We're in the thick of New England's summer season; almost everything is ripe and in season and the pick-your-own fields are flourishing with berries and bustling with families digging for edible treasures. Don't you with you could hold on to these sunny days and bright, fresh flavors year-round? If you answered "yes", then maybe we can help (with the flavors, we can't really control the sun though we desperately try).
Now that you've picked the bushes clear of summer berries what are you going to do with the pounds of fruit you've got sitting on your counter? You could bake a pie or turn them into muffins, but we've got a better idea - preserve them! When it's January with a foot of snow on the ground and the sun's setting at 3:00, you'll wish you had some summer berries to do something with.
There are so many methods to preserve fruits and vegetables - but when it comes to berries we think the best method is to IQF them. IQF is an industry term for "individually quick freeze". Now before you get all up-in-arms we're not suggesting you freeze each berry individually - that would take you until next Winter. There's a better way to freeze your berries than throwing them in a ziplock and hoping they don't freeze into one big clump.
Individually Quick Frozen Berries
1. Wash berries in a colander
2. Dry thoroughly with paper towel or kitchen towel
3. Line a baking sheet (or 2 depending on the amount of berries you have) with parchment paper
4. Lay your berries in a single layer on the baking sheet (piling the berries too high will cause them to freeze together into the clump we talked about earlier) - see photo above
5. Freeze for 6 hours or overnight
6. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags or preferred freezer storage containers
Yes, it's that easy to freeze your berries. You can use this IQF method with whole or sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, etc.
Once frozen, your berries will last up to a year. From frozen you can toss them into a smoothie, make those muffins or that pie we mentioned, or even make jam. Doesn't that sound like a fun winter activity? If you're in need of a fruit jam recipe - we've included one below for you.
Makes 1 pint of jam
2 1/2 C. fruit
1 C. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
Method of Preparation
1. Prepare your fruit, peeling or dicing if necessary
2. Toss with sugar and place in a pot on the stove
3. Bring to a boil until thick.
Easy tests to help tell when it's ready are (1) temperature reads 224 degrees F, (2) boiling doesn't "stir away", or (3) the mixture coats the back of a frozen spoon
4. Strain if desired (more common to remove blackberry seeds, grape seeds, or gooseberry seeds)
5. Stir in lemon juice
6. Proceed to proper canning methods or cool and store in refrigerator or freezer
If you're into preserving your summer garden and want to learn more about how you can do so, join us in our next Preserving Summer Class in September! Otherwise, enjoy your berries!
Cheers & Good Eats,
Berries shown picked from Schartner Farms, Exeter RI