I love to pick! There is something so satisfying about collecting your own food, deciding exactly which berry is right for you, tasting along the way, and seeing the full fruits of your labor. I also love all the canning, freezing, drying, pickling, and preserving that typically come along with hand-picked bounty.
Unfortunately T is not that into picking. After a few afternoons where he camped out in the car with the AC on while I picked I have learned to select the weather for my outdoor adventures carefully. We were recently up in Shelburne, VT celebrating our one year anniversary when the perfect picking day arrived. It was cool and slightly cloudy, there was a nice breeze coming off Lake Champlain, and T had to be nice to me since it was our anniversary weekend. We found a great berry farm on our drive home from Shelburne and spent a lovely hour picking about 12 pounds of blueberries.
I couldn’t get enough of the berries. We picked a semi-sweet variety that holds up well to freezing and baking. I plan to use most of the berries for our winter oatmeal once good fresh local fruit is no longer in season. I love blueberries in my oatmeal and can really tell the difference between hand-picked berries and the bags you buy in the freezer section at Whole Foods. I grew up on a farm in Vermont with a huge blueberry patch and it has spoiled me for life. Commercial berries just can’t compete!
At home I washed the berries and tried to pick out the stems (What T lacks in picking stamina and speed he makes up for in his attention to detail — there weren’t any stems in his bucket!). I divided them into freezer bags, sucked out the excess air, and popped them in the freezer.
We were also sure to save a few quarts to enjoy fresh that week!
Although oatmeal is my favorite way to use frozen blueberries, you can also use them in muffins, pancakes, crisps, jam or compote. In all of those cases it is fine to toss the berries into the batter etc. while they are still frozen — no need to defrost.
When making oatmeal I add the frozen berries in with the oatmeal and water when I first turn on the stove. By the time the oatmeal has cooked the berries have defrosted and started to bleed into the oatmeal. Add some chopped bananas, walnuts, maple syrup and you’re good to go.