Selecting the perfect strawberry
When choosing strawberries, pick the ones that are firm, plump and fragrant with a bright, glossy red colouring. The calyx (the green cap on top) should be bright green and look fresh. Good strawberries should be firm but not crunchy. Turn the punnet over to ensure that there is no juice or mould present – this would indicate that the fruit is old.
Strawberries do not ripen after they have been picked so select fruit that is fully red on the surface – this indicates that it’s at the right state of maturity and will offer maximum sweetness and flavour.
Storing your strawberries
Strawberries need to be kept cool so get them into your fridge as soon as you can and keep them there until you are ready to use them. They should ideally be eaten within about three or four days of purchase for the best flavour and nutritional value.
Store the fruit in the crisper drawer of your fridge, either in a closed clamshell punnet or in a partially open plastic bag to maintain a high humidity. Shelf life of the strawberry depends on how ripe the fruit was when it was purchased, but can normally be stored for up to seven days under optimum conditions.
Strawberry flavour is best at room temperature so you might like to take them out of the fridge about an hour before serving. Avoid washing or removing their caps until you are ready to use them. This helps to retain the flavour, texture and nutrients of the berry.
Frozen strawberries are very handy to have in your freezer for adding to smoothies or baking. They can be frozen without adding sugar, but with a higher risk of getting freezer burn, so it is best to use them up within six months if they are sugar free. Otherwise, a light dusting of sugar before freezing will both help preserve the color and prevent freezer burn.
Freezing whole strawberries on a tray or sheet ensures they freeze individually, rather than in a difficult-to-break-up brick.
Wash and gently dry the strawberries. Just a quick wash – no soaking for too long as this will reduce flavor and nutrients.
Hull the berries and remove any ones that are spoiled (save these for jams and coulis – see recipe page for ideas)
Place the strawberries on a baking sheet, spread out so they are not touching each other, and freeze until solid.
Transfer the strawberries to plastic resealable bags or airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to six months.
Freezing strawberries in a simple syrup
This is an ‘old school’ method which freezes the berries whole in a mildly sweet sugar-water. Jars or plastic containers are the ideal option for storing strawberries in syrup.
Make a simple syrup by combining 4 cups water to each 1 cup sugar. Sugar can be dissolved in either cold or hot water, but if using hot water, be sure to chill the syrup before using.
Place whole or sliced berries in containers and cover with the cold syrup. Package and freeze.
To Thaw: Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter. Never immerse frozen jars into hot water.
- Packed in liquid, the berries retain their color and shape when reconstituted, making them a standalone dessert. They can also be spooned over yogurt or ice cream, or heaped onto scones and topped with cream for a classic strawberry shortcake that is not lacking in flavour.
Tip 1: Make your syrup before you get your strawberries. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge so it can be used the moment your fresh strawberries arrive.
Tip 2: Add a subtle, natural flavoring to the syrup by adding orange zest, green cardamom pods, or vanilla bean.