Summer berries are one of my most favorite parts of the summer season. With berries popping up at grocery stores, farmers markets, and roadside stands, it’s easy to want to stock up every chance you get. The problem is, most berries don’t have a long shelf-life. So, I’ve got a few berry storage tips to help make your favorite berries last as long as possible. Whether you are jamming on strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries, the same rules apply. I’ve also included some of my best berry recipes for your enjoyment!
There is nothing quite like the flavor of a fresh berry right off the bush on a warm summer day. Plump and shiny, those berries burst into your mouth tasting like the homemade jam your grandmother used to make. It doesn’t get much better than that.
While berries don’t tend to stay in that small window of perfection for very long, there are ways to extend their shelf life, letting you relive that summer feeling all year round.
Here I’ll cover what to do when you get your berries home, when and how to wash them (it matters!), and which storage option is right for your situation. I’ll also included some of my favorite recipes for both fresh and frozen strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries.
Bringing Home Summer Berries
If you’ve ever asked in a public forum about washing summer berries, you will get some very impassioned responses. Most berries are picked on a dry day, and packed right in the field as they come off the bushes.
By the time they get to your home kitchen, they are still coated in the dust and dirt from the field. While most people agree that you should wash your berries, people like to argue over when and how.
However, the proper handling of berries starts before we even get to that argument. In fact, the first thing you should do when you get your berries home is to inspect and sort them.
Start by setting aside any broken or crushed berries to eat that day. Then, discard any moldy berries. One moldy berry can quickly overtake the whole pack, so remove them as soon as you spot them.
If there is a moisture absorbing liner in the container, check to make sure it’s dry. If not, remove it and consider replacing with a paper towel to help absorb any juice. Moisture is the enemy of the perfect berry. By removing excess moisture you can extend the shelf life of the berries.
Washing Summer Berries
Now that your berries are sorted and inspected, we can get back to the when to washing argument. People on team “wash as soon as possible” claim that washing berries immediately prevents the whole pack from going bad. Meanwhile those on team “wash as you eat” claim that the act of washing is what makes them go moldy in the first place.
The truth is that they are both right and they are both wrong. Berries don’t mold because they are or are not washed. They mold because of excess moisture (aka the enemy of the berry.) This moisture can come from condensation in the packaging, juice from crushed or broken berries, or leftover water from being washed.
The choice of when to wash should be made depending what you are doing with your berries and how you want to store them. If you are going to eat them right away or plan to freeze them, a simple rinse under running water will suffice.
If you want to wash prior to storing in the fridge, I recommend a quick soak in a tub of cold water with a splash of white vinegar. Berries don’t need soap or special fruit washes (most of which are mainly vinegar with much higher price tags) to be clean enough to eat.
Let them soak a minute or two then rinse with clean water to remove any lingering vinegar smell or taste. Don’t let them soak too long, or they may taste like pickled berries.
Most recommendations for a vinegar wash are 1 parts white vinegar to 3 parts water. The vinegar (like the act of freezing) can help kill off any micro spores of mold that you may not be able to see.
For maximum shelf life berries should be dried thoroughly and stored in a cool dark place. A fridge or freezer works best.
After washing your berries, lay them out on a clean towel and allow them to air dry. Pro tip: place them on a cookie sheet to keep your berries mobile and your counters accessible for other things.
If you are going to be eating them in the next 3 – 5 days, the refrigerator is your best option. Regardless of when you choose to wash them, inspect the berries for mold, moisture, and broken berries.
Make sure the berries have had plenty of time to dry, then place them into a clean and dry ventilated container.
Do not store fresh berries in an airtight container for more than a few hours as the lack of ventilation can cause the berries to mold. Remember: moisture is the enemy of a good berry.
If you want to extend the life of your berries even longer, the freezer is a good option. It will lock in that fresh-from-the-berry-bush flavor, and prevent the berries from going bad before you can eat them. While frozen berries may not retain their shape perfectly when they thaw, you can use them in smoothies, eat them on their own as a frozen treat, or use them in recipes that call for frozen berries.
To freeze your berries place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze until solid (2 – 6 hours depending on freezer settings and berry size). Then place in an airtight container and return to the freezer.
Unlike refrigerated berries, frozen berries aren’t at risk to mold. Placing the frozen berries in an airtight container will prevent them from absorbing any off flavors.
Berries should last in the freezer for about 6 months. Since the berries will lose their shape when thawed, you definitely want to clean and dry them completely before freezing.
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18 Delicious Summer Berry Recipes
From jams to pies to fancy desserts, these are some of my favorite ways to put fresh and frozen berries to work in your kitchen.
Recipes featuring fresh or frozen blueberries.
Recipes featuring fresh or frozen blackberries.
Recipes featuring fresh or frozen raspberries.
Recipes featuring fresh or frozen strawberries.