How to Freeze Berries and Take Advantage of In-Season Sales

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Freeze berries at home in order to make good use of in-season produce. Whether you grow your own or find great deals at the store or farm stand, building your own stock of frozen berries in the freezer is like having a hoard of riches.

frozen blueberries on a rimmed, parchment-lined tray

Who doesn’t love a good berry pie bubbling with juices and enrobed in a flaky crust or a refreshing smoothie full of sweet tart flavor? Both make great use of flavorful, succulent berries. But what happens when you have a craving for that berry pie or refreshing smoothie when it’s not berry season?

Sure, you can buy frozen fruit, but it’s often incredibly expensive, at least compared to in-season sale pricing.

The answer? Do what our grandmothers did: stock up and preserve the harvest for yourself!

Yep, it’s true. You can freeze berries yourself when they are at their peak, abundant, and offered at a great price. To freeze your own berries is not difficult, and it’s a great way to take advantage of in-season pricing and quality.

Why Should You Freeze Berries Yourself ?

You can take advantage of in-season sales.

It’s not hard to stock your pantry or freezer with fresh fruit when you shop the sales. While you may normally spend upwards of $3/bag (12- or 16-ounces) on commercially frozen berries, you can easily find fresh berries for at least a third of the price when on sale in season. When you see a great sale, snatch it up and get it ready for the freezer. While you will pay some storage “costs” in the sense of running electricity to keep frozen fruit on hand, you’re running your freezer anyway — and full freezers run more efficiently than empty ones.

fresh picked strawberries in a white cardboard bucket

You’ll know where your berries come from.

When you freeze berries yourself, you have the benefit of knowing where your berries came from and exactly how they were handled. My daughter contracted food-borne hepatitis a few years ago when Costco sold a contaminated batch of frozen fruit, so I don’t mind spending a little effort to freeze berries myself when I can. If we can pick them ourselves or buy organic, so much the better!

You’ll have a sense of accomplishment.

There’s something intensely gratifying about “putting up” food for winter. Ma Ingalls did. Little Sal’s mother did it. Even Martha does it.

For some reason, even though we live in a refrigerated age and can have food shipped from anywhere in the world, there’s just something special about preserving and freezing your own food. Whether it’s a few pans of enchiladas or some bags of frozen berries, you gain a sense of accomplishment in providing for future meals and having a stash on hand.

You’ll have berries whenever you want!

Probably the most compelling reason to freeze berries yourself is that you’ll have berries on hand for baking and smoothie making whenever you want! It’s so refreshing when you decide you’re going to bake a batch of Spiced Blueberry Coffeecake to know that you’ve already got what you need on hand.

By stocking your freezer well you open up all kinds of culinary options — without having to go to the store. I call that getting ahead, my friends.

individual blueberry crumble in red pots with lids

Personal Blueberry Crumble

Tips for freezing berries

By now, you’re thoroughly convinced to freeze your own berries, but hold your horses. Don’t just grab the first plastic clamshell you find and toss it in the freezer. Follow these tips for freezing berries to your best advantage:

Buy them at a good price.

If you love smoothies and milkshakes and cobbler and pie, frozen berries are a great thing to have on hand. To buy a bag of frozen berries can cost $3-5 a bag. So, it makes so much more sense to buy strawberries at a good price and package them for the freezer yourself. Identifying a good price is part of the trick to this operation.

Do you know what a loss leader is?

A loss leader is an item that is offered at a crazy good price in order to get you in the door of your neighborhood grocery store. Loss leaders are usually splashed all over the front page of the weekly ad.

Last week, the loss leader in my neck of the woods was blueberries, offered at $1.97/18-ounce package ($1.31/pound). I bought four packages and froze those berries. The week before, cherries were $0.95/pound. You can guess what I did with those. (Cherries can be frozen the same way you freeze berries, only you remove the pits.)

Unless it’s a special occasion, I try to purchase fruits for $1.00/pound or less. I stock up on the fruits that are on sale and try to preserve them for future eating. During the summer, expect to see great prices on berries, cherries, melon, and stone fruit — all fruits that you can stash in the freezer for a later date.

Buy good quality berries.

Freezing slows down enzyme action which leads to decay. It can be a great method for extending the shelf life of produce that might be “on its last legs”. However, it’s always better to start with the best, freshest berries you can find.

This means to avoid mushy, moldy, or wrinkled berries. Instead focus on blueberries that have a “bloom” to them, a white frosty appearance, and cherries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and boysenberries should be shiny.

Use rimmed trays that fit your freezer.

Commerically-packaged berries are “flash frozen,” a process that requires professional freezing equipment. You can approximate this process via “open freezing”, the practice of freezing each berry individually before packaging them all together. In this way, you’ll be able to use as many berries as you want instead of having to thaw an entire bag or container of berries at one time.

This requires that you freeze the berries in a single layer on a rimmed tray before packaging them. The size tray you use will depend on the size and width of your freezer, so plan accordingly. I like these USA pans.

frozen cherries and berries in ziptop bags

Use freezer bags or freezer-safe containers.

Once you’ve frozen the berries individually, you’ll need to package them for longterm storage. Choose ziptop freezer bags that are thicker than regular ziptop storage bags or freezer-safe containers. These square freezer boxes make stacking easy.

Be sure to label your berries.

It’s important to know how long your berries have been in the freezer. Frozen food doesn’t go “bad”, but it can lose taste and texture over time. Berries run the risk of losing their structural integrity. Using your frozen berries in the order you froze them will help keep your stock rotated, so be sure to label each package with the date you put them in deep freeze.

