So after you’ve picked your berries, you have to do something with them. Of course, if you are lucky, you have way more berries than you and your family can eat in a few days. So you need to figure out long-term storage plans.
Making blackberry jam is fairly simple with the pectin that is available in your local grocery store. You just need jars, lots of sugar, pectin, lids, and two large pots. Follow the instructions carefully and don’t tinker with the recipes on the box. Jam-making is a precise science, and by reducing the sugar or not cooking it long enough, bacteria can grow in your jam that will make you and your family VERY sick. For lower-sugar recipes, use low-sugar pectin.
However, the simplest way to preserve berries for the winter is to freeze them. First, pick through your berries and discard any mushy or moldy berries. Next, empty your berries into a large colander. Spray the berries with a blast of cool water to dislodge dirt and grass pieces. Shake them a bit to rearrange them and blast them again. Shake them to remove more water.
I like to turn my berries out onto a large, clean dishtowel to kind of pat dry some of the excess water. This also allows me to pick through the berries and remove any berry stems or leaves that the rinsing missed. Then I place the berries on a large cookie sheet in a single layer. I put them in the freezer and freeze them overnight. The next morning, I scrape the berries off the pan and scoop them into large zip-top baggies. I press as much air as I can out of the bag and seal it.
I’ve stored these berries for months in the freezer with no loss in quality. When you want to use them, you just thaw them in the microwave. They will be mushy when you thaw them, so you wouldn’t want to use them as a garnish or anything. But they are great for cobblers, smoothies and baked goods. I’ve also found that they make great toppings for pancakes and waffles.