News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

The Canyon Gardener: It’s berry time! Best ways to preserve and enjoy

Berry season is on! Who doesn’t like fresh berries on cake, cereal, in pies, or by the handful? Strawberries are first, followed by raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. There are lots of varieties; the thornless are most popular for those who pick their own. 

Berries can be canned whole in syrup, water or juice. They can be frozen, dried, made into jams, or juiced for jellies and syrups.

Harvest berries in the morning when it is cool because they lose freshness when it warms up. Do not wash berries until just before they are used or eaten, then rinse them in running water and drain. Keep berries in the refrigerator or cool shade so they will not mold quickly. It takes about 2 pounds of berries for a quart frozen or canned. Each quart of berries will make about a cup of juice or 2 cups for jam. A whole crate of berries will break down into 18 to 24 quarts.

Strawberries are mostly available in June, but some varieties continue to produce into fall if they are picked frequently. Select firm, ripe, solid red berries for best flavor.  Wash them, remove the caps and slice into uniform pieces. Sweet varieties are best for drying to use as snacks, mix in yogurt or add to cereal. Dried berries lose their firm texture when rehydrated. Strawberries do not can well, becoming mushy, bland and dark colored.

Freeze berries individually on cookie sheets before bagging, then they can be poured out at needed. Berries frozen dry can be used in favorite recipes. They can also be mixed with sugar, then frozen when the sugar has dissolved. Place plastic wrap on top to hold the berries in the liquid when they are spooned into the plastic freezer container. Use frozen berries within a year for best quality, or make jelly juice from older berries.

Raspberries bear fruit in the spring, then some may give fruit in the fall, also, depending on how they are pruned. Raspberries are more fragile and should be handled gently. They are best preserved by freezing. For later use as a topping, up to 3 gallons of berries can be frozen in a mixture of 3 cups (more or less) white sugar and one package powdered fruit pectin. Coat the berries with the sugar mixture and spread on a cookie sheet to freeze. When frozen place the berries in freezer bags or plastic containers for easy pouring.

Blueberries can be frozen for best quality, or dried for snacks or baking. They should be fully ripe and firm when picked. Wash the berries under running water and pick out the stems. Dipping them in boiling water will crack the skins for faster drying, but they will be raisin-like when dried. If skins are not cracked, dried blueberries will be puffy.

Fresh berries can be made into spreads with or without pectin. The easiest, and often most successful jams and jellies are made with pectin, following the directions in the box. 

Publications for how to preserve berries are available at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog.

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