Wild blueberries have been a staple in my freezer since I met my husband and began joining his family in northern New Hampshire each summer. Once our daughters grew old enough to sit and pick berries, I’d put them to work in a nearby field, so that we’d gather enough to stud muffins or Sunday pancakes for months to come. Blueberries are model citizens of the freezer world. Although I know it’s best to copy the commercial IQF (individually quick frozen) approach—spread the berries in a single layer on a tray and freeze them hard before piling them in an airtight container—I’ve skipped that step many times without dire consequences. I simply fill up a container after washing the berries and making sure every last one is dry. (Spread them in a single layer on big sheet pans lined with towels, dab them dry on top, and then set the pans near a fan to finish the job.)
And by all means, don’t feel confined to wild blueberries. The method works just as well with the regular cultivated blueberries. Pancakes, pie, and my own favorite muffins, are great with any type of frozen blueberry; just don’t thaw them first.
If I had a garden, I’d be crazy not to invest in canning equipment, along with a large dedicated freezer, and it would keep me busy—and overheated—every weekend in September. But over the years, I’ve come to view my limited freezer space as a blessing. It’s a treasure chest of sorts, safeguarding a stash of just enough summer for moments I really need a fix, while at the same time keeping me honest and in tune with all four seasons, slush and rutabagas and all.
Kemp Minifie was wrapped up in all aspects of food at Gourmet magazine for 32 years, and is now part of the Gourmet Live team. For more tried and tested tips and tricks, check out her weekly Kemp’s Kitchen column on the Gourmet Live blog.