Blueberry season is at or just past peak in most parts of the country and this means low prices for blueberries at the market or your favorite pick your own farm.
Blueberries are an easy crop to pick and all ages can participate since the berries are at all heights you don’t need to reach up or down to get them.
If picking your own isn’t an option, pick up berries at the supermarket when they are at peak season and have a low price. Stock up with more than you can use right away, and use these handy methods to preserve them for the winter.
Freezing is the easiest way to story extra blueberries. First, rinse them an pick them over removing stems, flowers and unripe berries. Give them a rinse and lay them on a drying rack or fluffy towel to dry.
Once dry put them on a baking sheet or tray in a single layer so they aren’t touching. Pop this in to the freezer at least overnight. Then scoop the berries in to freezer bags or reusable containers. Check your favorite recipe and bag that amount for easy use. Generally recipes for cakes and muffins use a single cup of berries so that is a good place to start. Label and store. Put the date frozen and the amount on the bag so in a few months you can quickly know what you have.
Canning blue berries is quite straightforward. They don’t have skins or leaves that have to be removed nor do they have pits or seeds to take out. They are wash and go for canning. Jam is an easy place to start. If cost is an issue, check yard sales for canning jars and equipment. Jars and rings, the bit you turn, are reusable. The lid, the bit that is on top of the jar, is not reusable so plan on purchasing them.
Not sure where to begin? Try asking your mother or grandmother or an older neighbor. Many people canned more frequently during times of economic stress and of these folks can give you guidance. If this isn’t an option, try The Blue Canning Book from Ball. It is the best guide to preserving your harvest and has very clear directions for beginners.
For any canning project it is always helpful to have a jar grabber, lid magnet and large funnel. These can be purchased as a kit at most big box stores for very little money.
Freezer jam is a good place to start if you don’t want to purchase much extra equipment. Also don’t think of canning as just jam. Pie filling and syrup can also be made from blueberries.
Drying blueberries is quite an art. The skin of the berry needs to break first and the easiest way to do this is to freeze the berries first. Once the berries are frozen, defrost them right on your dehydrator trays. If the holes are too big, use some parchment paper or wax paper first. This will slow the process down a bit, but blueberries don’t take that long to dry since they are already small.
Enjoy the harvest as long as you can – berries are a delicious treat all year long and when you save them yourself, you know exactly what is, and isn’t, in the foods you eat.
Have you ever preserved fresh fruit or veggies? Tell us about it in a comment!
Top Image Credit: Flickr – kckellner