Friday, June 18, 2010

A Berry Good Strategy

It's easy to be overwhelmed at the farmer's market when you survey the beautiful and not inexpensive berries that draw you in with their aromatic scents and luscious colors, tempting you to buy. But if berries are a part of your life and you're not willing to pay even more for faded, odd-colored, corporate-frozen berries from the supermarket, simply gird yourself with a Silpat and a baking sheet, and stride confidently into the world of having your own local berries all winter long. You'll be glad you did.

Set aside the berries that you want to eat fresh, and prepare the others as if you were going to use them right away ... wash, stem, slice if desired. Drain the berries well, and spread them in one layer on a Silpat-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Set the sheet in the freezer, and when the berries are frozen, carefully and gently fold the Silpat sides up, and then the ends, to loosen the berries. When the berries are rolling around freely, gather the two long sides of the Silpat into a chute and guide the berries into a one-gallon freezer bag. Seal well, double bag if you'll be storing them a long time, and put the bag in the freezer.

The frozen berries will keep their shapes fairly well even when thawed, so you can use them for compote or cobblers, as well as for smoothies. I can't overemphasize the usefulness of a Silpat silicone baking liner. They're available at Ariel in Richland (they're open on Farmer's Market morning!), so do stop by and pick one up. You'll use it for lots of things, and will find yourself thinking up new uses for it, like I did with freezing berries!

The same technique works with all fresh fruits ... cherries, peaches, nectarines. Give your freezer a colorful collection of local, summer fruits that will cheer you in winter.

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