The berry season is upon us. First the strawberries, then raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and many kinds of wild berries such as Oregon grapes, gooseberries and huckleberries. This is such a glorious time of year for the small sweet berries and the products you can make with them. The berries are so wonderful fresh, but if you are like me you want to preserve some of that summer taste for those cooler winter months.
Purchase or harvest berries in the morning. Keep them refrigerated until you are ready to eat them or preserve them. Berries that are warm are softer and will spoil more quickly.
All berries freeze pretty well. If you plan to freeze the berries, do so as soon after picking as possible. Wash them well in cool running water and then dry and drain well. Get as much of the water droplets off the berries as possible. The extra water will form large ice crystals and soften the berries even more.
Freeze whole berries by placing them on a cookie sheet and placing the cookie sheet in the freezer. As soon as they have frozen solid, package them in freezer bags or containers. Do not use plastic storage bags or containers. They are not air or moisture tight and will not protect the ﬂavor or prevent freezer burn.
Blueberries, elderberries and huckleberries have a skin on them that can become tough when frozen. You may want to consider steaming these berries for 1 minute and then cooled in ice water immediately. This will tenderize the skin and make a better favored product. When freezing them then, just barely cover them with medium syrup (3 cups sugar to 4 cups water).
If you plan to sweeten the berries before freezing place cleaned berries in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle sugar on them and gently mix. The shallow pan allows the berries to lie in single or double layers and prevents them from getting crushed in the mixing process. Then place sugared berries in the freezer bags or containers and freeze.