There are many ways to preserve fresh summer berries (like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.). But, the best 3 that we have found are freezing & vacuum sealing, water bath canning, and dehydrating.
I love to preserve fresh summer berries. In the summertime when the berries start to ripen; the home-grown ones just taste so much better than store-bought (and cost a lot less too). The only problem with fresh summer berries is that they tend to go bad or mold so quickly. So, it’s important to have several tactics for preserving their wonderful flavor.
Each of the ways to preserve fresh summer berries have their pros and cons as detailed below. Just select the best method for your situation and start preserving!
Method 1 – Vacuum Sealing & Freezing
Today, by vacuum sealing, we can freeze whole berries (without worrying about freezer burn). Then we can use them later for whatever strikes our fancy – cobblers, pies, jams, muffins, pancakes – you get the idea.
We vacuum pack the strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries that grow on our property; but the process is the same for berries of all types (blueberries, gooseberries, loganberries, saskatoons, cranberries, etc.).
This is one of the easiest ways to preserve fruit. All you need is the summer berries, a vacuum sealer, the bags, and a freezer!
Benefits of Frozen Berries:
First, frozen berries are wonderful for making baked goods whenever you want – if anything, frozen berries make slightly BETTER baked goods because they loose a little moisture when freezing. This intensifies their flavors and tends to make better textured doughs and batters.
Frozen berries are also terrific for making smoothies. They make thick frozen drinks without watering things down with ice or having to add yogurt or bananas. Simply add your smoothie ingredients into a blender and blend. Then, with the blender running, slowly add the frozen berries and let the blender run until the berries are fully incorporated into the smoothie.
Finally, by freezing berries when they are in perfect condition, you can delay the second way of preserving fresh summer berries -canning jams & jellies. until their is more time and the weather is more conducive to standing in front of a hot stove.
How To Preserve Berries by Vacuum Sealing & Freezing:
Step 1 (The Best Berries):
First, start with the best, freshest berries you can find. Just picked (early morning for peak flavor) berries harvested at peak maturity, and processed immediately are the best.
Step 2 (Wash & Prepare):
Gently wash the berries, remove any leaves and too soft (overripe) berries, and lay out on towels to dry. Make sure they are dry before the next step or they will stick together. For strawberries, they can also be hulled (green cap removed) at this step.
Step 3 (Freeze Overnight):
Spread the berries out in a single layer on large sheet pans, and put them in the freezer overnight. This way they freeze individually, so later you can use only what’s needed without thawing the rest.
Step 4 (Vacuum Seal [Pack] Berries):
After they are thoroughly frozen, vacuum seal (vacuum pack) them in convenient quantities according to your vacuum sealers instructions. Because they are frozen, you don’t have to worry about your vacuum sealer crushing them.
Step 5 (Label & Store):
Label the bags (with contents, quantity, and date) and put them in the freezer. When you are ready for some fresh summertime flavor – thaw and use!
The fresh raspberry/blackberry cobblers and strawberry shortcake we enjoyed last winter (hot from the oven – with ice cream), still make my mouth water. You can also preserve fresh avocados in a similar fashion (see Freezing Avocados).
Method 2 – Water Bath Canning
Water bath canning is another method that can be used to preserve fresh summer berries. Whole berries can be water bath preserved for later use in baking, but I find freezing the whole berries using the method above easier and less time consuming. So, we generally use water bath canning for making jams, jellies, and other soft spreads.
There are a few more tools necessary for water bath canninng. You’ll need the water bath canner, jars, rings, and lids. A jar lifter and canning funnel are also convenient to have on hand but not absolutely necessary.
Benefits of Water Bath Canning:
By water bath canning your own jams, jellies, and soft spreads, you control the ingredients that go into them. Also, fresh summer berries that have been preserved by water bath canning have a very long shelf life in the pantry and don’t depend on electricity and a freezer for preservation.
The variety of jams, jellies, and soft spreads that can be created from fresh berries is nearly endless and they make great gifts if decorative jars and lids are used when canning. And they’re not limited to topping just toast and muffins, they make great ice cream or dessert toppings, meat glazes, and yogurt or smoothie additions.
How To Preserve Berries by Water Bath Canning:
It’s not difficult to water bath can fresh berries once you’ve done it a few times and the best instructions on how to do it are probably done by Ball (the manufacturer of some of the best canning supplies). So rather than try to repeat their excellent instructions on how to water bath can, you can find them HERE.
Once you’re comfortable with how to preserve berries by water bath canning, here’s a recipe for Mixed Berry Jam to get started:
Mix and match your favorite berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) to create this easy and delicious jam.
- 4 cups crushed berries mix and match your favorites
- 4 1/2 tbsp Ball RealFruit Classic Pectin
- 3 cups sugar
- 6 Half Pint (8 oz) Jelly Jars with Lids and Bands
Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
Combine berries in an 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in the pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
Add entire amount of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam, if necessary.
Ladle hot jam into hot jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4" head space. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars. Apply bands and adjust to fingertip tight.
Place filled jars in canner ensuring they are covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Place lid on canner. Bring water to a gentle, steady boil.
Process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand for 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
Method 3 – Dehydrating
The final way to preserve fresh summer berries is dehydrating them. After dehydrating, you can also turn them into powder for various uses. Of course, for this method you’ll need a dehydrator.
Benefits of Dehydrating Fresh Berries:
Dehydrating berries allows you to turn them into a nutrient and fiber rich ingredient that will also store on the pantry shelf for long periods of time without needing to depend on the freezer or electricity.
If you turn the dehydrated berries into powder, then the powder can be used in many ways to add healthy nutrients and fiber. A few of these include mixing the powder into yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, milk, and pudding. They can also be used as natural food coloring.
How To Preserve Berries by Dehydrating:
Dehydrating berries is very easy.
- Fresh Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
Inspect berries and remove and bad berries or debris.
Rinse using a 2:1 vinegar to water wash. Shake gently to drain, then lay out on towels to dry.
Plase berries on dehydrator rack and dehydrate at 125°F for 24 - 36 hours or until dry.
To powder the dehydrated berries, place in a blender of coffee grinder and pulse until the berries are powdered. Run through a fine sieve to remove seeds and store in an airtight container with a dessicant pack to absorb moisture.
For more detailed photographs and instructions, there are some good dehydrating tutorials at The Purposeful Pantry. There’s one on Dehydrating Raspberries, Dehydrating Blackberries, and Dehydrating Strawberries.