Puttin' up the Berries, July 2011

We went strawberry picking for a third time a few days ago and picked another twenty pounds, bringing us up to about 55 pounds or so all told.  Needless to say, we’ve been doing a lot of strawberry washing and coring  lately.  I’ve made some jam and preserves, but I still (amazingly enough) have some jars left from last year, so I’m not doing as much jam-making this season as I usually do.  Instead, the majority of the berries are going in the freezer.  And it’s a good thing, too, since time seems to be in short supply at the moment.  That’s one thing I love about freezing as a preserving method–it’s FAST.  And with fruit, there’s no blanching involved,  so it’s even quicker than freezing vegetables, which need to be blanched  prior to freezing for best results.  The other thing that’s great about freezing is that, because you’ve done pretty much nothing to the product prior to freezing, you have a really versatile product to work with.  I use frozen berries for all kinds of things–in smoothies, on top of yogurt and granola, in muffins, in pies, in fruit salad, and even for jam.  Yes, you can indeed make jam from frozen berries, as long as no sugar has been previously added to the berries–just defrost and start jamming!

There a few different methods for freezing berries, some of which call for the addition of sugar, or a sugar syrup.  These are reasonable options, but because I really want my berries to be versatile, I prefer to freeze mine using the “Dry Pack” method, where no sugar is added.  The method is pretty simple–just rinse the berries, remove the cores, and place as many as you want in a freezer bag.  Alternatively, if the berries are a bit on the juicy side, you can “Tray Pack” them first, to minimize the possibility of crushing soft berries as you pack them into bags.  Just place the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them.  Then, once they’re frozen, remove the berries from the tray, and place them in a labeled, freezer grade bag.  In both cases, remove as much air from the bag as possible, then seal and freeze.  I often weigh my bags of berries as I go, filling some with one pound of berries, and some with two pounds of berries, and labeling them as such.  This is certainly not necessary, but I find it to be a help if I’m going to be using berries for recipe and need to defrost a specific quantity.  With berries like this in the freezer, you have them to enjoy in all kinds of ways, all year round….or, at least for as long as they last!