How to Preserve Blueberries and Keep them Fresh All Winter Long
Blueberries are a super-food that should be in a class all their own. Their nutritional value, along with delicious taste, should be reason enough to incorporate them into your emergency food stockpile. Let’s take a look at a couple of options that you can take advantage of in order to extend their shelf life as long as possible.
Dehydrating blueberries is a great method to use when space is at a premium, you don’t want to use a lot of sweeteners or you want to retain as much of their nutritional content as possible. The relatively-low temperature settings of dehydration minimizes the destruction of nutrients, enzymes and anti-oxidants of blueberries. You can also eat them as a snack or incorporate the dehydrated product into a limitless number of recipes.
The trick with dehydration is in how you prepare the blueberries. You can rinse, remove the stems and place the blueberries directly on the dehydration plate, but processing them whole, in their raw state can take a very long time. One alternative is to slice each one in half and place them into the dehydrator to speed up the process. However, it might take you longer to prepare the berries that it would to process them whole.
One excellent alternative to consider is to steam them. This will gently warm the berries without overcooking, and you can place them directly into the dehydrator. The steaming helps to soften the berries and break them open which can speed up the process of evaporation. Steam them for about a minute, give the berries a stir and then steam them for another two. Remove from heat and immediately place them into the dehydrator. Set the temperature between 125-135 degrees and let it process for 24 hours. Start to check the blueberries after about 18 hours, and remove smaller ones that are finished in order to prevent overcooking. This will also help you to end up with a more consistent finished product. Store in an airtight container or Mylar bag in a cool and dark place.
There are a number of ways to can blueberries, but one of the healthiest and easiest is to use honey as a sweetener and make a jam-like product. Wash and sort 1½ lbs of berries and place them in an aluminum or ceramic stockpot. Mash them up with a potato masher until the are all broken before adding ¾ cup of bee honey, and then squeeze in the juice from ½ a lemon. Bring the mixture up to a gentle boil, stirring continually to mix the ingredients together evenly and prevent scorching. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the product starts to thicken.
Remove from heat and place in warmed, sterilized canning jars until about ½ inch of headspace remains. Wipe down the rims and then attach the preheated lid assemblies and screw them on until they are snug. Place the jars in a water bath canner, making sure that the jars are submerged in at least two inches of water, and process for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quart jars. Remove the jars from the canner, place on the counter and allow them to cool to room temperature. Check each jar to make sure they’re properly sealed before labeling, dating and storing them in a cool and dark place. You can expect the product to have a shelf life of at least six months.
These are just two examples of many ways that you can incorporate blueberries into your long-term storage stockpile. Try these methods out for yourself, and feel free to explore other options to give yourself access to a delicious and condensed source of nutrition all year long.