How My Mother-in-Law Gets Her Freshly Picked Blueberries to Last for Months
No freezing required.
I’ve never seen anyone relish blueberry season quite like my mother-in-law. At the first sign of summer weather, she’s on the phone with her go-to farms to get the 411 on their bushes like clockwork. Diving between the branches, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Apparently, there’s something about leaving with a few scratches on your arms that says you’re doing it right. It’s her summertime zen, and it rubs off on anyone she brings along. The hunt for a bouquet of berries just ripe enough to drop straight into your hand, the gradual gratification of filling up your bucket one berry at a time, the sweet taste of trying a bunch straight from the bush–it’s almost addicting enough to make you forget about the Alabama heat.
She’s such a frequent picker that her refrigerator becomes a stockpile by midsummer. Stacks of Ziplock containers line the fridge in her garage, one blue lid atop another, each brimming with rows of paper towels and berries. She’ll bake blueberry muffins and give basketfuls away for months on end but still have enough to last us through winter–yes, winter. She’s perfected the process to the point that come December you can still pop open a container and enjoy a batch she picked in July.
That longevity has always been a bit mind-boggling to me. So the last time we picked together I picked her brain too. Here’s how the self-proclaimed blueberry fanatic keeps her fresh berry fix going for months.
It starts on the farm.
Picking them yourself is key since store-bought berries aren’t as fresh. You might be surprised how many local picking options are around your area, so give it a Google. It’s important to pick just the right ones too. Look for completely blue, ripe blueberries that fall off the stem with the slightest touch. If you have to pull, they may not be ready. Don’t forget to circle back to spots you think you’ve already exhausted. There’s something about a new perspective that will magically reveal all the good ones you may have missed.
Sort as soon as your get home.
Pour your loot onto a perforated baking sheet. Pull off any stems and sort out any berries that are red, tiny, or split. You can use the split berries for baking right away, but you don’t want to store them alongside your whole berries. Rinse and use a paper towel to dry. Let them sit for a few hours until they are completely dry.
Moisture is your worst enemy.
Storage is all about keeping moisture at bay, and paper towels are your best defense. Once your baking sheet of berries is bone dry, layer rows of blueberries in a Ziplock container using a paper towel as a barrier between each level. It’s okay to let your blueberries touch, but you want to avoid berries on top of each other without a paper towel in between.
Keep them cold and keep them shut.
The berries do best when you leave them alone in a cold spot. If you can, store them in a fridge you don’t use much, and keep them in the back. It’s the coldest part of the fridge which will help preserve your berries without freezing them.
It’s not foolproof–every now and then she’ll end up with a few moldy berries–but she’s been able to make her summer hauls last for up to 6 months. Fresh blueberries in the wintertime? It’s worth the extra work.