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Where we live, here in Upstate NY, it’s blueberry time, which means preserving some of that wonderful harvest. Freezing is a fast and easy way to save that summer goodness for later in the year. I’m bringing this post up from a few years ago, for a fresh audience [and maybe for you to enjoy again!].
Once blueberries start ripening, there’s a pretty short window of opportunity to get them picked and dealt with. You can only eat so many fresh berries. You might want to check out a few ways we enjoy them best – Blueberry Preserves or Double Blueberry Ice Cream maybe?
Blueberries are easy to preserve
Fortunately, there are few things easier to preserve than blueberries, because you can freeze them. I love baking with frozen blueberries – 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. It’s 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, that 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.
How to Freeze Blueberries
To get started, pick over the berries, to make sure there are no spoiled ones in there. 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. Run some cold water in the sink or any large vessel and add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Dump in the berries. Let the berries sit for a few minutes and then take a look at the water. If needed, you can dump off any accumulated dirt or little hitchhikers and rinse with fresh water. Use a strainer, or colander to drain them. 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, I spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or plastic wrap. I place the baking 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 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 [see below for note on Foodsaver] for berries because they are prone to freezer burn, but I also used ziplock bags for years with great results. With zip locks, 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.
Picking blueberries is fun
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. That 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.
In any case, they are worth finding now, when they’re at their peak and probably the cheapest of the whole year. Store-bought frozen blueberries don’t come close to the flavor of ones that you pick and freeze yourself.
About the Foodsaver, linked above: The one above is the current equivalent of the one I have. It’s a little fancy, allowing things like vacuum-sealing jars and marinating stuff before grilling. I use those functions all the time, but if you don’t think you will, there are cheaper models that would work for this method, like this one: Basic Foodsaver.
It’s a kitchen gadget worth having I think. It helps keep stuff so much fresher than other ways of storing things. You can even reuse the bags, which I kind of like because I don’t like throwing away a bunch of plastic bags.