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Christopher Greaves

Freezing Berries

I strolled through the local Metro (Old Dominion) Supermarket yesterday evening around 6 p.m. and what did I see but plastic punnets of berries on sale, three (punnets) for five dollars. A punnet of strawberries is 454 grams, one pound imperial. Hence a pound-ette of berries, get it?

I'm no fool!

I grabbed three punnets of strawberries, paid five dollars, raced home and froze them and went to bed quite dis-satisfied, kicking myself, in fact.

Why oh why oh why didn't I hand over every dollar in my pocket and lug home several pounds of them?

They freeze well, one of my friends tells me.

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So this morning I returned with a large shopping bag (not large enough as it turned out) and purchased another $25 dollars worth - fifteen more punnets - of strawberries, blackberries and blueberries.

Except for a quick coffee with Shane, I've spent the day rinsing, de-stemming and freezing berries.

The trick to freezing berries is to freeze them as isolated berries for half an hour before freezing them in a container. If the berries are just tossed into a container and frozen, they will freeze in a solid mass and will then thaw into a single soggy mass.

We are after individually-frozen berries here. The initial half-hour is usually enough to solidify the outer portions, after which they can be tossed into a container to freeze completely.

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I empty three punnets of blackberries into a basin of cold water and stir them around with my fingers, looking for stray stalks, leaves, and moldy berries.

I'm not that much of a purist actually; I figure that the odd bit of leaf or stalk is just a bit more roughage, over and above my morning oatmeal.

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But to make you feel good, I've put two berries back in their container. If these are the only two I find, I'll just toss them into the vermicomposter; but if I find enough, I'll boil them up to make a mixed-fruit jam.

Penicillin mold dies and disappears when you boil it.

Don't toss those plastic punnets. If you have enough milk bags, you can place a punnet of frozen berries into each milk bag, twist them shut, and pop them right back into a plastic punnet; makes for better stacking in the freezer and/or transportation if you're taking frozen berries to a friend's place.

Assuming she's bought the ice-cream.

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The greaseproof sheet (waxed paper) was used for last night's strawberries; Second Use For Everything (SUFE) - it's still good for a few more frozen berries.

I have loaded the rinsed berries into a colander and held it until the dripping water had almost finished. Now the colander is standing on a piece of old toweling which will wick any further drops of water into the sink.

Why work if you don't have to?

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Here's another view of the colander of blackberries draining away.

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I place the waxed paper on a cookie baking tray, then tip the berries onto that.

Traps for young players: make sure that both the baking tray and waxed paper are dry, otherwise the slightly-damp berries will weld to the paper, or the paper to the tray, and you'll be cursing as you try to separate them.

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After half-an-hour (or more) in the freezer, I tip the tray contents into a 4-litre ice-cream pail that can be set back in the freezer to complete the freezing of that batch of blackberries.

Rinse, sieve (optionally pat dry) and dump out another tray.

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Here the next tray is sitting for half an hour on top of the ice-cream pail, whose contents are completing their freezing.

Note how the freezer compartment is filling with previously frozen containers of berries.

The ice-cream pail serves as a plinth, leaving me room for bags of frozen berries and letting the cookie tray serve as a shelf.

You can't see it, but I ramped the freezer dial up from 3 to 5. Freezing several pounds of berries is a load, and super-chilling should, I figure, speed up of the job.

(Of COURSE I won't forget to turn it down tonight )

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Here I am on the blueberries, using one of the plastic punnets (SUFE) as a straining-shovel to lift berries out of the rinsing basin and into the colander.

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I have found that after about fifteen minutes in the freezer, I can remove the tray and stir the part-frozen berries with my fingers to keep them separated, then back they go, into the freezer to complete their half-an-hour gelation.

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A tray of frozen blue berries doesn't look much different from a tray of frozen blackberries, does it?

The difference is that you can text and search the web with blackberries, hah hah!

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Here I have filled a milk bag with berries and loosely twisted it closed.

My friend buys milk in what I think is 4-litre quantities, three plastic sacs of milk in a bigger plastic bag. Plastic, plastic, plastic.

I use the larger bag to wrap any foodstuffs I'm bringing home.

I use the smaller bags to hold just about anything - broken egg-shells, tools, screws, venetian blind fittings and, yes, food.

The small bags are especially useful to freeze stock; I place the bag in an old cardboard juice container, pour in the stock, freeze, then twist-tie the bag and bring it home.

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Every now and then I use a fresh sheet of waxed paper, usually when the previous one is too damp or frozen to the tray.

If the sheet is kept dry, the berries can be lifted off the tray, on the sheet, and the edges of the sheet brought together to funnel the partially frozen berries into a container.


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416-993-4953 CPRGreaves@gmail.com

Toronto, Friday, August 14, 2015 12:57 PM

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