Don't let family vacations stop you from loading up on the delicate and delicious berries of summer. With a bit of freezer rearrangement, you can enjoy summer's bounty of raw strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and more all the way into the cool days of autumn (if they last that long).
1. After purchasing or picking berries, thoroughly sort through them to remove any damaged, overripe/rotten, or immature fruits.
2. If working with strawberries, hull them (remove the calyx, that green, star-shaped "hat" that sits atop the berry); gently transfer the berries to a colander and rinse under cold running water.
3. If working with strawberries, you may wish to slice them at this point; otherwise, gently spread the berries onto a clean baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer.
4. Remove the berries from the freezer as soon as they are frozen in order to avoid freezer burn; quickly transfer to plastic freezer bags or containers and return to the freezer for long-term storage.
Berries can be safely stored for 8-12 months in a freezer kept at 0 degrees F.
My Two Cents:
Some argue that berries should be treated with simple syrup or sugar when being frozen. Although this does help maintain the texture, color, and flavor of berries frozen for several months, it is not necessary as freezing is the method of preservation. Many also pat their berries dry and line their baking sheet with parchment paper, but I do not find either of these steps necessary (however, I do make sure to not put sopping-wet berries straight in the freezer).
While the focus of this post was berries, freezing is an excellent way to preserve many local fruits and vegetables with little to no processing. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation's website for specific instructions according to crops of interest.
Images by Rebekah Carter (2011). Instructions for freezing berries referenced from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.