in this process are very loose; simply taste as you go to be sure it's right for your palate.
Then add some sugar. For a quart of berries, I use between half and one cup of sugar typically. But, again, it will always vary depending on the sweetness of the berries. One point to keep in mind, however, is that you don't want to skimp too much on the sugar. The sugar helps thicken the topping and keeps that beautiful red color vibrant. Use too little sugar and you may be a bit disappointed in the results.
Stir the sugar in and then gently crush the berries with your hands. Do not use any mechanical means to complete this step. You do not want the berries pulverized, just gently crushed. This step helps the berries to release more of their juice and also damages the cell walls in the strawberries enough that freezing the topping will no longer change its texture or structure much.
Don't crush things too much. You still want some nice sized pieces in there. In this image, the topping is sitting in a large serving spoon which is about three inches long. Look at all that delicious syrup that's developed!
At this point, spoon the mixture into freezer containers. I like square ones like these (I picked mine up at Wal-Mart a few years ago). Be sure to leave a half-inch at the top of the container so the mixture can expand as it freezes without making a mess of your freezer. Just as an FYI, this batch of twelve pint containers was from one flat of strawberries.
When you are ready to use, you can defrost them in the refrigerator, on the counter, or in the microwave (just go gently!). Spoon over cakes, ice cream, waffles, or oatmeal. Use to make the best daiquiris or margaritas ever or use to make a delicious smoothie. Or defrost only enough to get a spoon in there to scrape out frozen bits and serve over your favorite cold cereal or as a frozen dessert with whipped cream.
What I love most about putting these little containers in the freezer is that they are so darn versatile!