January 22, 2018
Berries: Buying, Freezing, and Cooking Tips

Berries: Buying, Freezing, and Cooking Tips

by Berkeley Wellness  

Low in calories and high in flavor, berries are an outstanding food choice that can serve as a fresh and succulent snack or be used in a broad spectrum of recipes, from smoothies to pies.

For best flavor, buy berries when they’re in season where you live. They’ll undoubtedly be riper, tastier, and less expensive than berries that are flown in from distant regions “out of season.” Also, the closer the berries are to the market, the less damage they’re likely to suffer in transit.

Choose berries very carefully; they are often packed in boxes that may conceal inferior fruit beneath a display of perfect specimens on top. If the box is cellophane wrapped, your best bet is to examine the berries you can see, and check the box for dampness or stains, which indicate that the fruit below may be decaying. If the box is not wrapped, you can remove a few of the top berries and peek beneath. Check, too, for twigs or other debris (there shouldn’t be any).

All berries should be plump, dry, firm, well-shaped, and uniformly colored. Don’t purchase berries that are withered or crushed. For berries that are sold on their branchlike stems—currants and elderberries—the fruit should be firmly attached to the stems.

How to store berries at home

Berries are among the most perishable of fruits; they can turn soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours. When you bring home a box of berries, turn it out and check the fruit. Remove soft, overripe berries for immediate consumption; discard any smashed or moldy berries and gently blot the remainder dry with a paper towel. Return the berries to the box, or, better yet, spread them out in a shallow refrigerator container lined with paper towels. Storage times vary slightly, but most berries should be kept for no longer than two days.

How to freeze berries

Berries have a short season and are highly perishable. Fortunately, some berries freeze beautifully, allowing you to enjoy them practically year round, though they will never resemble their plump, fresh form. Frozen berries are best for cooking, not eating out of hand.

Freezing berries yourself is simple. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the berries in the freezer until they are solidly frozen, and then transfer them to a heavy plastic bag. They’ll keep for 10 months to a year.

How to make a berry sauce

Berry sauces can be made in minutes: Gently heat fresh or frozen sweet berries in a small saucepan, then crush some of the berries with a fork so that they release their juices and “melt” into a pourable sauce. Stir in cornstarch dissolved in cold water for a thicker sauce.

Reserve some whole berries and stir them in after you take the pan off the heat. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, anise, mint, ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander, allspice, black pepper, or grated lemon or orange zest can be used to heighten berry flavor, but use a light hand so you don’t overwhelm the flavor of the berries themselves. Add a little sugar or other sweetener to the sauce, if necessary, or sweeten with frozen fruit-juice concentrate, such as orange or apple.

You can also create interesting sauces by cooking different berries together or with other fruits, like blueberries with peaches, blackberries with apricots, red raspberries with pears, huckleberries with guavas, mango with red or black currants, and so on.

4 berry recipe ideas

  1. Stir sweet berries into vanilla yogurt or honey-sweetened plain yogurt.
  2. Add fresh berries to savory tossed salads. Or crush some fresh raspberries into a vinaigrette or other salad dressing.
  3. Make a fresh cranberry relish.
  4. Try a blueberry sauce with broiled salmon.