How to Freeze Blackberries for the Winter
First a confession: I never used to care for blackberries. I found them very tart, dry and wanted to spit them out like a French person tastes wine. I would sample a few berries in public spaces such as dogs parks. Lots of people would have been munching before me, so the only blackberries that were left were unripe. The nice-looking ones would be just a little bit out of reach, so I never got to sample those.
Blackberries from the supermarked
I bought the little five dollar plastic tubs at the supermarket a few times to make my cakes look pretty. They were soft and juicy, but pretty tasteless, so I guess you can say they were only good for decoration. So between the dog park berries and the supermarket berries, I never knew how sweet and juicy a ripe blackberry actually taste like.
Blackberries in the backyard
This was before we moved to a property where blackberry bushes are growing wild. The brambles are growing all the way along the street and are doing an excellent job at keeping the deer out. Now there is no competition for the blackberries from other dog walkers. We have them all to ourselves. Well, and our neighbours’ kids and our dog. Every morning of August I can go and pick a big bowl of fresh blackberries. We eat a bunch fresh and share them with friends and family. But what to do with the rest? Can’t just let them go to waste. It’s time to freeze those little treats for the winter months.
I usually pick blackberries early in the morning before it gets too hot outside. I like to wear a long-sleeved shirt for this job to protect my arms from the thorns and it just gets too hot to wear that in the middle of the day. I am getting better and better at picking the more ripe blackberries. My favourite berry is usually the one at the very tip of the cluster, it is always sweeter than the rest. for the rest, I usually pick by feel. I feel how soft the berry is before I pick it. No point picking it if it ain’t ripe, right? Leave it for tomorrow instead. And then I have learned not to pull the berry off the stem but rather break it off (think like you would bend a straw). This way you don’t smush the berry.
Preparing the blackberries for the freezer
There is not time to waste. Once picked, bring the blackberries inside. Put them the biggest colander you own and give them a really good rinse under running water. Then spread them out on a clean, old tea towel that you don’t mind may get stained and let the berries air dry. In the summer heat the blackberries are usually completely dry after an hour. Grab a cookie sheet or two and check that they fit in your freezer. I usually have to move a few things around in the freezer to have a level spot for the cookie sheets. Sometimes, there is a space issue in the freezer and I have to remove some ice cream to make room for the cookie sheets haha.
Freeze them on a cookie sheet
When the blackberries have air dried on the tea towel I transfer them to the cookie sheet(s) in a single layer and then put them in the freezer. Two hours after I check on the blackberries and if they are rock hard like little marbles, it is time to transfer them into Ziploc bags. I usually put two cups of blackberries into each bag, label them with the contents and the date, seal the bag and pop it in the freezer. Hmm… let’s reverse the order; label the bags and then put the blackberries in (it is very tricky to write on the bag once it is full of blackberries – trust me, I speak from experience).
A taste of summer in the middle of winter
It is so nice to have these little gems in the freezer over the winter. I use them for baking (my favourite is blackberry cheesecake, but a good crumble is always delicious when it is cold and miserable outside), salad dressings and smoothies. Keeping the blackberries in the Ziploc bags in the freezer makes it easy to only use the amount you need and put the bag back in the freezer.
I hope this has inspired you to go and pick some fresh blackberries in nature or go pick some up at your local farmers market. Come January you will be so happy to have some of these delicious treats in your freezer for a yummy homemade crumble.