Blueberries are one of the fruity highlights of the summer, and as the New Jersey State Fruit, we are fortunate to have them in abundance and in close proximity at the numerous local farms in Mercer County. Thankfully, there is a way to preserve the juicy flavor of in-season New Jersey blueberries and enjoy them in the dead of winter. The method is simple: Flash Freeze them.
Source: JerseyFresh.nj.gov on Facebook
Flash freezing extends the life of our local summer berries (as well as many other foods).
In food-industry terms, flash freezing means freezing foods “in a flash” at extremely low temperatures. This method prevents the water molecules inside food from forming large crystals. Small crystals do a better job preserving nutrients and flavors. They also help the food keep its moisture when thawed.
In home-cook terms, flash freezing means freezing individual morsels of food separately. This allows the food to freeze faster and keeps the pieces from clumping together. It also enables you to thaw and use just the amount you need. (Please scroll down to the “how”).
Most good flash freezers are too cumbersome for the home. But the German manufacturer Liebherr offers a freezer with a “superfrost” option. The “SuperFrost” drops the temperature to a frosty -30. The operation is simple: Just push the button on the control panel. (it takes about six hours to drop to this temperature. So please plan in advance). Watch Debbie introducing the Liebherr flash freezers.
You can flash freeze at home no matter what kind of freezer you have. You will need 2 items:
1. A tray that fits your freezer, and
2. Freezer bags.
How to flash freeze:
1. Gently rinse the berries and pat them dry;
2. Divide them into small, individual portions;
3. Line the tray with parchment paper or plastic wrap;
4. Place berries on the sheet or tray in one layer. Make sure the edges of the berries don’t touch. If they touch, they fuse
together as they freeze;
5. When the berries are frozen, remove them from the baking sheet;
6. Transfer to resealable freezer bags or freezer-safe containers with tight-fitting lids;
7. Label the package with the name of the item, and the date it was frozen;
8. Return the food to your regular freezer (not to the flash freezer if you used it).
And now to the million dollar question: How long can I keep my flash-frozen food?
According to the USDA, food stored continuously at temperatures of 0°F or below is safe to eat. Yet over time, frozen foods might lose flavor, texture, and quality.
So I’d say you should use your berries within a year. That is to say, until a new batch of Jersey Fresh berries is ready for flash-freezing.
For a complete list of Jersey Fresh availability and season forecast, visit JerseyFresh.nj.gov’s weekly guide at http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/JFAvailReport.pdf. For a complete list lot what’s in season and when, visit http://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/availability.html.