One of the best tools in the food preserver’s belt is the freezer. You can freeze just about anything, but since we have this small freezer I try to make strategic choices about what to freeze and when. Plus, there are only two of us, so too much frozen food not get used fast enough.
I’ve frozen two things this week – blueberries and peaches. I will be picking blackberries this weekend, too, so will add those to the pile shortly. The peaches are in compote I made for a friend’s ice cream social. We had a bunch left over, so I froze it in a plastic container, like any other dense leftovers. If I hadn’t cooked them, I could have frozen the slices for pies later.
I freeze blueberries every year. See, D doesn’t need blueberries in his life (he’s not from the Pacific Northwest, it’s the only explanation) and I do. So I have to know that I can eat all the berries I buy. And I can, because I eat them almost every day of the year on my cereal. Frozen blueberries are as special to me as fresh ones, because in cereal the milk freezes around the berry and makes a little ice-cream casing. It makes me feel like a kid, and I love that. I prefer to freeze my own, but my freezer just doesn’t have the capacity for a year’s worth of berries. And since they only keep for 6 months, the math just doesn’t work out.
Freezing blueberries is as easy as pie (ha!). First, get the best blueberries you can find. Don’t wash them (they keep a better texture if you wait until you pull them out of the freezer to wash). Other berries should be washed and patted dry. Pick out any that are bad or blemished, and remove stems. Spread them out on a baking tray or other flat dish in a single layer. They will freeze quickly and won’t clump up. I have this tiny baking tray that came with my toaster oven, and it fits perfectly on top of my two ice cube trays.
Set this in the freezer and wait until frozen, like overnight.
The next day, put the berries into a Ziploc freezer bag (not sandwich-style bag), label, and get as much air out as possible. I use the straw in the bag method – seal the bag almost all the way, insert a straw, suck out the rest of the air, and seal quickly.
They will last 6 months in the freezer, unless they’ve been thawed and refrozen. You’ll know if that happened because you’ll see ice crystals on the berries. This happened to me last week because after a trip to Costco I didn’t notice that the door hadn’t closed all the way for about an hour. Whoops!
I have been reading up on freezing foods in my favorite food storage book, “The Joy of Keeping a Root Cellar,” by Jennifer Megyesi. She has a lot of info and ideas, and there is also a wonderful chart in the book that tells you how to freeze all types of fruits and vegetables. I imagine there is such a thing on the Internet, too, but I haven’t searched it out.