Freezing Blueberries Vs. Canning Blueberries
- Blueberries are among the easiest berries to harvest and use, requiring no peeling, cutting, coring or seed removal. On low-bush varieties the berries grow in clusters, a few inches from the ground, while on high-bush varieties the clusters can sometimes be five or six feet from the ground. The clustering habit speeds harvesting, but berries ripen unevenly and bushes must be picked over several times during harvest. The fruit ripen best on the vine, and should not be picked if they still show red coloration. Ripe berries can be stored for up to two weeks under refrigeration.
- Wild and cultivated blueberries are often frozen for later use. The berries freeze and thaw well, with minimal loss of flavor and texture. Commercially-frozen berries lose less juice during thawing than home-frozen berries, because industrial blast freezing creates smaller ice crystals and therefore less damage to the internal cell walls. Freeze blueberries in a single layer on a baking sheets, then package the berries airtight in freezer bags or with a vacuum sealer. Loose-frozen berries are more convenient, because just the amount needed can be removed and used. Properly frozen berries retain the flavor and texture of fresh berries.
- Some prefer to can at least a portion of their year's blueberry harvest. Canned blueberries acquire a slight "cooked" flavor during processing, which makes them taste less like fresh, but home-canned berries are distinctly fresher tasting than the commercial product. Blueberries can be cooked in syrup before canning, or simply covered with hot syrup. Blueberries do not require a pressure canner, having enough acidity to be food safe when canned in a water bath. Most home canners add a small amount of extra acidity to each jar, as a further precaution.
Using Canned or Frozen Blueberries
- Canned and frozen blueberries are both versatile and flavorful ingredients. Canned berries are handy for quick desserts, since they are already prepared in syrup. A busy baker can make blueberry cobbler, or "grunt," by emptying one or two jars into a baking dish and covering the berries with dough. To make a pie, drain the syrup from the berries, thicken it with cornstarch, and pour it into the pie shell with the berries. Frozen berries can be treated exactly like the fresh, and used in pancakes, waffles, muffins, coffee cakes and many other recipes.