Berries are a delicious and versatile ingredient that we can use in several different ways. They’re also a very healthy choice, even being allowed in the strict but popular keto diet. We can use them in smoothies, jams, preserves, or just as a satisfying snack on their own.
Unfortunately, most berries are quite delicate even when they’re fresh. If we don’t take proper care and store them in the right way, our berries could grow mold and fungus very quickly. Even before that, the slightest mishandling could result in squashed and mushy fruit, which is hardly appetizing. The good news, however, is that fresh berries can be frozen for quite a long time. When you take them out, they can easily be used in several recipes without losing any of the flavor or sweetness.
In order to make the most of your berries, it might be best to freeze the excess as soon as possible. Here are some tips to ensure that you freeze your berries in a convenient and lasting way:
If you want your frozen berries to stay good for a long time, your process starts right when you’re choosing your fruit. A general rule of thumb is that the best berries are available when there’s warm weather afoot. You should also go for berries that are in season, as these would be available more easily and be less costly.
When you’re selecting the berries themselves, go for the ones that are tender, brightly-colored, and plump. These will last the longest and probably taste the best. If the berry containers at the supermarket or fruit stall are stained or damp, avoid them. These could be signs that the fruit is overripe.
The berries should also be easy to separate from the stem, so don’t pull too hard if you’re picking them yourself. You want berries that are already perfectly ripe, as they won’t get any riper or sweeter after you pick them.
When you get the berries home, make sure to sort them out before storing or consuming them. Throw away the ones that are even slightly mushy or moldy. If you don’t, these issues could easily spread to the rest of the berries.
Before you freeze the berries, remove their stems and remove the mushy fruit. The same goes for any piece that seems discolored, overripe, or unusual in any way.
It’s best if you don’t wash the berries until just before consuming or freezing them. This precaution will prevent the fruit from breaking down and getting too mushy.
If you’re washing strawberries, put them inside a colander first. Turn on the tap so that the water flows gently, making sure it’s cool. Rinse the strawberries, but don’t remove their stems just yet. If you do, the water can enter the fruit and change its flavor or texture for the worse.
Other berries such as blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and raspberries shouldn’t be rinsed under a running tap. This sort of washing could crush them, even if you keep the pressure low. To clean these berries, you should put them inside a colander and dip the filled colander in a container filled with cold water. Swish this colander about for a bit, and then take it out of the water. Allow the water to drain away before storage.
The Freezing Process
We now come to the freezing that will keep the berries for long-term use. It’s usually a good idea to freeze them in small individual portions instead of large containers. This way, you can take out what you need for a smoothie, baking recipe, or a sauce. If you freeze too many in the same box, it would be a pain to thaw the whole thing for just one purpose.
After washing the berries as directed above, pat them dry and arrange them on a baking sheet. You can then put the whole thing in the freezer. When the berries are frozen solid or after about two days, you can measure them out and place them in Ziploc bags or small boxes. Freezing the berries on a baking sheet will keep them separate and easier to handle when you want to use them.
Transferring the Berries
It might be a good idea to hull your berries before you freeze them. Strawberries can be sliced, which will be very convenient when it’s time to use them. If you do this, you can simply transfer the slices to the bag or container instead of freezing them first.
Since the berries will probably expand a bit when they freeze, leave some space when filling the container or bag. Also, make sure you label them with the date of freezing, the amount, and the kind of berry that’s inside. Strawberries and raspberries can look quite similar when frozen in any sort of container, so you should be sure of what you’re thawing. Use a measuring cup when you put the berries in; this will help you pull out just the right amount you need.
Putting the Berries in the Freezer
You can then layer the boxes or bags of berries in your freezer. Alternatively, put them on a tray or a baking sheet in order to be assured of a flat surface. Put the boxes or bags inside at regular intervals and leave some space between them to allow for air circulation.
After the fruit is completely frozen, store the bags in an upright position. In case you have a power outage, the berries might thaw a bit and get runny. If this happens, even a tiny hole in a Ziploc can be the cause of a leak. An upright bag will cause significantly less of a mess in such cases. With the right stacking and packing method, your berries will probably be good for up to six months.
Using a Sugar Pack
If you think the berries aren’t sweet enough for your purpose, you can also sweeten them up before freezing. If you’re freezing strawberries, slice them first. You can use the other kinds of berries in their whole form.
Put some of the fruit in a freezer bag, Ziploc, or freezer-safe container. Put in a light sprinkling of sugar, and then add another layer of fruit. repeat this process until only a small space if left at the top. Close the bag or cover the container and let this mixture stand for a quarter of an hour or until it turns juicy. You can then seal up the container and freeze the fruit as usual.
Wasting food is a no-no in any case; with the freezing option on hand, there’s no excuse for wasting those tasty and healthy berries. In fact, freezing your berries can actually make your smoothies creamier and tastier. Try these tips next time you have an abundance of this type of fruit and see the results.