Blueberry season is upon us!
My family LOVES blueberries, and while it’s great to find and have them while they are fresh and affordable, off-season blueberries are hard to come by and EX-PEN-SIVE! Even store-bought frozen blueberries are pricey. I stock up as much as possible while I can and freeze as much as my freezer will hold (and I’m trying to talk my husband into buying me a chest freezer, which may not be too difficult since frozen blueberries are one of his all time fave things…he may even like them almost as much as he likes me…) 😉
Freezing blueberries may seem simple enough, but if you take a few extra steps during the process you will get the BEST frozen blueberries EVER! Trust me on this one, I know…even my little niece will ONLY eat my frozen blueberries.
1. ‘Wash’ berries in a solution of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar; I mix the solution in a large bowl my strainer fits into so I can use it a couple of times. The vinegar kills any mold spores and bacteria. Dump in the berries, swirl them around a bit, then remove them. I remove the strainer and set the bowl of vinegar water aside to reuse.
*UPDATE: I don’t know that this is necessary if you are freezing your berries right away. A vinegar rinse is a good idea if you are keeping some fresh (they will stay fresh longer) but I think you can skip this step for freezing.*
2. Rinse the berries with HOT water until they darken. *Do not blast them, if possible use a sprayer with your water not all the way on (if you have good water pressure) – you don’t want to damage them.* Not only does this darken the berries’ color but I think it brings out the flavor, too. You can see the difference in colors in the picture above (right side has been rinsed with hot water.) This sort of lightly blanches the berries (though I don’t think I would recommend actually using boiling water, I think this may be too harsh for the berries. If you decide to try this remember the berries only need to be in the water for a minute or so, and then dump them into ice water to stop them from cooking. Comment if you try this method and let me know how it works out!) Once the berries have darkened rinse gently in cold water to stop the ‘cooking’ process.
*UPDATE: I used a quick-blanch method this morning since my hot water seemed to be low after running the washer and dishwasher. YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK QUICKLY HERE, SO BE PREPARED:
- Bring a large pot of water to a LOW SIMMER (DO NOT BOIL, the water will get too hot if you bring to a full boil and cook the berries too much.)
- Rinse the berries well and pick out and debris (leaves, stems, etc.) in the berries.
- Have a large bowl of ice-cold (doesn’t hurt to actually have ice in the water, the colder, the better,) ready.
- Working quickly, dump the rinsed berries into the pot of hot water (you’ll see the berries turn color as soon as the hit the water), then immediately dump them into a strainer to drain the hot water and immediately into the ice-cold water. (WORK FAST! These 3 steps should take you about 10 seconds…I’m not joking here.)
- Let the berries cool in the ice water for a few minutes, then drain them.*
3. Lay the berries out on a lint-free towel to dry. Try to spread them out gently.
4. Once the berries are mostly dry, transfer them onto a wax-paper-covered cookie sheet and spread them out so they are in a single layer (you want the berries to freeze individually, not in clumps.) Using a towel to dry them (instead of a paper towel) makes it easy to pour the berries onto the cookie sheet.
5. After the berries are mostly frozen, dump them into a freezer ziploc bag and voila! You’re done.
Now you can enjoy blueberries for the rest of the year (or until they run out.)