How to save summer fruits to enjoy later in the year
Being overrun with berries and cherries is a nice problem, but Emma is eminently sensible to want to freeze some for future cooking before they spoil. First up, wash, dry and prep the fruit: nectarines, peaches and the like should be stoned and sliced or chopped, and melon cut into chunks. “Hull strawberries, top and tail gooseberries, and stone cherries, then put them in ziplock bags in a single, flat layer,” says Anna Higham, executive pastry chef at The River Cafe in London. (Make sure you remove as much air from the bags as you can, too, to minimise freezer burn.)
Once frozen, a bag of berries means you’ll always have dessert. Yotam Ottolenghi blitzes frozen raspberries with yoghurt and honey for instant frozen yoghurt (“serve just as it is or with some crunchy biscuits or meringue”). For a richer version, he blitzes 350g frozen raspberries with 140ml fridge-cold double cream, a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste, 30g icing sugar and two tablespoons of pomegranate molasses, then freezes that in a covered container for about 30 minutes. Top with curls of white chocolate and toasted coconut flakes, and you’re good to go. Food writer Anna Jones, meanwhile, blends frozen melon chunks with maple syrup, lemon juice and zest for a quick sorbet.
Your other option, of course, is to bake. For Higham, frozen berries are destined for a late-summer pudding. “I keep bits of fruit throughout the season, then, in September, I defrost them and make a big summer pudding. Everything is from peak season.” Jones saves frozen cherries for clafoutis: “Arguably, a few recipes actually suit frozen fruit better than fresh – frozen cherries in a clafoutis seem softer and sweeter.” You could, she says, soak them in kirsch and sugar for an hour before tipping them into the baking dish and pouring in the batter. For Higham, however, a cherry pie is hard to beat: “Add a pinch of mahleb [made from ground cherry stones] to make it taste more cherry-y.”
As always, it pays to be organised. “I prepare and freeze rhubarb in the exact amount I need to make a crumble,” says Camilla Wynne, author of Jam Bake. “Then I just pull out the bag on a sad day in January and cheer myself up.” She also stashes 1kg bags of hulled strawberries in her freezer, ready for future jamming sessions. Then, when the mood takes her, she mixes the frozen berries with sugar and leaves to defrost (and macerate) overnight. “Then add something that’s got a bit of pectin to help them set.” That might be passion fruit, a pureed whole boiled lemon or Seville orange (bonus: they add a “tutti frutti” vibe), or redcurrants. Jam made, Wynne swirls a spoonful into angel food cake or dollops it on thumbprint cookies. “I’ve also put strawberry jam in cocktails.”
Speaking of drinks, smoothies are another obvious home for frozen fruit. Wynne, meanwhile, has “just frozen some pineapples that were on sale at the grocer’s, which I’ll use in a piña colada made with coconut water”. Add rum, or leave it out: just don’t give the cocktail umbrella the cold shoulder.