The middle of summer means that blackberries are beginning to ripen. Whether you pick them yourself in the fields or buy them at a farmer’s market, blackberries have a sweet, tangy flavor that is reminiscent of the hot days, cool breezes, and long afternoons of summertime. Preserving blackberries for winter can give you a taste of summer during chilly January days.
Of course, when you preserve blackberries, you can make them into jam or can them in a sugar syrup. However, the simplest way to put back berries for the long, cold winter months is to freeze them. You do not need a large deep-freezer to do this unless you plan on freezing many gallons of berries. Most of the time, your ordinary kitchen refrigerator-freezer will be sufficient.
Before you start, you should gather your supplies. You will need zip-top freezer bags in quart or gallon size. You will also need a colander, a clean kitchen towel, a clean cookie sheet, and a spatula.
First, spread the berries on the cookie sheet. Examine them closely, and discard any berries that are bruised, soft, or squashed. Pick out any bits of foreign matter that you may find, like berry caps or pieces of grass.
Next, place the berries in the colander and put the colander in the kitchen sink. With the spray attachment at your sink, rinse the berries fully with cool water. You may want to shake the colander to rearrange the berries and make sure that they are all clean. Shake the colander to help the berries drain.
Spread your kitchen towel on the counter and pour the blackberries from the colander onto the towel. This will help blot up any excess water on the berries. You may want to gather up the ends of the towel in your hands and roll the berries around to get them drier.
Freezing and Storing Blackberries
Next, spread the berries in a single layer on your cookie sheet. Place the pan on an empty shelf of your freezer. Freeze the blackberries for five or six hours or overnight. The next morning, you can use a spatula to scrape the berries into the freezer bags. Seal the bags, removing as much air as you can.
Store the berries in the bags for up to six months in your freezer. You can thaw frozen blackberries by warming them in the microwave for 30-60 seconds. They are excellent in smoothies, cobblers, and baked goods or as toppings for waffles and pancakes.