Blackberries, blueberries, oranges, and a variety of other fruits are prime for picking in many parts of the country right now. You will notice an abundance of fruits and berries to choose from in the grocery stores and at your local farmer’s markets. Sadly, in the fall these fruits and berries will dwindle and you’ll only be able to find mostly imported fruits and berries. Prices jump up and the quality is just not the same.
So what can you do to save money and enjoy these fruits and berries year-round without sacrificing supporting your local (or at least domestic) crops. Here are a number of tricks and tips to help store your fruits and berries for use later in the year.
The most obvious answer is deep freezing. There are a number of methods that you can use to freeze your fruit to and still get the best taste possible when ready for use. The most common form of freezing is basic dry freezing – where you just throw your fruit in a baggie and freeze. This will work, but there is an even more effective way. Spread your fruit or berries out on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Let them freeze solid then place into a baggie or container. This ensures the fruit won’t be all stuck together when you are ready to use them.
If you are going to be using the fruit for desserts there are two other methods of freezing that are fantastic: sugar packing and syrup packing.
- Sugar packing is done by sprinkling the fruit you are going to freeze with sugar. Let the fruit sit for 10-20 minutes then freeze in baggies or freeze on a cookie sheet and place into baggies. This will add sweetness to the fruit when thawed.
- Syrup packing is the same idea only you boil sugar in water to create a syrup. Place fruit or berries in a container and cover in the syrup. Both sugar and syrup packing help fruit retain its original flavor and color better than just dry freezing. The amount of sugar or syrup you add can be adjusted depending on what you plan to do with the fruit later.
Over Ripe Fruits
If you have bananas or fruit that is over ripe trying pureeing it and freezing it for later. You can use the puree later for smoothies or to top desserts. An easy way to freeze pureed fruit is in ice cube trays. Freeze the fruit until it becomes hard in the tray. Then move the fruit to freezer bags or containers. You will now have nice cubes of pureed fruit for use later.
Canning is another way to preserve your fruit and berries over time. Canning is actually very simple and relatively inexpensive.
- Canning Jars (quart size are ideal)
- Mix one cup of warm water with ½ cup sugar and place in the one quart jar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Peel and cut up the fruit. Fill the jar with the fruit but do not overfill. Just fill to the top of the jar. You do not want fruit or water to touch the lid.
- Fill the remaining area in the jar with water.
- Most canning jars come with self sealing lids. Place the lid on the jar and seal per instructions. Typically this will be through heat sealing.
- Fill a large pot with water and place the jars inside the pot. The water should come above the jars approximately 4-5 inches.
- Bring the water to a boil and place a lid on the pot. Once the water is boiling, cook the jars for 10-20 minutes depending on the type of fruit being used.
- Keep water boiling the entire time and if water evaporates quickly keep adding more water. The water level needs to be at least 4 inches above the jars at all times.
- Once the time is up remove the jars with tongs and allow them to cool on a cooling rack. Be very careful and gentle as hot jars can break.
- Once the jars are cool check the lids. If the lids are secured (meaning they do not pop or make noise when moved) you can store them in a dark cool place for use later. It is always good to date the bottles as well. If a lid did not secure you will want to store the jars in the fridge and it will have to be used in within a few days. Once you get the hang of canning it really is a breeze and a great way to enjoy fruit year round.
How do you prefer to store your bulk fruit?