If you are like me and have not jumped into the deep end of food preservation via pressure canning (and obtaining all of the supplies that go with it), choosing preservation methods and items of food that really can only be preserved in that medium probably shouldn’t be your go to options.
Today, we are going to talk about freezing. A) for the most part, freezing is one of the quickest food saving methods there is. B) There are certain items that I more realistically consume from a frozen state than a canned.
For the specific item we are talking about today, berries, I love me some preserves and jams, but there are times when the added sugar in those canned items is just not the desired outcome in our preserved fruit consumption.
We live in the heart of california surrounded by yummy berry farms. I love going to farmers markets when they are in season and slowly stalking up.
Organic frozen berries from the store can add up QUICKLY, and you are further away from the source than you are when obtaining fruit from your local growers.
Now, for this method, there is nothing wrong with going to the store and buying berries to then freeze. ESPECIALLY, if you are notoriously known for buying an extra carton of berries whenever they are on sale only to realize that you can never quite get through all of them in time before they go mush.
If you predict this will be the case, or can reflect back and have to admit you have let that second container go caput more times than you would like to acknowledge, then this article is for you as well.
Let's get down to business:
1. Soak your berries: Whether you get them from the farmers market, organic or not, store bought or home grown -- vinegar rinse your berries.
Often times you will see me talk about using salt for my veggies soaks, for berries vinegar is a better option for their sensitive skin (I would not recommend this for blueberries, just give them a good rinse - but blackberries and strawberries hold up well in the vinegar)
For this you will fill a big bowl with cold water and white vinegar (I have used apple cider vinegar as well to be honest). You will find many different ratios online but about a 5:1 water:vinegar ratio works fine.
Let them soak for 15-20 minutes, swishing occasionally, drain water and switch them into a colander to rinse under cool water.
2. Prep the berries
In this step our main goal is to top our strawberries and remove any blemished, squishy, or bruised areas of the berry. Whenever we are preserving food regardless of the method but ESPECIALLY in freezing and dehydrating, we never want to use overly damaged fruit and especially no spoiled fruit as our goal is to preserve it in a low pathogen state.
Feel free to cut in whatever size pieces you would like. I leave blueberries and blackberries whole but halve or quarter my strawberries. This is just my personal preference and by no means a requirement.
Lay the sections flat on a lined baking sheet or other flat single layer surface that you will be able to fit in your freezer flat.
Lining your berry chunks in single layers, aiming to not have them touch too much, place them flat in your freezer for 1-4 hrs.
3. Store your Berries
After flash freezing the berries you can remove them from the freezer and place into whatever freezer storage you have chosen. For some of us this may be freezer safe Tupperware, for others it may be vacuum sealed pouches. For the majority of us, it will look like freezer grade ziplock baggies. (myself included).
At this point, you no longer have to worry about keeping the pieces from touching. They can be all snug and piled on top of each other.
4. Label your ish
Look, we all have those mystery bags of frozen items hidden in the depths of our freezer that we have not a CLUE when they were acquired or sometimes what exactly they are.
So, for your future sanity and mine, LABEL THE GOODS. For certain things such as onions, I will even put how many onions are in each bag (for all those visual cookers out there used to cooking with whole produce).
At minimum you need a basic item description and the date froze. I typically use sharpies on baggies.
And there you have it! Now you will have the taste of summer all winter long with frozen berries thrown in smoothies, popped into the mouth as a frozen snack, into a mimosa instead of ice cubes (a guilty personal favorite), or used to simmer down for cobblers, etc.
Appreciation as always,
Check out our article of beginning homesteader considerations for food preservation