One of our favorite summer activities here in Alaska is picking wild berries. Alaska provides such an incredible bounty of berries each summer so we spend hours and hours picking. Freezing berries is a simple way to preserve our harvest to last us until the next summer when we can pick again.
Raspberries, salmonberries, blueberries, and cranberries are just a few of the types of berries that grow wild here in Alaska. Our family has come to look forward to trekking out into the wilderness together with our buckets and picking as many berries as we can.
Of course, we eat quite a few when they’re fresh, there’s nothing better. We eat them by the handful, in pies and other desserts, on top of oatmeal and yogurt in the morning, and sprinkled in sourdough pancakes. But we have to show some self-control in order to save some of the precious berries for later.
Winters are long here, that’s no secret. But having some delicious, wild berries that we picked ourselves to enjoy on those cold, dark days is one of our favorite treats. Freezing berries is quick and easy and we’re always glad that we did when it’s below zero and we want to enjoy a taste of summer.
Before Freezing Berries
After an afternoon of picking wild berries here in Alaska, there’s still work to be done. But it’s pretty quick and easy! We start by picking out as many leaves and twigs as possible. They always manage to sneak their way in no matter how careful we are to just pick the berries.
A friend taught me a great trick with cranberries. Cover them with water and the leave will rise to the top, making it easy to scoop them out. Then just strain the berries. This method won’t work with blueberries, however, because they are too fragile.
I’ve heard of other methods, including pouring the berries out into another container in front of a fan to blow the leaves off. I haven’t tried this but it must work! With the girls and I working together, it doesn’t take long to get the berries nice and clean.
Once the berries have been picked through, I like to spread them out onto a large towel on the counter to make sure they’re dry. If they’re wet, they’ll end up freezing to the sheet pan and it will be difficult to get them off without ruining them.
Once they’re dry, transfer them to a large sheet pan. Spread them evenly in a single layer. It’s fine if they’re touching.
Now the sheet pan can go into the freezer and sit for 24-48 hours, or until the berries and nice and frozen. Take care to use a potholder when you pull the sheet pan out of the freezer or the cold metal will hurt your hands!
Freezing berries spread out ensures that when you go to use them later, they won’t be stuck together in large balls. They’ll be separate and you can easily pour and measure out the amount you want to use.
Storing Frozen Berries
The frozen berries should now be easy to scoop up and put into the storage container of your choice. I like to use glass canning jars or airtight glass food storage containers.
Return the berries in their container to the freezer and the job is done. Now, whenever we want a taste of the summer berries that we picked together, we can pour some out of the container and put it back in the freezer. The berries will last all winter like this. For some ideas on how to use up all of those frozen berries, check out this post.
Frozen berries are the perfect sweet treat in the middle of a cold, dark winter. Sprinkled on a hot bowl of oatmeal, mixed into yogurt and granola, or added to muffins or pancakes. They’re delicious! We’re so thankful to be able to enjoy the wild berries of Alaska and to preserve them so easily to enjoy throughout the year.