Let me begin by being very honest. Until a few years ago, I had never experienced picking fruit. I was born a proud Jersey girl, unfamiliar with orchards, farms, picking, and canning. The years I have lived in Lancaster County now outnumber those in Jersey. My sister-in-law Elizabeth, is married to a Weaver and lives on the Orchard, so I really don’t have an excuse not to learn!
My first summer working at the orchard was a fantastic one, because I felt like I was discovering something I missed from my childhood. Seeing all the kiddos that came out to story time to pick made me realize how fun picking could be! Even if I just picked a pint, I tried to pick each fruit as it came into season. That summer I picked strawberries, blueberries, sweet cherries, apricots, red and black raspberries, blackberries, peaches, and apples! I never knew how juicy, delicious, and satisfying fresh picked fruit can be and I am so glad that I don’t have to miss out on it any longer.
The week I got back from my honeymoon was the first time I had ever canned. It seemed like a wifely duty and Elizabeth graciously showed me how to turn my favorite fruit (strawberries), into my husband’s all-time favorite jam. Blanching broccoli, canning grape juice, freezing blueberries, and spending hours making apple sauce are among the things I have enjoyed learning to do. I have quite a bit still to learn and I hope to do a lot more this season.
A good way to learn is by reading and then doing it! Below are tips on how to properly freeze the fruit you pick. I love having frozen fruit on hand to throw into baked oatmeal, crisps, or pancakes. Frozen fruit also makes for awesome smoothies or shakes. Ice cream is a nice treat on a hot day, but many times if we have blueberries in the freezer they are our go-to snack. That way we don’t have to feel guilty about it later!
General Tips– Make sure that fruit is dry before freezing; using a colander or patting them gently with paper towel is a good way to do this. Once fruit is frozen, place the fruit in zip-lock freezer bags, make sure to force as much air as possible out of the bags before sealing. Frozen berries and cherries will be good up to six months and peaches will be good up to ten months in your freezer. It’s a good idea to label and date your frozen fruit.
Blackberries- Remove stems, rinse gently and place on baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer berries to a zip-lock freezer bag.
Blueberries– Rinse gently and place on baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer berries to a zip-lock freezer bag.
Raspberries- Remove stems, rinse gently and place stem-side down on baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer berries to a zip-lock freezer bag.
Strawberries– Remove stems, rinse gently and place stem-side down on baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer berries to a zip-lock freezer bag.
Cherries– Rinse cherries and pat them dry. Then, pit the cherries over a baking sheet to catch the juices. Place the cherries on the same baking sheet and freeze both fruit and juices. Once frozen, transfer cherries to a zip-lock freezer bag.
Peaches- First step is to remove the skin of the peaches; you can do this by blanching them. Blanching is a simple process of bringing a pot of water to a boil and then placing the peaches in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Then, quickly remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and place them directly into a bowl of ice water. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle remove the skins. Next, cut the peach in half to remove the pit. This part of the process is much easier if you use freestone peaches. Then slice the peaches and toss them in a bowl with the juice from half a lemon and a third cup of sugar (this is for a quart using half a dozen peaches). Then place the slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Once frozen, transfer peach slices to a zip-lock freezer bag.