Freezing Fresh Peaches, Plums, Strawberries and other Fruit

Anyone who has tried freezing fresh peaches, apricots, berries, plums, strawberries and other fruit knows that it can end in disaster with a mushy unappealing mess.

Understanding the processes that occur when fruit is frozen is important to getting the right outcome. Many people end up with soft, mushy and discolored disasters when the fruit they have frozen is thawed.

Why does this occur and how can it be avoided?

Understanding the freezing process is all about understanding what happens to water when it freezes. It forms water crystals and the formation of these crystal breaks down the structure of the fruit. This is why so called freeze-drying works. During freeze-drying all the water in the food is removed by evaporation while leaving the basic structure and composition of the food intact. This means that the water cannot form crystals in the food when it is frozen and so break down the structure.

So rapidly freezing individual dry berries and dry peach slices that are spread out and separated when freezing works because there is less chance of ice crystals forming and destroying the structure of the fruit. Drying the surface of the food items, and keeping the pieces small, helps this process work.

Most fruit is frozen in sugar syrups for this reason.

Fresh peaches - sliced and ready to freeze by placing well separated on trays
Fresh peaches - sliced and ready to freeze by placing well separated on trays. Source: Public Domain

Why Doesn't Freezing Fruit Without Sugar Work?

This is related to another property of water and things placed in water. If you try to poach peaches in plain water without sugar or salt the peaches lose their sweetness. People assume that the sweetness is drawn out of the peach into the water. But if you taste the water you will find that it doesn't taste sweet. So what happens to the sweetness. What actually happens is that water is drawn into the peach cells so that the sweetness is diluted.

This natural process is called 'osmosis'. Water is drawn through a membrane (the cell walls within the peach ) by the difference in dissolved salts on the two side.In this case the peach cells have much more salts within the cells and water flows though the membrane into the cells.To avoid this dilution effect the fruit should be poached in sugar syrup rather than water. You could use salt instead to increase the dissolved ion concentration of the poaching liquid, but this would be less desirable.

So when you try to freeze fruit in plain water or even if the fruit is wet, water will be drawn into the fruit, ice crystals will form and you will end up with insipid unsweet mush.

Enough of the science, lets get to the topic of freezing fresh fruit.

There are four methods for Freezing Fruit, and they suitability of the methods varies widely depending of the size and type of fruit:

1. Dry-freezing

Suitable for: gooseberries, rhubarb, red currants, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries. Also suitable for individual slices of peaches and other fruits that have been dried and frozen, with the slices spread out on a tray before freezing.

Dry-freezing is suitable for small individual whole hard-skinned berries, which do not discolor when exposed to the atmosphere. It is also suitable or most fruits that will be made into jams, puddings, jellies or fruit pies. The mushiness f the thawed fruit does not matter in this case.

2. Syrup-freezing of Fruit

Suitable for: peaches, plums, apricots, pineapple, rhubarb, damsons and greengages. Softer fruit is generally halved, stoned or sliced before being frozen.

A syrup is prepared by dissolving sugar or other sweeteners in water over moderate heat in a saucepan. The syrup is set aside to cool before pouring over the cut fruit and then freezing.
Some of the alternative syrups are shown in the table below. Peaches must be packed in a syrup solution or fruit juice. The sugar syrup or fruit juice is added to help stabilize the color, improve flavor and retain the shape of the fruit. It does nor preserve the fruit as such but retains its shape and texture as far as possible. You only require enough liquid to just cover the peaches. The syrup or juice helps prevent freezer burn, drying and oxidation in the air (browning). Fruit juice syrup can be used straight away.

The types of syrups are shown below:

Alternative Types of Syrups for Freezing Fruit

Type of Syrup
Fruit juice (peach, apple or white grape)
4 cups
Splenda (2 cups)
6 cups
6 cups
Light sugar
2 cups
6 cups
7 cups
Medium sugar
3 cups
6 cups
7.2 cups
Heavy sugar
4 cups
6 cups
7.4 cups


3. Sugar-freezing

Suitable for: strawberries, raspberries, black-currants and blackberries and other soft fruits that will be used to make jams or puddings. Note: Avoiding washing the soft fruits before preparing for freezing.

With this method the fruit is combined with granulated sugar, which draws out liquid from the fruit. This liquid forms a syrup that coats the fruit and help protects it from the air, which could cause discoloration and oxidisation of the fruit.


4. Freezing of Fruit Purees

Suitable for: plums, strawberries, apples, raspberries, pears, apricots, gooseberries, black currants, blackberries, rhubarb and damsons.

This method is a good way of handling bulk fruit that is not in perfect condition or fruit that is slightly overripe and unsuitable for the other methods. It is also suitable for pieces of fruit. Once defrosted, this fruit puree can be served as a mousse or made into jams, sauces or used as is to accompany ice cream and other desserts. Often it is best to lightly stew and sweetened the fruit with sugar before pureeing and this enhances and blends the flavors together.


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Freezing Peach Slices in Syrup
Freezing Peach Slices in Syrup. Source: Public Domain
Freezing Strawberries
Freezing Strawberries. Source: Public Domain
Frozen Raspberries
Frozen Raspberries. Source: Public Domain
Cut the fruit into individual portions and freeze separately
Cut the fruit into individual portions and freeze separately. Source: Public Domain
Freezing fruit in small blocks makes them very easy to use
Freezing fruit in small blocks makes them very easy to use. Source: Public Domain
Fresh peaches - sliced and ready to freeze by placing well separated on trays
Fresh peaches - sliced and ready to freeze by placing well separated on trays. Source: Public Domain
Fruit slices frozen and packed into zip-lock bags
Fruit slices frozen and packed into zip-lock bags. Source: Public Domain
Freezing berries
Freezing berries. Source: Public Domain