A couple of years ago I learned of this great tip for freezing fruit, particularly berries. Many of you may already do this, but I'm always so thrilled when one of my ideas is useful for someone else.
Because it's summer and berries are at their peak and much more affordable now than, say, in the middle of winter, now's a great time to store up! I can remember just last November when I needed some raspberries for a dessert I was taking to church, so I ran to Reasor's to buy some. Because the berries were out of season, I had to spend something like $6 for one of those tiny packages of berries. Nuts! So I have learned my lesson and now buy berries in bulk in the summer and just freeze them using the following method. It's so simple, so healthy, and so affordable! Now, that's not to say that these berries will taste exactly like fresh when you go to use them, but they're still very tasty and, oftentimes, no one knows they're not fresh. I do this with blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I've tried peaches, but they tend to turn a yucky color despite the fact that they still tasted good, so I use a different method for them. Individually freezing the berries is just the way to go.
**Also, it makes for a fun morning if you actually go to a berry farm and pick the berries yourself, then come home and freeze them for later. Just go early in the morning, like as soon as they open, because it gets way too hot!
Step 1: Gently wash your berries and let them dry on paper towels. (Remove stems, if any.)
Step 2: Once dry, place them on a plain ol' cookie sheet. No need for Fruit Fresh, sugar, or any other preservative. Just be sure that whatever pan you use will fit in your freezer. The first time I did this, I ended up rearranging my whole freezer! Depending on the amount of berries you have, I've even used a jelly roll pan. Make sure that whatever you use has a lip around it or else the berries will roll off once frozen.
Step 3: Place in the freezer section of your refrigerator. You can also place them in a deep freezer.
Step 4: After several hours, (I usually just do this overnight) remove the berries and place in a baggie with a label of what's inside, and the date. Keep in the freezer for months and months.
Now, the best part about individually freezing the berries is because it makes it so super convenient to simply pour and measure the amount of berries you need for your recipe. If you merely poured all of your berries into a baggie and threw them in the freezer, they gel together and freeze into a big chunk. For instance, if you're making a dish that calls for 1 cup of blueberries, you'd have to thaw that whole frozen chunk to get your 1 cup - and then it's nothing but a cup of mush - and then you have to figure out what to do with the remaining chunk, and by that time, you're frustrated and will probably end up just throwing it all away. Trust me, I've done it! That's why I love this technique much better.
One last thing: The berries get a little soft once thawed, so don't think that you'll be able to throw a handful of raspberries on top of a dessert or something and expect them to be as firm as fresh. The blueberries are the only ones that tend to do okay thawed and thrown into a salad or something without getting too mushy. I use my frozen stash primarily in cobblers, pies, smoothies, and breads. Following this method is definitely helpful in the majority of my recipes, but there are times when only fresh will do. Don't let me mislead you!