When the garden or grove produces a bounty too plentiful to use before spoiling, freezing fruit preserves the harvest for use in recipes or straight to the table later in the season. Freezing fruit halts the growth of microorganisms that cause spoilage and food poisoning, so food safety won't be an issue as long as the fruit remains frozen. They will eventually become unpalatable, though, so it's important to use them up while they're at their best.
Citrus fruits need little preparation for freezing. Because their natural acidity aids their preservation, extra acid and preservatives won't help them last longer. Before freezing, remove seeds and section oranges, grapefruits, lemons and other citrus fruits. To those sections, add juice or a syrup made from approximately 3 cups of sugar for each 4 cups of water cooked together in a saucepan. The syrup protects your fruit from oxidation and freezer burn, keeping them palatable for longer. Seal the mixture in a waterproof bag or food storage container, and store them at 0 F. Try to use your frozen citrus fruits within six months, for the best quality.
Freeze small fruits such as berries and cherries after washing them and placing them individually on cookie sheets. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer and form a hard freeze on each piece of fruit. This way, the berries stay separate and easy to scoop instead of freezing into a solid block. After freezing, place the fruit in a freezer-safe bag and store at 0 F for up to 12 months.
Apples and Pears
Apples and pears brown easily at room temperature when cut. When you're cutting apples or pears to prepare them for the freezer, dunk them into a mixture of water and ascorbic acid or lemon juice to slow the process. Packing sliced apples and pears in a syrup made from 1 part sugar to 2 parts water protects them from oxidation, and helps preserve their fresh color during those long months in the freezer. Store frozen apples and pears up to 12 months.
Melons and Papayas
Choose melons that are ripe and smell sweet, but still feel firm to the touch. After cutting the fruit away from the rind and removing the seeds, pack the cut fruit in a syrup made from sugar and water or unsweetened by itself in water. Add cut melon to a freezer-safe bag or container and leave an inch or so of space for expansion before freezing. Use frozen melon before 12 months of storage.
Andrea Lott Haney writes articles and training materials for food industry publications. Having studied foodservice sanitation, nutrition and menu planning at Purdue University, Lott Haney has more than 10 years of experience as a catering and event planner for luxury hotels and currently tours the Midwest as a corporate customer service trainer and consultant.