Since this year’s Eat Local Challenge has an emphasis on preserving the bounty, I thought I’d share some ways that I put the harvest by.
So yesterday we went out and picked organic blueberries at Johnson’s U-pick farm which is on Hwy 20 between Rockport and Marblemount. It’s easy enough to find as they have signs. If you miss it, there’s also U-pick up at Cascadian just up the road. Johnson’s are a deal at $1.50/lb. We picked 26 lbs. in a couple of hours. This 3 gallon bucket holds approximately 15 lbs. of berries.
The first thing to do when you get them home is to rinse them. You can do it in the sink, but I find a pasta pot works well for me.
Next I use a slotted spoon and scoop them onto a baking sheet lined with a tea towel and let them drain a bit. I don’t worry about getting them completely dry, but I let them sit there while another batch is freezing, which is the next step.
Then I will pick them up in the towel and transfer them to another pair of baking sheets which I slip into the freezer for at least 1 hour. It is important that the berries are frozen solid before taking them out. Freezing them individually on a baking sheet will allow them to stay separated in the bags and you can just take out however much you need. Makes it easy to pour berries on the morning’s oatmeal!
From the sheets, I pour them into a 1 gallon zipped freezer bag. I stuff the bag full and I fit between 4 and 5 pounds into one bag. These I then put into the large freezer for longer term storage. You should label the bags and/or keep a list of frozen foods. Berries should keep about a year, but they usually get eaten well before that.
This treatment works well with most berries although some softer ones require more gentle cleaning. Cranberries and other tougher ones that get used in recipes get vacuum-sealed in bags usually. I will layer raspberries into freezer containers gradually filling them up since my raspberry bushes slowly ripen and don’t deliver me with large flushes at one time.
So there you go! A quick and easy way of dealing with large amounts of berries. Later, when there is more time, berries can be jammed and meanwhile are always available for a quick snack or baking. Also the cheapest frozen berries I’ve found are at Costco and are $11.99 for 4 lbs. Not a terrible deal, but not organic and twice the price.
P.S. Now that I have more space at ThinkHost, you can click the pictures for a full-sized image. 🙂