How to Freeze BerriesJune 27, 2014
Knowing how to freeze berries will mean you never lament another batch of fresh picked strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or other berries that turn from just-picked luscious to a moldy pile of muck in the kitchen.
Sadly, homegrown berries, which arrive during warm summery days, are fast to melt into fuzzy, grey piles of rot. And, refrigerating them isn’t a good solution either. Eating them fresh is ideal, but if we’re lucky, our harvest is more than we can consume fresh from the garden. Of course, making jams and jellies is an option, but if you’re short on time, simply freezing your fruits is a great way to go! (And you can still make jams out of them later if you want.)
For the last week or so we’ve been culling through our berry patches daily for at least a pint of each kind of berry we grow — except for the Goji Berries and Blackberries. Those come in later in the season. But the raspberries and strawberries have been going gangbusters for a couple of weeks. And, as the June-bearing strawberry harvest begins to wane, the blueberries are rapidly picking up the pace, turning deeper shades of purple-blue day-by-day. And, we just can’t eat them all despite a steady handful thrown in each smoothie and salad we eat. So, into the freezer they go!
Berries are super simple to freeze. Just wash them well. Pick over the harvest to remove stems, bad parts, and other detritus. Then, lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper. The paper lining will keep moist berries from freezing to the cookie sheet, which makes it hard to take them off the sheet later. (You can freeze them without the paper lining, but get ready to use a spatula to scrape them off the sheet. And be warned that raspberries and other delicate fruits will crumble into tiny bits. They still work for a smoothie though.)
Once your tray is filled with berries, slip it into the freezer, keeping the tray level so the berries don’t all fall together. Depending on the size of your fruit, it should just take a couple hours for them to freeze.
While your berries are freezing, label a freezer-safe zipper bag or freezer-safe jar with the name of your fruit and the date. Once the fruit is frozen, slip it off the tray, into the storage container, and put that container in the freezer for the longer term.
You can put more than one kind of berry on a single tray or mixed into your storage bag. Just think ahead about how you plan to use them later so you don’t have to pick through a mixed bag for a recipe. And, remember that when your berries defrost they won’t be very slice-able; whole strawberries in particular are like little rocks — great in a high powered blender but not east to beat down in something with less machine-muscle. If you want to use them sliced, slice before you freeze them.
By pre-freezing the berries on a sheet, they hold their form rather than turn into a pile of mush frozen together in a bag. With tray-frozen berries, you can remove a few at a time as you need them throughout the year ahead for smoothies, pies or tarts. And, as you harvest more and more pints of fruit through the harvest season, you can continue adding more tray-frozen berries to your long term storage bag or jar. Hopefully, by the end of the season your freezer bags will be packed full of summery goodness for the winter months ahead!
Not sure what kind of canning jar to use or want to just learn more about easy food freezing techniques? Check out this brief tutorial video featuring our friend Theresa Loe of Growing a Greener World and LivingHomeGrown.com; she’s a Master Preserver and always has great ideas for putting food by!