These Berry Hacks Will Make Choosing, Storing, Washing, and Freezing So Much Easier
An abundant supply of fresh berries might be one of the best parts of summer, but it's not rare to find blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries in the cooler season as well. We always look forward to all the delicious berry-filled recipes that come with stocking those plump and juicy berries. To help you make the most of berry season every year, we put together our top tips for choosing berries at the store, washing them, storing them, and preserving them for months to come. And once you know how to freeze berries, you can make a mouthwatering strawberry dessert in the middle of winter if you please.
Picking The Best Berries
While it's a treat that some berries are available in grocery stores year-round, berries are seasonal fruits and will be more plentiful, less expensive, and usually better tasting when they're in season. In general, berries are best when the weather is warm. When purchasing, choose berries that are plump, tender, and bright in color. Avoid containers that are damp or stained, which might be signs of overripe fruit. Remove and discard any moldy or mushy berries so mold won't spread to other berries. If you're picking or growing your own, select berries that separate easily from their stems. Unlike some fruits, berries generally don't ripen or get sweeter after picking. Here's when some of the most popular berries are in season:
- Blackberries: June through August
- Black raspberries: Late June through July
- Blueberries: Late May through October
- Boysenberries: Late June through early August
- Raspberries: May through September
- Strawberries: April through June
How to Store Berries
If you're planning to eat your berries within a few days, refrigerate the unwashed berries, loosely covered, in a single layer. Heaping them on top of one another can crush the berries. If you regularly purchase berries, consider investing in a reusable produce keeper that can extend the life of your fruit.
- For strawberries and blueberries, store them in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- For blackberries, raspberries, and boysenberries, store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
How to Wash Berries
It's important to wash all fresh produce before enjoying. But because berries are so delicate, do not wash them until right before you use them, or they can break down and get mushy.
- For strawberries, place them in a colander and gently rinse under cool water before removing the stems. If you remove the stems before washing, more water can get in affecting the texture and flavor of the berries.
- For blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blueberries, do not rinse under running water because the pressure can crush them. Instead, place the berries in a colander and dip them in a bowl of cold water. Gently swish the colander in the water, then allow the berries to drain.
Test Kitchen Tip: If you are adamant about pre-washing berries and want to store washed berries in the fridge, they'll last longest if you rinse them with some apple cider vinegar in addition to water. Fill a bowl with three cups of water and one cup of apple cider vinegar, then pour in your unwashed berries and stir them with your hands. Repeat with plain water as above to ensure no vinegar-flavored berries.
- To dry all kinds of berries, after washing, carefully spread the berries in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet lined with paper towels. Pat the berries dry with another paper towel. Start eating.
How to Freeze Berries
Berries freeze well and can be used frozen for smoothies or thawed for use in baking and sauces. When thawing, berries tend to lose their shape as well as some of their juice, so place freezer bags of berries on a baking sheet or in a bowl to thaw in case the bags leak.
- Wash the berries and pat dry as directed above. Arrange the whole berries on a baking sheet and freeze until solid or up to a couple of days. This keeps the berries loose and makes measuring and thawing easier.
Test Kitchen Tip: For strawberries, you might want to hull the berries before freezing. If you prefer to slice the strawberries before freezing, omit the freezing step above, which is for whole berries, and freeze as directed below.
- Transfer the frozen berries to freezer bags or freezer containers. Leave a little space at the top of the bag or container, because the berries might expand a little. Label the bags or containers with the name of the berry, date frozen, and amount.
Test Kitchen Tip: Measure the berries with a measuring cup as you put them in the bags or containers, and write the amount in cups on each bag or container. When you need berries for a recipe, you will know how many you have available.
- Lay bags of berries flat in the freezer. You can also place the bags on a tray or baking sheet first to assure a flat surface. Add bags or containers of berries to the freezer in batches to make sure they freeze quickly and leave room around each to allow air to circulate. You can stack the bags or containers once the fruit is frozen.
- Freeze berries for up to 6 months.
Freezing with a Sugar Pack
You can also sweeten the berries before freezing. If using strawberries, slice if desired. Place a small amount of fruit in the freezer bag or container and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Repeat the layering, leaving a little space at the top of the bag or container. Cover and let the fruit stand for about 15 minutes or until juicy. Seal and freeze as directed above.
With these tips under your belt, you can make the best berry pies, strawberry recipes, blueberry desserts, and other berry treats you've ever had this summer. Berries aren't the only fruit we love snacking on in the summertime (and year-round). You can also learn how to freeze peaches for later, and we have more tips for choosing the best fruit at the store and the farmers market. There are bounds of fresh berries and other produce no matter what time of the year, so brush up on your knowledge now!