Monday, July 9, 2012

Freezing Blueberries

I love fresh-picked blueberries (as long as someone else picks them--ha, ha!)  Picking berries is something you should do with your children or grandchildren or friends at least once.  The great thing about blueberries is how well they freeze and how good they taste whenever you pull some out of the freezer to bake (or pop in your mouth!)

Blueberries should not be washed prior to freezing.  

They have a natural waxy coating that protects them when freezing, then rinse the berries before using in a recipe.  I rinse my blueberries after defrosting them in the fridge so I don't wash before freezing.

Spread them out evenly on wax paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  It doesn't take but about 15 minutes for them to be firm enough to put in quart-sized freezer containers.  Containers rather than bags will prevent the berries from getting squashed.  Whenever you need a handful, the berries are nice and loose and ready to use, or pre-measure blueberries for your favorite recipes before freezing.  In airtight containers, blueberries will keep up to a year in the freezer.

I place the amount I'll need in the refrigerator to defrost.  Then I rinse them gently in a strainer or colander under cold water.  This prevents your batter from becoming stained blue.  I use my frozen blueberries in pancakes, smoothies, and muffins.  Gently toss blueberries with a little flour before stirring them into batter to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pan.  The blueberries taste so fresh and delicious all winter long.

Here's some helpful tips:

To make a hands-free berry bucket, punch holes in a plastic ice cream container and thread a long piece of string through each hole.  Then tie the string ends and slip the whole thing over the head.  The container hangs down in front, allowing both hands to pick berries.

Blueberries should be picked when they are dry.  If there is dew or rain on them, they will get soft and not last as long after picking.

Be sure to pick deep-blue blueberries for the best flavor.

When purchasing already picked berries 

Look for fresh berries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned and relatively free from leaves and stems.

Berries should be deep purple-blue to blue-black; reddish berries aren't ripe, but may be used in cooking.

Stay away from containers with juice stains, which may be a sign the berries are crushed and possibly moldy; soft, watery fruit means berries are overripe.

Fresh berries should be stored covered in your refrigerator and washed just before using.  Use them within 10 days of purchase.

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