how to prep and freeze 100 pounds of blueberries with a 4- and 1-year old

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Whenever possible I do my canning and food preservation outside.  Our kitchen is small, our kids active, and those two qualities almost guarantee a mess.  Bringing home 100 pounds of blueberries demands that we work outside–fortunately the weather and my boys cooperated.

What we Used:

  • Large old sheet
  • Strainers
  • Large cooler filled with cold water (please use your best judgment if you have little ones running about–this poses an extreme safety hazard)
  • cookie sheets, cardboard lids/shallow boxes, plastic lids from large storage tubs (in desperation)
  • towels

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We started by putting the berries in strainers and rinsing them off in the water.  Spud was an eager helper for this part–he enjoyed watching to see if the berries that escaped would float or sink.

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I spread the sheet out on the grass in partial shade.  I didn’t want to bake the berries, but I wanted some solar power to help dry them–the breeze helped as well.  After a strainer-full of berries had been rinsed, we shook off as much water as possible, then spread berries out on the sheet to begin drying.  Hint–work from the middle of the sheet out, to avoid smashed berries.

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This part of the process was delightful–FB very carefully watched what Spud and I did, then insisted on doing the same things himself.  From rinsing the berries, to carrying them to the sheet, to spreading them out carefully, he didn’t miss a thing.

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We kept an eye on the drying berries (note the quality control expert in neon safety vest), and as the sheet filled up or areas of berries began to dry, we loaded them onto trays and cookie sheets, then stacked them in the freezer.  We gently dried any berries that were still wet with a towel before putting them on the trays.

The next day, Cowboy and company bagged all of the frozen berries into quart Ziploc bags.  He observed that the berries that had been frozen on cardboard had much less frost than those on metal trays.  The cardboard had soaked up any extra water that we had missed in our drying.

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For me, the best thing about freezing the blueberries was that a jealous 4-year old and a 4-molar-teething 1 year old got along so well during the whole process.  Yes, the blueberries got taken care of, but the fact that it happened without much fussing or tears was priceless.

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Why did this work?

Situations like this are always unpredictable–it could have rained, for example.  But everything came together for once, and here’s why:

  • Novelty–we don’t prep and freeze 100 pounds of blueberries every day (thank goodness!), so the task held everyone’s attention.  A abundant supply of free eating at their fingertips didn’t hurt either.
  • Something for everyone to do–Everyone could be a helper.  Mama wasn’t worried about blueberries being ground into the carpet, and everything was within easy reach of little hands and legs.
  • Environment–As we worked, we were surrounded by singing birds, warm sunshine, and soft breezes; the task became infinitely more relaxing and enjoyable
  • Proximity to mama–Mama’s work and their work (when they weren’t helping) were all in the same vicinity; no one felt left out–they could float in and out of the task at will
  • Proximity to their things–Spud and FB were mere steps away from their water play, sandbox, and, although the photo below implies otherwise, a fold-up stroller (of all things!) when they tired of blueberries.

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