When local strawberries appear in markets, and you buy more than you can use before they spoil, what do you do?

When local strawberries appear in markets, and you buy more than you can use before they spoil, what do you do?

Maybe you make jam, pie or toss a shortcake party for two dozen friends. Or you freeze them.

You can freeze them whole, sliced, crushed, pureed, with or without sugar. Use frozen berries within a month for the best quality, said Elizabeth Andress, a University of Georgia professor who oversees the National Center for Home Food Preservation, a USDA-funded Web site (uga.edu/nchfp/how/freeze.html).

Berries frozen "dry" (without sugar) will retain a good shape, but only "if you use them while they still have a little icy texture."

Gather: Pick glossy, ripe berries; they won't ripen after picking. Avoid bruised or mushy fruit. Refrigerate them unwashed.

Prep: Rinse with cool running water; drain in sieve. Pat dry with paper towels. Remove caps. Halve large berries.

Dry: Freeze berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet until firm. Put into freezer bags.

Sugar: Sprinkle ¾ cup sugar over a quart of prepared berries; mix gently. Let sugar dissolve (15 minutes); use the juice that forms to cover the berries. Use for smoothies, pies and sauces.

Pack: Put prepared fruit in freezer containers, label and store. "Your freezer should be at 0 degrees or lower," Andress said. Use small packages.