The Frozen Berry Blues: A Tutorial
One of my favorite childhood summer memories is picking blueberries with my Mom in New Jersey when we would go to visit my grandparents. We’d go to one of two of our favorite spots, both parks not far from my grandparents’ house and pick the little ripe berries off the bush. But those berries never lasted long. We’d pick them and eat them mostly…or bring home a small bucket of them that would be gone in a few brief days…eaten in tiny bowls with cool whip….or just stuffed inside hungry mouths. My mom tells stories of blueberry picking when she was about my age with her irish-wolfhound who apparently would eat the berries right out of the bucket if Mom wasn’t watching.
The last time I went New-Jersey-blueberry picking, I was about 14…and it wasn’t until last summer that I got the opportunity to go again, this time in South Carolina with Keith and his family. But they didn’t just pick a few to snack on during the ride home. Nope…they came with their game faces on…and in a few hours we walked away with about 20 pounds of blueberries to freeze and enjoy throughout the year. I couldn’t imagine what in the world we would do with the coolers of tasty berries we drove home in my car, but a cobbler, some muffins, and lots of bowls of plain berries later, our seemingly endless stockpile only got us through about 6 months. So this year, Keith and I decided to double our efforts, found a local spot this time, and set to work. On our first trip, we brought home about 30 pounds and made our first deposit into our deep freezer. The second time, we brought backup…our friends Blake and Rebecca and their two little girls who turned out to be expert pickers. (“Look at THIS berry! It’s so tiny and cute!” or “Come down THIS aisle! I found the best bush of them all!”) At the end of the day, each family took home about 15 pounds.
As we carried our bounty to the cars, Rebecca and I chatted about the best way to freeze all that we had picked. So today, I bring you my “recipe” of what’s worked for us….a method passed along by Keith’s mom and step-dad last year. And no worries…there are still blueberries to be picked this year, at least in Tennessee….although the clock is ticking, so you’ll want to get them this week!
How to Freeze Blueberries
What You’ll Need:
*1 gallon freezer bags & a drinking straw OR the new vacuum seal bag sets.
*cookie sheets with a rim
What to Do Pictorial Guide:
1. Pick your blueberries.
2. Spread the berries out in a single layer on the cookie sheets. DO NOT WASH THEM**. Make sure you pick off any stems and weed out any smushed berries, unripe berries, leaves or other non-tasty tidbits that might have gotten in your bucket.
**The bluish dusty stuff that you find on your berries is actually nutritious….plus washing then freezing them can make the skin tough. You might want to check with your berry farm to make sure they don’t use any pesticides that could be harmful. That could be a game-changer.
3. Lay the sheets of berries out in front of the box fan and turn it on high.
4. When the berries are dry, put the pans in the freezer for at least an hour to overnight, or as long as it takes for the berries to feel frozen. (This way the berries freeze evenly and won’t stick together.)
5. Pack the frozen berries into gallon ziplock bags, about 3/4 full so they lie flat well. Close the bags most of the way and use the straw (or vaccum sealer) to suck out any extra air. This helps reduce the buildup of frost on the inside and helps reduce freezer burn.
6. Take a handful out of the freezer when you need em. I did some research that said that blueberries will last over a year frozen this way….but I can’t imagine you letting them last that long. They are just too delicious!