How to Freeze Berries at Home

It’s important to know how to store berries for short term as well as the long haul. So here’s the basics to freeze berries at home. It’s super simple!

  • Rinse berries or cherries in a vinegar water bath. This helps to kill surface bacteria and remove any silt or dirt. Gently pat them dry with a clean cloth.
  • Hull and slice or quarter strawberries. Pit cherries.
  • Lay the berries or cherries out in a single layer on a tray covered with plastic wrap, parchment, or a silpat mat.
  • Freeze until firm, several hours to overnight.
  • Remove the tray from the freezer and transfer the berries to labeled freezer bags or containers, removing any air from bags. Move quickly.
  • Store the packaged berries in the freezer for up to 1 year in the deep freeze or for several months in a refrigerator freezer.
  • To serve: Use only what berries you need and return the bag promptly to the freezer.
How to Freeze Berries
Prep Time
2 hrs
 

Freeze berries at home in order to make good use of in-season produce. Whether you grow your own or find great deals at the store or farm stand, building your own stock of frozen berries in the freezer is like having a hoard of riches. Follow this method for best freezing.

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: berries, blueberries, cherries, frozen berries, frozen cherries, raspberries, strawberries
Servings: 1 bag
Author: Jessica Fisher
Ingredients
  • 4 cup berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or strawberries cherries also work
Instructions
  1. Rinse the berries or cherries in a vinegar water bath. This helps to kill surface bacteria and remove any silt or dirt. Gently pat them dry with a clean cloth.

  2. Hull and slice or quarter strawberries. Pit cherries. Leave other berries whole.

  3. Lay the berries or cherries out in a single layer on a tray covered with plastic wrap, parchment, or a silpat mat.
  4. Freeze until firm, several hours to overnight.
  5. Remove the tray from the freezer and transfer the berries to labeled freezer bags or containers, removing any air from bags. Move quickly.
  6. Store the packaged berries in the freezer for up to 1 year in the deep freeze or for several months in a refrigerator freezer.
Recipe Notes

To serve: Use only what berries you need and return the bag promptly to the freezer.

pinnable image of frozen blueberries on a tray

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Carrie says:

    i usually buy my fresh but my freezer is tiny and disfunctional (9 inches wide with a broken ice maker and two broken shelves) so if it's the off season and i need some i'll usually buy a frozen bag then. i just don't have the space to store much.

  2. Sandee says:

    I have been wanting to do this. but other than smoothies and milkshakes, which aren't popular at our house (except for momma) what else can you use them for?

  3. Anne says:

    I always thought California was more expensive! I'm very jealous of your prices, there is absolutely no way I could ever get strawberries at .88/lb here. Right now, this week, the best deal around here is 5.99 for a 4lb box. That is actually an awesome deal for my area. I picked my own raspberries for 2.99/lb and I thought that was an amazing price for raspberries. Only a very few fruits get to $1/lb around here, and that's only VERY occasionally. If I had that target price, we'd NEVER eat fruit. My target price is $2/lb or less. (Or $1/pc for things like mangos and avocado) Anyway, I've been freezing a lot around here, too, as much as I can in my small freezer! And Sandee, I like to use frozen fruit in baked goods and stuff like pancakes. You can also make ice cream sauces and pancake/waffle syrup with the frozen fruit.

  4. Duck's Mom says:

    Sandee, you could puree them and use them in yogurt as well. Or on ice cream. or even baby food (which is how i fed both of my boys fresh fruits in the middle of winter).

  5. Steph says:

    Sandee – I also use my frozen fruit for baked goods that use fruit – like banana bread or strawberry muffins. No need to wait for them to be over ripe!
    I stock up on fresh seasonal fruit & veggies and freeze whatever we can't use right away. Just posted about my favorite freezing method yesterday.

  6. Leslie says:

    Thanks for the vinegar water rinse link! I just got free blueberries from publix, but I'm leaving town tomorrow for a week, and was planning to freeze them! Now I know how! Hooray for procrastinating yesterday and not getting around to it!!Both of your blogs are great! Thanks so much!

  7. Dani says:

    Like you I buy my fresh on sale… and really stock up when in season. I freeze similar to you. I let the strawberries ripen as much as possible before freezing… yummm. We use them in pancakes, smoothies, for fruit syrup you name it. Next year I plan to pick and make homemade jam but we ran out of time this year.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know what to do with sour cherries? We moved to a place with two sour cherry trees but I'm not sure how to preserve. Any suggestions?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I too need something to do w/ Bing cherries…my neighbor talked me into a diet this week, south beach, whch does not allow fruit for the 1st 2 weeks, but, hate to waste…any suggestions???

    Thanks,
    Christy

  10. FishMama says:

    Make cherry pies and freeze them! Or just pit and freeze the cherries to make a pie later. Sour cherries are perfect for pie. I can't find them cheap, so I used sweet cherries last year: https://www.goodcheapeats.com/2009/07/sweet-cherry-pie.html Just use more sugar. Yum!

  11. Holly says:

    Why rinse in vinegar water? And what is the ratio? I’m glad to know if this will help 🙂 I rinse and try to freeze raspberries but they always are falling apart… any hints?

    • Jessica says:

      Vinegar has anti-bacterial properties. I don’t have a scientific measurement. I just spray them generously and then rinse. Raspberries are very fragile. I don’t have tricks for those.

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