Learn how to bake with frozen or canned fruit and enjoy seasonal flavors all year long! Great to use in pies, smoothies, tarts, muffins, cobblers and more, preserved fruit is a great alternative for off-season baking. Learn all about the pros and cons of working with frozen and canned fruit, as well as how to use and store it for best results.
When I can’t find my favorite fresh fruits in season, frozen or canned fruits are a great alternative. They last a lot longer than their fresh counterparts, and they are great for adding to smoothies, muffins and cobblers.
And, as is the case with most ingredients, knowing how to use, store and cook with frozen or canned fruit is the secret to unlocking their potential!
How to Use Frozen Fruit
Commercially frozen foods have been around for about a hundred years – dating back to the 1920s to be exact – when the frozen food industry had first taken off. At first, freezing fruits and vegetables, both of which have a high moisture content, was no small feat. Large ice crystals, loss of color and loss of flavor were just some of the roadblocks to success.
It wasn’t until a few entrepreneurs (like Clarence Birdseye, for example) perfected methods for freezing food that still hold true today. Fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen at the peak of freshness to ensure color, taste and nutrient value.
One of the great things about working with frozen fruit in today’s day and age is that it’s incredibly convenient. Seasonal items are available all year round. Craving blueberry pie in the middle of winter? No problem! Frozen fruits are also already pre-washed, so they’re ready to go straight from the bag.
However, frozen fruit does have a high water content. Mushy fruit, color bleeding and too much moisture are all possibilities when working with frozen fruit. The good news is some of these things are preventable!
To prevent mushy fruit or moisture, keep the fruit in the freezer until you need to add it to the batter. Several recipes that include frozen fruit, such as muffins, quick breads, pies and cakes, have a longer bake time, so you can use the fruit without thawing it. Doing this can also limit color bleeding, too.
For muffins, cakes and other quick breads, you can toss your fruit with a little flour, which will help absorb some of the moisture and combat color bleeding. Fold the fruit in gently and bake. Keep an eye on the oven in case you need to increase bake time to account for any added moisture.
How to Thaw Frozen Fruit
If you need to thaw your fruit before use, let it defrost in the refrigerator, then rest it on the counter until it’s at room temperature. I like to gently dry the fruit with paper towels to get rid of any juice or water before using it. If you’re mixing thawed fruit into your batter, toss it gently with a little flour, then carefully fold into your batter. If you mix too aggressively, the fruit will fall apart and cause your batter to discolor.
It’s important to note that, when you thaw frozen fruit, its delicate texture changes significantly. It will be softer and mushy compared to fresh fruit. This is okay for desserts that will be baked or cooked, but not ideal for uncooked desserts or toppings. Desserts like fresh fruit tarts or pavlovas that have fresh fruit on top or as a garnish need fruit that still has some structural integrity and firmness.
Once frozen fruit has thawed, try to use it all, if possible (add it to oatmeal, smoothies or bake up some muffins!). Once thawed, fruit should not be refrozen.
How to Use Canned Fruit
Just like frozen fruit, canned fruit is great to have on hand because of its long shelf life. The canning process involves heat, which kills off microorganisms that would cause the food to spoil. This makes unopened canned fruit shelf-stable (at room temperature) for months at a time.
Just like frozen fruit, canned fruit is softer and has a less firm texture than fresh fruit, so takes care not to overcook. Too much heat and your fruit can turn to mush.
Canned fruits also vary in the amount of sugar they contain. Common syrups include heavy syrup, light syrup, fruit juice and fruit filling.
Canned fruit in any kind of syrup or juice should be drained before using, unless otherwise specified. These types of canned fruits are delicious in cakes, muffins, quick breads, cobblers and crisps.
Fruit fillings, such as cherry, apple or other berry flavors, can be used without draining. These are great for pies, cobblers and crisps. You can even warm them up for a quick and delicious topping for ice cream!
After canned fruit or fruit filling has been opened, store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If possible, use them up within 1 to 2 weeks
What are some of your favorite ways to use frozen or canned fruit? Let us know in the comments below!