Freezing Berries

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Home grown, fresh picked stawberries

Freezing berries allows you to enjoy fresh berry flavor through the entire year. If you grow blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, or any other type of berries, or of you pick them from the wild, this method might be a good technique for you to learn.

Ripe ready to pick blackberries

Berries frozen using this method can be used for baking, making juices, jellies, jams and wines.

They can also be used in hot cereals (blackberries in hot oatmeal - YUM!), fruit smoothies, and just eaten frozen as a summer treat.

Frozen berries will become soft and mushy when they thaw, so it's definitely not like eating fresh berries.

Freezing them breaks down the cell walls of the fruit, which is a desirable thing for wine making, because it allows the winemaker to extract more flavor from the fruit.

On the other hand, freezing certainly allows you to extend your usage of berries to year round.

Freezing Berries:
Supplies and Preparation

My method involves flash freezing berries and then vacuum packaging them before freezer storage. This allows the berries to retain their original shape and allow them to remain loose in the package, instead of being one huge lump. This allows you to open a bag of frozen berries and only remove the amount that you want to use.

For this web page example I was freezing blackberries, but I've used for freezing strawberries, freezing blueberries, and freezing gooseberries as well. It also works well for freezing grapes.

Supplies you will need include:

-Colander or strainer
-Baking sheets (cookie sheets)
-Waxed paper
-Measuring cup
-Vacuum packager & bags

Fresh picked blackberries

Before freezing, I recommend rinsing your berries in cold water to remove any unwanted soil, bugs, leaves, or other undesirable stuff. After rinsing, allow the berries to drain in a colander or strainer. The berries don't have to be perfectly dry, you just want to get most of the water off that will drain away in a few minutes.

Freezing Berries: Flash Freezing

Blackberries ready to be flash frozen.

When the berries have drained, spread a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet. Spread the berries out evenly and only one layer thick on the waxed paper. Place the berries in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better. The berries should be frozen SOLID before proceeding to the next step.

Blackberries on waxed paper and a cookie sheet

Packaging Berries for Long Term Storage

Flash frozen blackberries

Once the berries are frozen solid, they should break away from the waxed paper quite easily. At this point they will be easy to handle without damaging them.

Freezing blackberries - A quart of frozen berries

Simply measure out the amount that you want per package.

There are two ways to package the berries:

1 - Pour them into freezer box or a zipper seal bag (squeeze out as much air as possible). Berries will be good for several months like this.

2 - Pour them into a vacuum seal bag and package them under vacuum. Since the berries are already frozen hard, they will not be damaged or crushed by the vacuum packing process. Vacuum packing will also extend their "shelf life" in the freezer dramatically.

Making Jelly & Jam from frozen berries

Making Fruit Juice from frozen berries

Making Wine from frozen berries

Freezing Berries: Other Methods

The Ball Blue Book of Preserving identifies several other method of freezing berries:

Sugar Pack - Mix 1 quart of berries with 1 cup of sugar. Freeze in jars or freezer boxes.

Syrup Pack - Pack berries in jars or freezer boxes and cover with heavy syrup. Seal and freeze. Heavy Syrup is 50% water and 50% sugar. Bring to a low simmer in a saucepan until all sugar is dissolved.

Puree - Puree berries in a blender or food processor. Pour into jar or freezer boxes. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

Freezing Berries: Identification

Always label and date frozen foods. This allows you to tell at a glance without guess work what's in your freezer, and when it went in. Doing this will make sure that you get blackberries when you WANT blackberries. Dating each container lets you rotate your stock, and use the oldest first.

It's also a good idea to keep a written inventory of what's in your freezer in a folder or on clipboard near to your freezer. I list out each type of food, and how many packages of each I have. Anytime I add or remove something, I change the quantity, or make note of new additions. Saves time looking for something that I used the last package of a month ago.

Freezing berries allows you to extend the use of home grown or fresh picked wild berries for year 'round use. Using the proper techniques will allow you to maintain them in top quality for a longer period. Learning these techniques gives you one more opportunity to increase your self sufficiency, and reduce your grocery bill as well as your dependence on grocery stores.

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Related Links:

Growing Berries

Wild Fruit

Making Jelly & Jam

Making Fruit Juice

Making Wine

Freezing Food

Vacuum Packing