Freeze Dried Strawberries - Nature's Best Treat

There is a lot to be said for strawberries in their natural state.  They are packed with nutrients, like vitamin C, manganese, folate, and potassium.  They’re also rich in anti-oxidants, including flavonoids, which reduce the risk of systemic or chronic diseases, and help to reduce inflammation, a common cause of pain.  They’re reasonably low in calories, but high in fiber which makes them a great part of a healthy diet.

Almost everyone enjoys them for their fresh tangy sweetness, which somehow leaves you feeling better than if you hadn’t had them!  They are like nature saying “Cheer up! Life’s good!”

Can they be freeze dried?  Oh, absolutely!  And since, except for those nutrients and a bit of sugar, they are almost entirely water, all that healthy goodness weighs next to nothing when you have to carry it on a hike.  And once you rehydrate them, they plump right back up, making a perfect dessert, or a quick ingredient for baking. (Mmm!  Strawberry muffins!)

But do you rehydrate them?  Sometimes there is nothing quite like the incredible powdery explosion of flavor when you chomp down on a freeze-dried strawberry.  Wow, what an intense taste!

Freeze drying Strawberries

There are definitely some choices to be made here with how you prepare your strawberries for freezing.  One super simple way is to buy them already frozen at the grocery store where half your work is already done for you. 

Now, commercial strawberries are notorious for not being as sweet because growers try for continuous crops all season long so some get picked a bit early, with green or white still showing.  That makes them tougher and able to withstand more handling during processing.  Good for business, but not as good for you.

Thaw a ripe one, and one that is still showing white or green, and taste them.  If you think they lack a little something, here’s what you do.  Put those strawberries in a big Ziploc and toss them with some refined white sugar—that helps to replace some of what was lost.  The flavor is still pretty good, and the light-coating of sugar gives them an interesting little bit of texture.

Many people prefer strawberries slice or quartered, and you can do that with fresh ones, but bear in mind that each wound you inflict on the poor berry with leak precious flavor (juice).  You can minimize that by keeping them really cold until just before you cut them and then getting them on the trays and into the deep freezer (if you use that method for pre-preparing them for the freeze-drying process).

If you are growing your own berries, you can be much more selective about when they are harvested, and get lovely sweet berries that are red all the way through.  And you can core them if you like but remember that you don’t have to do that.  We’ll talk more about that in the “What to Do with Your Harvest” section below.

The Process

Freeze-drying is covered extensively online, so most of you know that anything you are freeze drying needs to be permeable so the water can escape.  For example, if you’re doing blueberries this time, you need to take a moment for extra prep.  A four-sided box grater has one side that looks like it is covered in stars.  This is for very fine grating, such as nutmeg.  This side of the tool can be used to rollover the top of your frozen blueberries to gently and lightly pierce the skins so the water can escape.  If you don’t do this, they will end up looking like raisins instead.

Strawberries don’t suffer from this problem since they have much thinner skin, but if you want them to look more like fresh strawberries when rehydrated, experiment with this trick, to see if it ends up being a little more aesthetically pleasing for you!

Of course sliced berries don’t have this problem.  The exposed cut lets the water escapes unrestrained.

As always, it speeds up the operation immensely if you put all your crop on trays in a single layer, and pop them in the deep-freezer for several hours, since the deep freezer is always cold, always running, and represents a fixed energy cost, you may as well take advantage of it.  Why make your freeze-dryer do all that additional work of freezing your food, too?

Follow your unit’s instructions: get your batch loaded, put the seals on, close this valve, close that one, set the timer, and leave it alone.  Here’s an extra tip, however, that you really need to remember: strawberries have their seeds on the outside of the fruit, and those seeds have a moisture retaining covering.  However long you usually leave fruit, leave strawberries a little bit longer.

If you don’t give them extra time at low pressure, the seeds will retain water and make your fruit go soggy as it eventually escapes—and nobody likes soggy, sticky freeze-dried strawberries—unless you are making jam or pie-filling.

What to Do with Your Harvest

Pies, jams, compote, toppings, and yogurt are all good uses for your production, but here is one that few people ever think about:  Powder.

Powder?  Sure, it’s not only versatile, but it is extremely concentrated flavor.  And you don’t even need to core the strawberries when you’re freeze-drying them—just remove the stems and you’re done!  If you fill a blender with berries and run it until the contents have been reduced to dust, you have the perfect product to put in homebrewed yogurt that gives it a blast of flavor and lots of nutritional value.

Think about the ways you could use it…  Dust a baked ham with it for a unique tang, or add it to your bread or muffin recipe; sprinkle it on custard, or add it to beverages; it would add a beautiful kick in any smoothie!

The Takeway

Strawberries are a gift to humans and animals alike.  Our bodies are so efficient that it only takes two strawberries to run your entire body for 15 minutes, providing all the necessary energy required.  That is why humans gain weight so easily.  One bottle of soda pop has about 40 grams of sugar—enough to keep us going for 10 hours.  Many of us have several per day and it has to go somewhere!

Good wholesome food isn’t that hard to come by, and if you’re making your own, you have a lot more control over it.  Freeze-drying is a great way to master your nutritional intake and choose nutritious stuff that keeps us active and fortified for and long healthy life.

And to think…it all starts with something as tasty and fun to eat as strawberries!




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