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!).
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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
123 thoughts on “Preserving Seasonal Foods: Berries”
Hy guys please help me to make to preserve seasonal food record book
You can also make jam or jelly with previously frozen fruit.
We freeze blueberries right in the plastic pint containers, unwashed and wrapped with plastic wrap. This was the advise from the packing plant here in south NJ, the blueberry capital of the universe! Never had clumping or freezer burn and usually keep them until next season.
Time to add another method: freeze drying! That is what I’ll be doing as lot of this year.
My son is prediabetic. I love to make jam but do not know what to use in place of sugar in order to make jam that he can eat. Can you help me with this?Thank you!!
Hi there. You could just make an all fruit jam. It is this simple: http://www.superhealthykids.com/a-poor-man-rsquo-s-jam-for-english-muffins/. I love using fresh fruit that is almost over-ripe but heave done it with frozen, too. Here is Lisa’s canning recipe but it does use honey: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/05/10/how-to-can-some-jam-a-simple-method-without-pectin/.
We use a well-known vacuum sealing system for freezing berries, veggies, and all kinds of foods that we don’t want to waste. So for now, I buy double the amount of berries I need, freeze/seal half, and eat the other half fresh. I’ve done this for a couple of years and the berries are perfectly preserved when I want them come this winter.
We froze farmers market strawberries last summer (the ones I didn’t turn into jam) and my son chopped them up to put in his yogurt through much of the winter.
Why do you avoid pectin?
Hi there. Lisa will use natural pectins from apples peel but does not use it in its processed form.
After I prepare the jam how can I store it in ziploc freezer bags.
Hi. We use mason jars but Ziplocs will work, too.
Do you take the tops off of the strawberries before you freeze them?
Yep, remove the green.
I’m curious to know why you wouldn’t wash the berries prior to freezing them. This might seem like a rookie question as well, but when you do rinse them frozen, does all the dirt etc. come off?
I always wash my blueberries before freezing. I feel like they get so much cleaner. Just be sure to dry them before freezing so they don’t come out mushy.
Hi there. Washing before freezing can make the skin tough. A quick rinse before using does the trick. :)
Try going to farmers markets and buying bulk near the end of the day. The prices will tend to be better.
Curious, how much do your local organic strawberries and blueberries cost? During strawberry season we still pay about $4.00 at the cheapest for 16oz of organic strawberries. For blueberries it costs about $5 for 6oz. At those prices it’s just not financially feasible to “stock up” my freezer for 7 or 8 months of the year. :(
I think you’re referring to grocery store produce. We are talking farmers market or pick your own berries where you can get 10lbs of strawberries for 25$ gve or take. This way you get a huge amount of produce at one time for pretty cheap to preserve it.
The pick your own strawberries are even more expensive, especially for organic. We don’t have pick your own blueberries. I’ll have to check out the farmer’s market.
In our area farmers market fruits and vegetables are normally 2-3 times the cost of organic produce in the grocery store which are already sky high. Our cheapest option in my area is frozen. But sometimes frozen just doesn’t replace fresh. Our local farmers markets are 3 hours 2 days per week or once a month in near communities.
Found it on there! :)
Can I make jelly with out pectin and a little sugar. Or a little pectin and no sugar.?
Hi Barbara. This recipe uses no pectin and honey in the place of sugar: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/05/10/how-to-can-some-jam-a-simple-method-without-pectin/. ~Amy
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.
I freeze strawberries all the time. I only use them for smoothies because they turn to mush when defrosted. Is that “normal”?
Hi there. Yep, totally normal. ~Amy
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.
I am obsessed with eating mangoes. I’ve been dehydrating them. Can I slice them and then freeze them?
Hello. You can…just like the berries above. :) ~Amy
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?!
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
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?
Hi there. I use this guide all the time: http://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/16577. :) ~Amy
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.
For the question about the peaches. I peel and slice the peaches and place individually on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet in the freezer. When they are completely frozen, I peel them off the parchment paper and then put into a gallon size freezer bag. That way you are able to take as many slices as you want at a time and don’t have to thaw an entire bag. I do the same thing with berries so they don’t freeze together.
I have frozen blueberries and raspberries for years. After picking them, if organic, I pour them right into ziplock bags and immediately into freezer. The blueberries pour our frozen, the raspberries can have some juice products too depending on how ripe they were. Eat them every morning!
I too am wondering about freezer jars. I know about the wide mouth pint mason jars, but could you go into detail about what you use? What is that jar in your picture of blueberries?
