Berry season may be coming to an end, but your supply of fresh, pulpy little fruits doesn't have to. Just follow these six easy steps.
Follow these six easy steps to buying and freezing your berries, and you’ll be able to save on paying out-of-season prices and enjoy great quality berries year round! As an added bonus, the big secret to making the perfect fruit smoothie is frozen fruit, no ice!
Step 1: Buy your berries. The frugal way to purchase these fruits is to take advantage of sales, coupons and BOGO (“Buy One Get One”) deals at local grocers. Starting today (9/15/10), Winn-Dixie has strawberries on sale BOGO at $3.99/lb. That’s like paying $2/lb, which is about as good as it gets this time of year. Four to six pounds will hold my family of five over until the start of the next berry season, but how much you buy should depend on how much you and your family’s individual preferences. Obviously, for higher quality, fresh berries visit your local farmer’s market. The Fernandina Farmer’s Market is held year-round, every Saturday from 9:00AM to 1:00PM. For more info, visit their website: www.fernandinafarmersmarket.com
Step 2: Rinse and Separate. Take all the berries you want to freeze, and rinse them well, making sure to discard any overly soft, damaged or molding berries. (Note: Always discard moldy berries!).
Step 3: Prune, if necessary. Do not cut, slice or peel! Refrain from breaking the skin of any of the berries you’re freezing, especially strawberries, as this can cause them to pick up obscure odors during their freezing and storing process as well as limit their shelf life in the freezer. Instead, to hull your strawberries, take a knife or a clean pair of scissors, and remove the greens from the top of strawberries, making sure not to puncture the white flesh through to the inside of the berry.
Step 4: Freeze. Lay out your rinsed, dried, and well trimmed berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Though you certainly don’t have to, I have some iffy cookie sheets, so I like to my berries on a sheet of parchment paper. Place the prepared cookie sheet in the freezer for at least four hours, or over night.
Step 5: Storage. To store your berries, place them in freezer zip top bags. I usually store mine in bulk, i.e. throw all the berries into one bag. Though you can divide them into different bags by serving size, berry type or any other allocation. Fresh frozen berries will last approximately 3-6 months in the freezer. (Author’s note: In my opinion, the berries’ shelving life is completely subjective, and depends on your personal taste. I’ve been known to leave mine in there for much longer than six months- more like seven to ten months – with little to no defects. So, just use your best judgment and leave the shelving life to you and your family to decide!).
Step 6: Label. Label your freezer baggies with the date, and any other friendly reminder you might want to read in a few months, like an approximate expiration date based on your personal preferences (see Step 5).
To use your frozen berries, simply use straight from the freezer in a refreshing smoothie, or thaw under a slow trickle of cool water. Here’s a great recipe to start you off:
Classic Berry Smoothie:
– 1-2 cups frozen berries
– 1 sm. container yogurt (any flavor or variety)
– Liquid sweetener, to taste (I use 3-4 TBS Agave Nectar, less if I use a sweetened yogurt).
– 3/4 cup to 1 cup orange juice
To a blender add the fruit, yogurt and sweetener. Then add enough juice to just cover the fruit. Blend well, and enjoy!
Extra Tip: If you like bananas in your smoothies, too, just follow the same six steps above with one little modification. For Step 3, instead of hulling, peel the bananas and slice them thinly. Also, bananas might brown during long term freezer storage. Don’t worry, the discoloration doesn’t affect the taste or texture; just be sure to label its baggy “Bananas” or you’ll be like me – six months later wondering why in the world this freezer-burned chopped chicken smells so sweet?!
Need a fast and frugal idea for dinner? Try this quick and tasty recipe for Homemade French Bread Pizza!