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Easy steps take fresh fruit from the carton to the freezer
Adding sugar to clean cut fruit before freezing will help the fruit last longer. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

Just because summer is dwindling away, that doesn’t mean your enjoyment of its produce has to fade during the rest of the year.

With summer’s harvest at its peak, now is the perfect time to give some thought to preserving some of your favorite fruits and berries to use in recipes in cooler months.

If canning isn’t your thing, there may be an easier way to save those peaches, strawberries and even oranges for later.

"Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve fruit," said Gena Knox, Athens resident and author of the "Southern My Way: Simple Recipes, Fresh
Flavors" cookbook.

"Take blueberries for instance. To freeze them, all you need to do is spread clean berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place the pan in the freezer. Once they are frozen, take the cookie sheet out and place the blueberries in the container of your choice and return them to your freezer.

"When you get ready to use them, you can pour out as many berries as you need and put the rest back."

The previously mentioned freezing method is known as "tray packing" and can be used for small whole fruits like berries, say researchers with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Services.

Other methods for freezing fruit include syrup, sugar, dry and unsweetened packing.

For syrup packing, you simply freeze fruit in a syrup made from water and sugar. A light syrup would be made by dissolving 1 cup of sugar in 4 cups of water. A heavy syrup would be made from 2 and 3/4 cups of sugar dissolved in 4 cups of water.

According to the cooperative extension, a heavy syrup should be used for most fruit like apricots, citrus fruits and sweet cherries.

To sugar pack, you sprinkle sugar over the selected fruit and stir gently until the juice is drawn out and the sugar is dissolved.

To dry pack, you simply seal fruit in a storage bag and place it in a freezer. According to the cooperative extension, this method works best for "small whole fruits such as berries that give a good quality product without sugar."

For unsweetened packing, fruit is frozen in plain water, unsweetened juice or pectin syrup.

When freezing fruit, you want to be sure to use a moisture-vapor resistant and durable storage unit like plastic freezer containers or freezer bags. Glass canning jars can also be used if they have a wide mouth — narrow jars break too easily at freezing temperatures say researchers with the cooperative extension.

The fruit should also be washed before it is frozen. When preparing the fruit for freezing, it should be stored just how you plan to use it. Meaning it should be stemmed, pitted, sliced and peeled if that is how it will be used later.

Adding powdered ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, to the packing liquid, or sprinkling it over the fruit will help prevent discoloration without impacting the flavor of the fruit like lemon juice will.

According to the cooperative extension, most properly stored fruits will maintain their quality in the freezer for about eight months to a year. Citrus fruits maintain their integrity for about four to six months.

The quality of fruit that has been stored without additional sugar will decline faster than fruit that is frozen with sugar or a syrup.