There is one thing in particular that is really enjoying our monsoon-like weather lately and that is the blueberries. That is my catalyst for doing a blog post on how to freeze blueberries – I bet you will soon have a lot of them available where you are too! We have only a few bushes of our own, but just next door, on the farm that now belongs to Larry’s siblings, there are 20 or so bushes – all about thirty years old, absolutely huge, and loaded with berries. In between deluges of rain, the weather has been very warm and humid – perfect conditions for ripening them up in a hurry. So quickly in fact, that we have to be prepared to deal with them rapidly, before they get by us and get wasted.
Fortunately, there are few things easier to preserve than blueberries, because you can freeze them. I love baking with frozen blueberries, because I think they actually taste better in baked goods than fresh ones do. Freezing the berries makes them just kind of melt when you bake them in a muffin, or cook them on the griddle in pancakes, giving you a huge boost, flavor-wise. I honestly can’t think of a single recipe that uses blueberries for baking, that would not be able to use frozen berries. The best part is, there is nothing easier than freezing blueberries – no blanching, or other preparation is needed. There are just a couple of simple steps, and you will have something that will bring back the taste of summer all through the cold months.
To get started, pick over the berries, to make sure there are no spoiled ones in there, though they can even be a bit over-ripe and still be ok to use. If any of the stems are still intact, pull those off. Use a strainer, or colander and rinse the berries well.Shake off the excess water, and pour them out on a large kitchen towel [I love these flour sacking towels, and use them for everything] and allow to dry completely.
Once they are dry, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place the sheet in the freezer for an hour or two, until all of the berries are frozen completely solid.Measure the frozen berries into packages that will be a convenient to use [usually either 1 cup, or two cup packages, but sometimes bigger if I know I’m going to be making something that takes a larger amount]. I like to use my Foodsaver for berries, because they are prone to freezer burn, but I also used ziplock bags for years with great results. With ziplocks, you just have to be extra careful to get all of the air out of the package.Label and date the packages, and get them into the freezer again, before they have any chance to thaw back out.They will be there, waiting for your blueberry baking whims once the weather cools off again.
There are a lot of U-pick blueberry farms around us, and if you look, chances are you’ll find one near where you live too. They are usually easy to pick, because the majority of places will have high-bush berries, which means no bending over – a big plus as far as I’m concerned. They are far cheaper if you pick them yourself, but you can also find good prices on them at roadside stands and Farmer’s Markets, or perhaps your CSA includes them in your weekly haul.