- Select well-colored berries that are fully ripe. Avoid leaky, mushy, or discolored fruit.
- Before freezing, remove any berries that are immature, moldy or discolored.
- To wash berries, place in a colander and submerge two or three times in a sink full of cold water. Drain well.
Dry Freezing (unsweetened)
Use this if you want separately frozen berries (rather than a solid block). This method works best if you do NOT wash the berries. If you do wash them, be sure they drain well; consider placing them on an absorbent terry cloth towel and patting very gently before freezing.
- Place the fruit in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking tray (with raised edges).
- Place the cookie sheet into the freezer, keeping it level, and freeze until the fruit is solid. This usually takes a day or less. Avoid leaving the berries uncovered for more than a few days to prevent desiccation (freezer burn).
- Remove from the freezer and transfer the berries into plastic freezer bags or other freezer containers. If using bags, extract as much air as possible before sealing. You can do this by using a straw and sucking the air out of the bag.
- Seal the container, label it and return to the freezer until needed.
- Try to use the berries within 6 – 8 months.
Dry Pack Freezing (unsweetened)
Similar to dry freezing, but berries are more likely to stick together in clumps. Instead of spreading on a cookie sheet to freeze, put the fresh, unfrozen berries directly into freezer containers or plastic bags. Remove air from bags. Leave 1/2 inch headspace in other containers for expansion. Label and freeze. Try to use the berries within 6 – 8 months.
Sweetened (Sugar) Pack
Mixing the fruit with sugar draws out the natural juice from the fruit and creates a syrupy substance that covers the fruit and protects it from exposure to air. Berries frozen with sugar retain their color and texture better and can be stored longer than those frozen unsweetened. Combine berries with sugar, mixing carefully to avoid crushing the berries.
- Recommended proportions (you can experiment and vary quantities of sugar):
1 quart (1-1/3 pounds) raspberries or blackberries — 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar.
- Mix carefully to avoid crushing the berries. Stir until most of the sugar is dissolved.
- Pack into suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace or in plastic bags (although these can be a bit messy to fill).
- Seal and label. Note down on the package the quantity of berries and of sugar used — this will help you when you use the berries later in recipes.
- Freeze. Use within 9 – 12 months.
This method creates a solid block of frozen fruit.
- Mix up a syrup of sugar and water, heating to dissolve sugar. Recommended proportions vary from 1 cup sugar/1 cup water to 1 cup sugar, 2 cups water. Chill.
- Pack raspberries or blackberries in suitable containers and cover with syrup, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal, label and freeze.
- Use within 9 – 12 months.
Using Frozen Berries
Frozen berries can be substituted for fresh berries in many recipes, including jams and jellies. Remember to take into account any sugar using in freezing. Those frozen in a sweetened (sugar) pack are best for pies. You can add frozen raspberries and blackberries directly to dishes and desserts. Berries that are taken out of the freezer and allowed to thaw slowly will usually be soft and mushy (but taste fine). Try thawing them out halfway (don’t cook them) in the microwave before you use them — this will take some experimentation with settings and time to get just right.
Recipe-free ways to use frozen berries:
- Give children small containers of frozen berries as snacks, either straight from the freezer or partially thawed in the microwave.
- Drop frozen raspberries directly into your cereal — they will thaw rapidly since they are hollow in the center.
- Add frozen berries to smoothies.
- Add to yogurt or ice cream.
- Put berries in or over pancakes or waffles. Or, make a quick berry syrup in the microwave with frozen berries, sugar and just a little water.
- Drop them into tossed salads or fruit salads (make sure they thaw before you serve).
- Add them to muffins and quick breads.
- Put frozen berries into lemonade or punch bowls.