Hi there. You can find the exact ones here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/my-kitchen-essentials/ -scroll down to “kitchen tools that I love”. The jar from the blueberry post, I believe, are air tight jars from Sur La Table and can be found in this post: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/11/16/moths-invaded-our-pantrybugs-like-real-food-too/. Hope that helps. ~Amy
Is it possible to just freeze the blueberries in the bag or container? Our freezer rarely has space for a tray. We are more of a ‘put it in a bag and shove it where you can’ family.
Hello Lenore. They tend to clump together quite a lot if they are first not frozen separately but they can certainly be frozen in bags, too. :) ~Amy
I’d like to know more about your blueberry container. Also, I keep my freezer full as a full freezer won’t defrost as quickly. I add containers of water to keep it full.
Hi Therese. That jar looks like the one from the “Le Parfait” series Lisa buys from Sur La Table. You can find them within this post: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/11/16/moths-invaded-our-pantrybugs-like-real-food-too/. Any freezer safe wide mouthed jar would also work. :) ~Amy
Can you tell me what jars freeze best? I’ve used the wrong kind I guess and had them bust in the freezer.
Hi there. These jelly jars are what Lisa typically freezes individual potions in: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/08/19/real-food-tips-21-ways-to-plan-ahead-for-school-lunches/. ~Amy
I like freezing my fruit because it also is great in smoothies. However, I do wash the fruit, then add a little honey and a few drops of lemon juice. Both items are natural preservers and will keep the fruit looking fresh. I mix gently then spread on wax paper and put in the freezer.
I’ve never heard freezing preserved nutrients better than canning. Do you have a citation for this?
Hi Stephanie. Here is one but there are many: http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/fresh_vs_frozen_vegetables_are_we_giving_up_nutrition_fo. ~Amy
Hello Ashley. I just dry pack peaches. I just cut them up and put them in a freezer safe container, usually a Ziplock bag. ~Amy
Hi, I was wondering if you had a suggestion on how to freeze peaches without using a sugary liquid. I have googled how to do it and everything I find said to make a “syrup” with water and sugar. Would just plain water be ok?
This is perfect timing for me! We attend local farmer’s markets weekly, and we’re just hitting the end of strawberry season. Hopefully I can still snap some up and get them in the freezer for the rest of this year. Would be so much better than the ones at the grocery from down South America way somewhere! Thanks for posting…I love following you on Facebook!
Peace & Veggies,
Thanks for another great article. I’ve been freezing for a few years now and really enjoy all my goodies all year long! But I’ve still a lot to learn.
This year I clean and stemmed my strawberries. let them (mostly) dry, then froze individually on a tray. Once frozen, I transferred them to freezer bags.
My questions is: Should I not have cleaned them? Stemmed them? Just stemmed them?
We start our blueberry picking on Wed and after reading this, I’m not going to wash before freezing. This is my first year freezing blueberries.
Hi Barbara. Lisa mentioned that she used clean berries and they turned out fine. Her’s were stemmed as well. Next time, though, just give them a quick rinse before adding them to your dishes rather than washing them before freezing. ~Amy
Thanks so much for this inspiration! How do you prevent freezer burn when keeping berries in a ziplock bag?
Hello Mechelle. You have to eliminate as much air from the bag as possible. Also, the longer it is kept frozen, the likelier it will be to have freezer burn. Rotate your freezer items so you are eating what has been in there the longest first. Hope that helps. ~Amy
What kind of apples do you prefer to use in the Strawberry Honey Jam recipe?
Hello Sarah. Green apples such as Granny Smith have the highest pectin levels. ~Amy
I freeze strawberries whole in a quart canning jar. Just put them in, no liquid, and I sprinkle a little organic sugar on top. Thaw them in the fridge, and you have delicious berries with a little syrup. Yum! I found that in Ziploc bags they get a funny “freezer” taste.
I had a problem freezing some strawberries recently when the organic ones were $2.99 a quart! I froze them in plastic bags but when I thawed them out all the strawberry juice drained out and the berries were mushy. :-( Does freezing them on the cookie sheet prevent that?
Hi Aimee. Freezing them on the cookie sheet helps keep them separate but won’t make a huge difference in the end texture result. Freezing changes the cell structure of fruits and there is really no way to prevent that. However, they maintain most of their nutrient value. I most commonly use frozen fruit as ingredients in smoothies, on top of cereals, or mixed into yogurts. ~Amy
I live in the Charlotte area like yourself. Have you found any pick your own strawberry farms in our area that are organic?