In 2014, I emailed my local farmers market and offered to volunteer every Saturday for the whole season.
I’d actually never been to that market…I just assumed it would be a nice one.
And I had no idea it was a 9-month market spanning from April to mid-December.
Yes, mid-December in a parking lot.
Fortunately, my willingness as a volunteer was never tested as the market needed an assistant manager right away. I applied and after one market, I was hired!
I continued in the assistant manager position for 2 years and then became the manager myself for another 2 years before I entered graduated school to become a teacher.
At this point in my life, I look back at those 4 years managing a market pretty much every Saturday and am so thankful for the hard work, the deep connection to community, and the AMAZING food.
Honestly, I accept that I’m probably a produce snob now. Although I love heirloom plant varieties and unusual crops, it’s more about eating truly fresh and nutritious produce. Freshness has a huge affect on flavor!
Even though I no longer manage the market, I still harvest on at least one farm each summer, especially during berry season! It’s such a great way to renew those connections to my friends and local food community and a reminder to live seasonally.
It’s also an excellent way to end up with lots of berries.
Between strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries, I generally need to store berries in some way, shape, or form. When you work on a berry farm, you need to know how to freeze berries!
Ways to Preserve Excess Berries
I do love to can and make jams, but I’m usually trying to eat less sugar. Also, canning is hot and after a long day harvesting, I generally do NOT want to stand over a boiling pot for a long time.
I don’t have a dehydrator, but you can certainly dry berries for natural fruit candy.
Personally, I prefer to freeze berries because it:
- Is THE easiest way to store berries long-term
- Stores the fruit perfectly for however long I need
- Doesn’t require a water bath canner, jars, lids, etc.
How to Freeze Berries
My favorite way to store berries is simply to put a piece of parchment paper on a half sheet tray and pour the berries into a single layer on the pan. Freeze until completely frozen (a few hours or just leave overnight) and then pour into a gallon-sized bag.
Sheet trays are a must!
If you don’t already have half sheet trays in your house, I highly recommend that you get some! I use them for everything: baking cookies, pizza, roasting vegetables, freezing berries, etc. They are the perfect size for standard ovens and last forever. Just use with parchment paper for easy clean up every time!
One half sheet pan can generally fit one half-flat of berry boxes, or 6 half-pint cups, with space for the berries to freeze well.
Alternative Ways to Freeze Berries
I’ve heard you can even freeze and store berries in Mason jars, but I’ve never tried this technique. It’d be a great way to reduce plastic waste! I just wash and reuse my plastic bags.
For fruit that comes in a plastic clamshells, especially blueberries, just put the whole clamshell in the freezer! They freeze really well this way.
On the farm, we harvest berries into half pint cups in cardboard boxes that hold 6 of those cups. My farmer friend says she puts the entire cardboard box of berry cups in the freezer and they froze great that way, too!
How long will frozen berries last?
In a gallon freezer bag, I tend to find berries store well for about a year. Around that point, I start to notice ice crystals forming inside the bags. These Shuksan strawberries are just over a year old.
For longer storage, use vacuum seal bags. If you use vacuum bags, freeze the berries first or they will be crushed. Notice how these marionberries from last year show no sign of ice crystals forming in the bag.
How to Prepare Fruit for Freezing
This technique also works great for stone fruits like cherries, apricots, plums, and even peaches! If you process a lot of cherries in particular, don’t forget a pitter!
- Berries without pits or stems (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, currants, etc): freeze directly on sheet tray
- Strawberries: remove stems before freezing for easier use
- Cherries: pit and freeze whole
- Medium-sized stone fruits (apricots, plums, etc.): pit and slice in half. Freeze with the cut side up for easy removal
- Large stone fruits (peaches, nectarines): pit, and slice at least in half, if not more
You can even use this tip for other fruits like pineapple! I had a pineapple ripening too quickly recently so I cut it into small pieces, frozen them on a tray, and had a bag of frozen pineapple for whenever I wanted. It was perfect for making water kefir!
Use this same technique to freeze excess cherry tomatoes, too!
TIP: If you are planning to freeze or even can stone fruits at all, ask for “freestone” varieties. The pits come out smoothly unlike “cling” varieties.
Should I wash the fruit before freezing?
This is where two sides emerge. Technically, you probably should wash your fruit before freezing. Without even considering germs, there’s dust, pollen, and other things on berries just from growing outside.
However, if you wash berries before freezing, they will generally just stick to the parchment paper instead of rolling off smoothly.
I usually do not wash my berries before freezing. That’s probably gross, I know. You’re welcome to judge me about this.
If you want to wash your berries before freezing, I would recommend laying them out on kitchen towels to dry a bit before putting them on the freezer tray. This should reduce how much they stick to each other and the parchment paper.
Different Ways to Use Frozen Fruits
I love having frozen fruit around all year round! It’s so handy. I typically use it in these ways:
- Add to chia pudding for a pop of sweetness
- Use to flavor water kefir
- Eat frozen to cool down on a hot day
- Add to smoothies
- Make jam in cooler months
- Bake crisps, tarts, and crumbles (just be sure to THAW your berries before baking or your dish will be too wet)
Like I said, this is an incredibly easy process! Now that you know how to freeze berries, I hope you freeze a bag or two!
What’s your favorite berry? Do you freeze berries or eat them fresh? How do you store them? Tell us below!
The Simple Homestead Blog Hop at 15 Acre Homestead
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Friday at the Fire Station at The Fireman’s Wife
Thursday Favorite Things at The Eclectic Red Barn
Weekend Potluck at The Country Cook
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A Morning Cup of Joe at The Cottage Market
Create, Bake, Grow, Gather at The Shabby Art Boutique
Embracing Home and Family at The Everyday Farmhouse
Saturday Sparks at Pieced Pastimes
Dare to Share at Pam’s Party & Practical Tips
Silver Pennies Sundays at Finding Silver Pennies
Sundays on Silverado at The House on Silverado
Hearth and Soul at April J Harris
Farm Fresh Tuesdays at The Self-Sufficient Homeacre
Centerpiece Wednesday at Karin’s Kottage