Enjoy Louisiana Strawberries

Strawberry season has arrived, so you will surely want to choose Louisiana strawberries for a healthy and nutritious snack!

Fresh or frozen, strawberries are low in calories and an excellent source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential vitamin which helps keep our blood vessels, bones and teeth healthy. In addition, it is also a powerful antioxidant and may help prevent certain cancers as well as heart disease.

One cup of whole strawberries provides more than one and a half times the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, yet only 45 calories. They are rich in dietary fiber and make important contributions of iron and the B-vitamins, riboflavin, niacin and folacin.

Strawberries don’t ripen after picking, so choose firm, ripe strawberries with a solid red color, bright luster and bright green caps attached. There should be no moisture, mold or decayed spots. Mold spreads quickly from one berry to another. If the container has red stains, the berries may be overripe or have been crushed. The flavor depends on variety and ripeness, not on size. Make strawberries your last purchase at the store or roadside market. Hurry home with the strawberries. Sort for damaged or decayed berries. Spread in flat container, cover loosely and refrigerate unwashed until ready to use.

Wash berries just before eating. Wash gently and quickly in a pan of cold water.Lift berries from the water, letting the sand and dirt stay in the pan. Repeat two or three times in clean water. Remove caps after the berries are washed and drained.

Freezing is the easiest and best way to maintain nutritional quality and to keep the berries tasting like fresh from season to season. To retain the high quality of the berries, use moisture-vapor-proof freezing bags or containers.

Berries will freeze with or without sugar, but texture, color and flavor are better when sugar is used. If you want to make preserves or jam later, or if you’re limiting your sugar intake, freeze berries without sugar.

Select firm, ripe fruit. Wash berries a few at a time in cold water, lifting fruit out of the water. Repeat two or three times until water is clean. Drain. Never leave berries soaking in water. Remove caps. Use whole or sliced, but the texture of the sliced berries is best because they are more easily served with ice crystals.

To Freeze Berries with Sugar

Use ½ to ¾ cup sugar to 4 or 5 cups sliced berries, depending on the tartness of berries and your taste preference. Sprinkle sugar over berries.

Turn berries gently with a large spoon until all are coated with sugar. Let them set for 5-10 minutes to make their own juice. One teaspoon of commercial ascorbic acid mixture stirred into sugar will help protect bright red color and vitamin C.

Pack berries in moisture-vapor-proof bags or containers. Fill containers leaving a 1/2-inch of space at top. If a rigid container is used, place a small piece of crumpled waxed paper or freezer paper on top to hold berries under the juice. Seal airtight and label. Freeze quickly at 0 degrees F.

To freeze whole berries without sugar, place in single layer on a tray or baking pan, cover lightly and freeze quickly until firm. Remove from pan, and package airtight in moisture-vapor-proof containers or bags. If they are to be used for preserves or jam, measure and bag before freezing.

Below is a recipe for a No-Cook Freezer Strawberry Jam

2 cups mashed, fully ripe strawberries (about 1 quart)

4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)

1 box powdered fruit pectin

3/4 cup water

Wash and drain fully ripe berries. Remove caps and crush thoroughly. (A potato masher works well). Measure 2 cups into a large bowl. If necessary, add a little water for exact amount. Mix sugar into fruit; add lemon juice if used. Let stand 10 minutes.

Mix powdered pectin and water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir all at once into fruit-sugar mixture. Continue stirring for 3 minutes. Ladle or pour quickly into clean, scalded freezer containers (rigid plastic or glass) with tight-fitting lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours to set. Store in refrigerator for up to three weeks, or freeze for long-term storage. This recipe makes about 5 1/2 cups.

For more information, you may contact Adrianne Vidrine at 337-788-8821, email her, or visit the LSU AgCenter's website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com.

3/25/2011 1:50:29 AM
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