Summertime is blueberry picking season, especially in the American Midwest. Families flock to blueberry farms to pluck juicy berries off bushes. Then the fresh bounty is enjoyed in berry cobblers, muffins, pancakes, waffles, and other treats. Mostly, the indigo berries bring delight right out of the pails.
But what happens to the leftover blueberries, if folks don’t eat them fast enough?
Why not freeze fresh blueberries, so they can be used all year long?
This is simple to do.
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How to freeze blueberries
For the best results, freeze just-picked berries as soon as possible. Once they begin to soften, it is impossible to bring them back.
Wash the blueberries lightly before freezing. (Frozen berries are more fragile than fresh ones, so they should be washed now, not afterwards.)
Fill a large bowl or tub with cool water, and gently bob the berries in it. Pick out any leaves, stems, and soggy or spoiled berries.
Lay two layers of soft paper toweling on a counter or table. Drain the berries, and spread them out in a single layer. Blot them tenderly with additional paper towels.
Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the blueberries on waxed paper in a single layer. Freeze until firm (or overnight).
Pour the frozen berries gently into plastic freezer containers or zippered bags. (Look for freezer bags, rather than plain plastic bags, as these heavier ones protect best against freezer burn.) Gently squeeze all extra air out of the bags before sealing, without pressing on the fruit.
Label the bags or containers with the contents and date. Frozen blueberries can last six months to a year, certainly long enough to last until the next picking season.
How to use frozen blueberries
Frozen berries can be added directly to batter for muffins, cakes, cobblers, or other items. Toss the berries in flour to coat them lightly before adding them to the mix. Then fold the frozen berries in as your last ingredient, and stir gently before pouring the batter into baking pans.
Frozen berries are ideal for jams, toppings, and pie fillings. Thaw the berries before using for a softer, runnier consistency. To keep the berries round, try to use them while they are still frozen and intact.
If the frozen blueberries are headed for a salad or use as a garnish, they need to be thawed first. Place the frozen berries in a single layer on a plate, and let them sit on the counter until they have softened.
Frozen blueberries must be thawed gradually, not microwaved, as this makes them mushy and soggy.
The same steps apply for freezing blackberries, boysenberries, cranberries, gooseberries, loganberries, raspberries, strawberries, and other fresh berries.