One of my favorite summer activities to do is to go out and pick the in-season berries fresh from the field. Picking many pounds of fresh blueberries requires either a marathon baking day or preserving the blueberries to bake with throughout the year. Knowing how to prevent mushy fresh blueberries when freezing them is essential to ensure your favorite recipes are not a mess.
Back when my daughter would exclusively eat strawberries, in season or not, I took her to the strawberry fields for the first time. It was her strawberry-filled heaven. Until then, I believe she thought strawberries grew in the produce department.
We have branched out beyond picking strawberries, adding juicy blueberries in July. Picking fresh from the field captures that perfectly ripe blueberry in all its glory, gently warmed by the sun, straight from the blueberry shrub.
We go to one of the most beautiful U-pick farms, and if you are local, I would add Rush River Produce to your summer must-do list! The farm is located in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, and is nine acres of blueberries; yes, NINE! They also have some currants and gooseberries, but blueberries are their main attraction. Rush River Produce does not disappoint. They open their farm to blueberry pickers each blueberry season. They encourage you to picnic in the shade of a big tree. Or take a walk to soak in the beautiful views and taste the fresh blueberries! The place is genuinely magical.
This leads us every year during fresh blueberry season to pick way too many blueberries. It isn’t a bad problem to have as long as you can freeze blueberries. There is nothing like fresh blueberry muffins in the winter from blueberries picked in the warmth of July from a local farm. This is why knowing how to prevent mushy frozen blueberries is so important—preserving their fresh-from-the-field goodness to use in muffins, baked oatmeal, blueberry cobbler, blueberry syrup, overnight oats, smoothies, or on top of ice cream.
Freshly picked blueberries have a “bloom” around their outside. If you have ever raised egg-laying chickens or had farm-fresh eggs that are not refrigerated, you may know how the bloom protects the egg. This is very similar to a blueberry. The "bloom" on the blueberry is a protective coating making sure all its blueberry goodness is protected from insects, pests, and whatever else threatens it. Once the blueberry is washed, the protective coating is gone, and it is vulnerable to dreaded mushiness.
Keeping the blueberries' bloom intact when freezing is the key to preventing mushy frozen blueberries. Instead of washing the blueberries before I freeze them, I wash them before I use them. It works like a charm! Blueberries are one of the easiest fruit to freeze if done correctly. Follow the freezing process below and enjoy your favorite blueberry recipes all year!
How to Freeze Fresh Blueberries
- Obtain Fresh Blueberries
Find fresh blueberries at a U-pick blueberry farm. A farmers' market is another excellent option. Otherwise, if your local grocery store has a good sale on blueberries that is too good to pass up, that will work too!
- Making Space in Freezer
Make space in your freezer for as many rimmed baking sheets as you can fit! This can sometimes be the most challenging part of freezing blueberries. Use a cooler to relocate anything that can withstand being outside of the freezer for a few hours. Or borrow a friend's freezer, whatever it takes!
- Baking Sheets and Parchment Paper
On a rimmed baking sheet, lay down a sheet of parchment paper. This will prevent sticking and also make for easy cleanup!
Pour out a single even layer of blueberries on the baking sheet. It is important you keep this to a single layer. Otherwise, you will start with clumps, which is no good. Use this opportunity to look for off-colored blueberries, leaves, stems, or anything that shouldn’t be there.
- Freezing Fresh Blueberries
Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 4-5 hours. Blueberries will be frozen solid and able to roll around the sheet pan, almost like marbles. If you want to stack multiple baking sheets in your freezer, use a small bowl, two-shot glasses, or something similar to stack the rimmed baking sheets on top of each other. They cannot be stacked without something between them.
- Package Fresh Blueberries
After 4-5 hours, remove the frozen berries and immediately place them in a freezer-safe container. Take out one pan at a time. You do not want to warm the frozen blueberries.
Place frozen berries in a freezer-safe bag or a mason jar. I use a mason jar to quickly pour out how many frozen berries I need for each recipe. However, if you do not have a lot of freezer space, a ziploc plastic bag or reusable freezer bag may be the best solution for you. Make sure you get out as much air as you can. The best way to use plastic bags and get out all the air is to use a vacuum sealer. Whatever your preferred method to store your frozen berries is good if it works for you.
- Use Fresh Frozen Blueberries By
Fresh frozen berries will last 10-12 months frozen with proper storage. A chest freezer is a very effective way to freeze your fresh berries.
But I Washed My Fresh Blueberries
If the idea of not washing your blueberries is something you cannot do or have already washed them, then there is a solution, but not a fast one. Gently rinse the blueberries and place them on a clean kitchen towel. Allow the drained blueberries to dry completely to prevent a big clump. Any moisture on the blueberries will immediately create ice crystals in your freezer and taste like freezer burn.
Using Frozen Blueberries
Now you want to use your frozen blueberries for your favorite blueberry recipes. First, quickly rinse them in cold water, dry them on paper towels, and add them to the recipe. If you need fully defrosted blueberries, soak the frozen blueberries in room temperature water for fifteen minutes or until thoroughly defrosted. Drain off any liquid and immediately use the ripe blueberries. Be aware that fully defrosted blueberries may turn your recipe blue or leaves streaks of blue.
What to do with Frozen Blueberries
It may feel a bit overwhelming once you can see all your frozen blueberries in your freezer. If not, maybe you didn't pick enough blueberries and should go and pick more. I am kidding.
I love to use frozen blueberries to make a batch of quick blueberry syrup for pancakes or waffles. My daughter will use them in her smoothies all winter long. I will make a batch of blueberry muffins on Saturday while everyone sleeps in. Make some pancakes and plop some frozen blueberries in the uncooked pancake batter for blueberry pancakes! If I need to meal prep breakfast, I will make a pan of baked oatmeal and use frozen blueberries as the fresh fruit. Another way I eat my stash of berries is to pop a few frozen blueberries as a quick snack. Frozen blueberries are delicious!