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Save the Berries

August 18, 2011 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Second to Christmas, this really is "the most wonderful time of the year".  Summer has finally turned on the heat and the fall harvest is coming in. The problem is that the bounty of the harvest all comes at once. What do you do with 20 pounds of berries? Home food preservation solves the ‘problem’ of an abundant harvest. If your image of home food preservation includes bags of sugar and hours spent sweating over a hot pot of water sterilizing jars then you might be surprised at how easy and cool it can be.

If your household has a deep freezer, preserving berries is a quick, easy and rewarding experience.  The most important step is to pick fully ripe and good quality berries. If you don’t have any berry bushes or U-Picks in your area you can look into picking up a bulk load of berries from your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Once you have the berries at home, and more than a few ‘test berries’ in your belly, the next step is to sort through them to remove any stems, immature or mouldy berries.

Next, give them a quick wash in cold water to remove any dirt or insects. Berries get soft if kept damp so, drain them well on a towel. Once the berries are clean and dry it is time to package and freeze them. Ripe berries are naturally sweet and don’t need any extra sugar when preserved by freezing. Use an airtight container or freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.  

It’s a good idea to label and date the package for easy identification in the winter months. Freezing berries is the coolest way to preserve them for later enjoyment. In the middle of winter, I love to pull some berries out of the freezer to add into my family’s pancakes, bake into muffins or blend into a smoothie with yogurt - I cut back the sugar a bit in these recipes to allow the natural sweetness of the berries to shine through. 

What do you like to do with berries?

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