Preserving Seasonal Foods: Berries

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Frozen strawberries ready to go into a big zip lock bag

Every year readers ask how they can eat fresh, local produce in the dead of winter when their farmers’ markets are closed until May or June. Well, this new blog series entitled “Preserving Seasonal Foods” is your answer. I’ve found that many aspects of eating real food require one to plan ahead, and this is no exception. If you want local blueberries in your granola cereal in December then it’s up to you to freeze enough in the summer to last until the next berry season. This is definitely an area of “real food eating” where I recommend to start small…just pick a handful of items to work on preserving this summer and then try a few new ones each year. And if you really get into it you could even continue into the winter months by preserving leafy greens and other cold weather produce as well.

We started small last year ourselves and blueberries were the first items we tackled. Freezing the berries was actually so easy that I was surprised I’d put it off as long as I did. And the best part was how good our frozen, local blueberries tasted in the middle of December! I honestly couldn’t believe how good they were. Our stash of local, frozen berries was FAR superior to the frozen, organic, packaged blueberries from the store, and likely cheaper as well. The only non-frozen organic blueberries we can get here in the winter are from Chile, which of course come at an expense on both our environment (due to the distance they’ve traveled) and our wallet. So I am going to share some of the things I’ve learned so far, as well as advice from some of my wonderfully experienced readers (via Facebook of course!).

Homemade strawberry-honey jam without refined sugar or pectin

Freezing vs. Canning

First and foremost I want to make sure everyone is aware that freezing retains more of the food’s nutrients than canning. I normally freeze foods myself, but just recently canned some jam for the very first time. I happened to find the whole canning process to be both fun and rewarding (not to mention producing some great little gifts) so I definitely plan to continue doing it regardless. I will probably just do more freezing than canning to hopefully obtain the right balance. Plus if our electricity goes out due to another infamous North Carolina “ice storm” I won’t be left high and dry with everything spoiling in our freezer!

4 Ways to Preserve Fresh Berries for the Winter

  1. Freeze unwashed berries in batches on a baking sheet and once they are frozen transfer them to a large zip lock back or other freezer-proof container. Wash frozen berries with a quick rinse before adding to things like cereal, smoothies, plain yogurt, pancakes, or homemade muffins. Frozen berries can also be used to make recipes like jams and pie. (Note: I have frozen berries that had already been washed, and I thought the outcome was fine.)
  2. Make homemade jam that you either freeze or can. Be sure to check out my “How to Can Some Jam” tutorial for a berry-honey jam recipe that doesn’t call for refined sugar or pectin.
  3. Dehydrate berries whole or puree them first to make homemade fruit leathers (similar to fruit roll ups). You can use either a dedicated dehydrator or a regular oven on a very low temperature. The dehydrated whole berries can be eaten as a snack or added to foods like granola, oatmeal, or yogurt.
  4. Make complete dishes with fresh berries and then freeze them. Some examples are blueberry muffins, raspberry pancakes, mixed berry smoothies, berry sauce (for yogurt), and blackberry pie. For things like pancakes you can use the baking sheet freezer method mentioned in #1 or you can freeze them all together at one time between sheets of waxed paper.

If you have anything else to add about preserving fresh berries please share in the comments below!

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101 comments to Preserving Seasonal Foods: Berries

  • Lisa

    I must either be doing something wrong or have a bad freezer because all my frozen fruits & veggies get freezer burn after about a month.

  • Nicole

    Please help…how long can berries stay in freezer? 10 months? 1 year? and what about peaches. how long can peaches be frozen before you have to eat them (berries too).

    Another question. Do you have other fruit n veg freezing tips?

  • Caroline

    Is there any way to freeze watermelon? My daughter is so sad that she can’t get any in winter… I realize that as it is mostly water it would be tricky but maybe you all have a solution?!

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Caroline. You can freeze watermelon much like the berries above. Cube it and place it on a baking sheet to flash freeze and then you can put it in a bag or other container. You can eat it frozen or use it in smoothies or sorbets but don’t expect it to thaw and resemble the texture of its former self. ;) ~Amy

  • Colleen

    I am obsessed with eating mangoes. I’ve been dehydrating them. Can I slice them and then freeze them?
    Thanks.

  • Melanie

    just an fyi on the canning rack…. please be sure to use one or at least a disc you absolutely do not want to have your jars on the bottom of the pan…even the sturdiest canning jars can and do burst for a variety of reasons… but having something between the jar and the bottom of the pan really cuts this down.

  • GC

    I freeze strawberries all the time. I only use them for smoothies because they turn to mush when defrosted. Is that “normal”?

  • If you wash berries before freezing, be sure to dry them on a paper or (clean) cloth towel. Otherwise you will be adding liquid to whatever you are making. After drying them, I freeze them on a tray and put the frozen berries in a plastic bag to store them. That way they don’t stick together and you can remove a few at a time.

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