Having fresh berries on hand is great for most families. Not only do they make excellent snacks, but they open up a whole world of smoothies and other quick and healthy lunches.
However, berries have such a short shelf life, so finding a way to preserve them is the only way to extend how long they are fresh.
There are several ways that you can preserve berries. They can be frozen, dehydrated, or home-canned. By far, the simplest method of preservation is to freeze them.
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Dehydration takes hours, and canning is a multi-step process that requires special equipment. However, freezing only requires equipment you very likely already own.
In addition, freezing foods help keep their flavor and textures intact, whereas dehydrating and canning often change these things in a way your family may not enjoy.
In addition, freezing berries is much simpler, and provided they are stored and thawed correctly; they will retain both flavor and texture.
What Tools Do I Need to Freeze Berries?
That is the beauty of freezing berries. They do not require much that you do not already have. You will need paper towels to allow them to dry, a baking sheet, and parchment paper.
If you are freezing berries that will need to be sliced, a sharp kitchen knife will be necessary. For strawberries, you will need a strawberry huller to remove the stem and leaves.
How to Prepare Berries for Freezing
Some berries have a longer shelf life than others when stored in the fridge. Strawberries have one of the shortest shelf lives. If you plan to freeze your berries, you will want to ensure you do so before they begin to degrade. If not, you will be risking the flavor, health, and texture of your berries.
All berries are high in water content so freezing them is essentially the same process. This is great since you do not need to learn many different methods for preserving berries. You can learn how to freeze berries once and apply the technique to many different types.
For reference, there are some fruits that most people think of as a vegetable but are berries. For this post, we are discussing sweet berries such as strawberries and blueberries only.
To prepare your berries, you will need to wash them very well. Plain water works just fine, but you can use a fruit and vegetable wash if you prefer. Do not allow your berries to soak in water. Doing so will reduce their flavor. Instead, wash the dirt and other things off them and set them on a paper towel to dry.
Allow them to dry thoroughly before moving on. If they are still wet from being washed, you risk ice crystals forming on the berries themselves. This will ruin the texture of each berry.
If you are freezing a larger berry such as strawberries, you will need to decide how you are freezing them. For instance, they can be frozen whole, half, or sliced.
Before you move any further, take the time to remove any cores and to cut them in whichever way you prefer. You must do this before moving on.
Process for Freezing Berries
Once your berries have been washed and allowed to dry, it is time to freeze them! To begin, you will need to line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Don’t skip the parchment paper, as this keeps your berries from sticking to the baking sheet as they freeze.
Spread the berries out onto the cookie sheet in a single layer. Spread them out, so no sides touch another berry. This may mean you get fewer berries per sheet; however, this step is essential. If your berries have another berry touching them, the sides that are touching may become mushy or not freeze correctly.
At this point, you will want to put them in the freezer. Be sure the baking sheet is sitting flat. Otherwise, your berries may slide to one end and not freeze properly.
Allow the berries to freeze fully. This will take as much as two hours. You will want them fully frozen before moving on to the final step.
After the berries have frozen solid, remove them from the sheet and place them in a freezer bag.
If you would like to extend their shelf life in the freezer, consider vacuum-sealing them. Place them back into the freezer, ensuring they are in a spot where you will not risk crushing them.
Do Berries Need to be Blanched Before Being Frozen?
Blanching is the process of partially cooking food before freezing, dehydrating, or canning. Foods that require blanching will lose their color, texture, and sometimes even their flavor if they are not blanched first. The cooking process is only partially done when blanching, usually only requiring two to three minutes of cooking.
Luckily, berries do not need to be blanched before freezing. Due to their high water content, the freezing process keeps their qualities intact during the freezing process, giving you a flavorful final product the way you desire them to be.
How Long Do Berries Stay Fresh When Frozen?
Different types of berries will have different shelf lives when they are kept in the refrigerator. However, freezing tends to place them all on the same timeline.
Frozen berries should be used within six months, with three months being an optimal time for flavor. After six months, they are still very edible; however, they may lose flavor as they are kept in storage longer.
How Can I Use Frozen Berries?
Frozen berries have a lot of different uses. They are fantastic on their own as an excellent snack on a hot day or in your favorite smoothie. They also make amazing ice cream toppings.
If none of those strike your fancy, you can also turn frozen berries into a fantastic freezer jam.
For the most part, you can use your frozen berries in the same manner as fresh berries. Since the freezing process keeps them “fresh” for much longer, your options for berry recipes are endless.