I hereby declare this officially unofficial blueberry week. Our lips might be stained permanently purple by the end of it. Not that that’s a problem or anything.
It’s become part of our summer tradition to make the 40 minute drive outside of the city, braving the heat and the sun and the massive bugs to pick as many blueberries as our baskets can hold. What seems like a ridiculous amount of berries inevitably gets eaten well before we have a chance to fulfill all our lofty recipe aspirations, at which point we promptly go back out and pick some more.
Ok, so I didn’t eat ALL 16 pounds of blueberries on my own, that would have caused a massive tummyache. But I love throwing a giant handful of berries on my cereal in the mornings, without having to worry about running out. Most, however, made their way into an assortment of indigo-hued desserts and adult beverages (recipes which I will be sharing with you during this week of blueberry).
The rest I’ve frozen for a rainy day. Or a cold day. Or just a day sometime in the near future when blueberries aren’t in season and I find myself with a massive craving.
Freezing blueberries is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. Trust me, come November when you have a wild idea to add blueberries to your cranberry sauce, you’ll thank yourself for having the foresight to freeze some.
There’s no prep except washing/drying the berries, and, once frozen, they’ll keep for up to a year. We all know how expensive frozen blueberries are, so freezing your surplus is the best way to enjoy them throughout the year. I also like to freeze excess fruit because I can only make so many batches of jam in a row before my knees give out. Freezing allows me to spread out the canning as I have the motivation and energy.
I do recommend freezing your berries immediately while they’re still plump and firm. If it turns out you need them you can always thaw them out again, but I always err on the side of over-freezing rather than risk having a single berry go bad.
To freeze your berries, first you’ll want rinse them well. This isn’t as important if you’ve found yourself a no-spray blueberry farm, but I still give the berries a thorough wash regardless.
Then spread the berries out on paper towels to dry. You want them to be completely dry before you freeze them, otherwise they’ll ice over and stick together.
Once the berries are completely dry, spread them out in a single layer on a sheet pan (I’ve found that about 2 pounds of berries is a perfect amount to fit on one sheet pan). Place the entire pan in the freezer for at least 12 hours, or until they sound like marbles rolling around on the metal pan.
Once they are thoroughly frozen, transfer them to a gallon-sized zip top freezer bag, labeled with the contents, quantity, and date. As good as I think my memory is, I inevitably forget just how long that bag of whatever has been there and end up throwing it out rather than risk it, so believe me when I say labeling is key. The quantity is important too, so when find yourself needing exactly 1 cup or 2 pounds of berries, you’ll know exactly how much you have.
Of course, you can apply this technique to other fruit and berries as well. Blackberries can be frozen in exactly the same way. For strawberries, wash and hull the berries (and halve or quarter them if you like) before laying them, cut sides up, on your baking sheet (they’ll stick to the pan otherwise). For peaches or other stone fruit, halve, pit, and slice them into wedges, then arrange the wedges skin side down on the baking sheet, making sure the slices don’t touch each other. For cherries, just wash and pit before doing the same.
Before you know it, your freezer will be overflowing with frozen fresh fruit, just waiting to be whipped into a pie or pureed into a smoothie or simmered into a batch of homemade jam.
IS there a reason you put them on a sheet pan and freeze them before putting them in a bag and freezing them? Just curious because my dad usually just throws them in a bag and puts them in a freezer.
Katie, I think freezing them flat on a cookie sheet seems to help them be less smashed together once they’re frozen.
Also, I keep a 3-gallon bucket (make sure it’s food-safe; I got mine at our local grocery deli department) with a “gamma lid” (you can get them at Menards–they have a threaded insert that you can just screw open) in my freezer. I freeze the berries on a cookie sheet, then when they are good and solid, I dump them in the bucket. Then as we need them, I go down and get a container full up to keep in the kitchen freezer. I found in the past that they got more of a freezer burn with frost in plastic bags, and also somehow I was always finding a bag either broken or the zip-top not sealed and had blueberries all over the bottom of the freezer. The bucket just seems to protect the berries and keep them from developing frost. If you want a smaller bucket, a gallon ice cream bucket also works well.
Katie – If you don’t wash your berries first that method works fine. However I like to pre-wash my berries, in which case they’d freeze together in a big chunk if you just threw them in a bag. By freezing them on a baking sheet they freeze individually, making them easier to use later.
I have been doing this for years. People tell me you can’t wash them before freezing. I try to explain what great success I have. They are convinced from whatever source they grew up with that it will not work. I wash my berries put them on paper towel lined cookie sheet, move the berries around by holding cookie sheet and rolling it around to dry blueberries transfer to a dry cookie sheet put cookie sheet in freezer until they are frozen. I then put them in ziploc bags and back in freezer. When I need them measure out what I need and put the frozen berries in muffin batter or pound cake batter fold in and bake. The berries remain whole and not turning the batter blue.
Exactly! It makes perfect sense to me, not like you can wash them AFTER you freeze them, right? :)
You’re so brave for dealing with the massive bugs, but blueberry picking does sound like a lot of fun!
I want a freezer full of blueberries! They look so beautiful, and nothing beats good produce in the middle of winter. It pretty much wins everything.
Thank you so much for this, Lindsay! What a brilliant idea to freeze blueberries… it seems like it should be obvious, but I hadn’t thought of it before. Can’t wait to see what yummy berry dishes you’ve whipped up this week. <3
I had to read twice, do you really have to wash blueberries? In Finland we just gather blueberries and freeze, no washing needed, but maybe our forests are cleaner or? Just gathered today chanterelle next to our summer house and made delicious sauce.
No, if you don’t normally wash the berries before eating them you are fine to skip that step. It’s just not possible to wash the berries AFTER freezing so that’s why I recommend it. We got our berries from a no-spray farm but I know many places here in the states do spray their fields for pests, hence the recommendation. You are lucky to have your berry-filled forests!
Brilliant! You can never have too many blueberries. :)
I used to freeze blueberries like you do – on baking sheets, until one day I spilled a tray of gorgeous berries onto the garage floor. Now I freeze about 20 pints (purchased when they’re 99 cents/pint) every summer in their plastic containers. Then after they’re frozen I dump 3 pints into a plastic freezer bag. When I’m ready to use them, I rinse them. Its so much easier & works fabulously.