One of my co-workers found this small pesticide-free raspberry farm about an hour and a half away from Chicago and kindly volunteered to drive us there, the only request being that we leave at 6:30am on a Sunday! It wasn’t easy to get up, but I think the request was warranted since it was a pretty long drive and the patch was quite small. I don’t think we left too many berries for the late-risers and/or church-goers 🙂
The farm provided recycled pints and cardboard box-baskets and all we had to do was pick berries while making sure not to get stung by bees and one giant spider:
After we all paid for our pints and carefully placed them in the provided transport boxes, we were on our way to Chicago. We did make a stop at a breakfast place in a shopping center that had almost everything (Target, Kohls, Aldi, Best Buy, BBB, Pier 1, etc…even a Halloween City store!). Unfortunately, I was too hungry to take any pictures, but the food was very good!
Even though I was pretty tired by the time we made it back to the city, I knew I had to attend to the berries before they would all get smashed and fermenting. Some websites suggest not washing the berries before freezing them, but these came with quite a few insects and stubborn beetles, so I set-up an assembly line to wash/strain/dry on paper towels the berries.
It is important to fully dry the berries before freezing so you don’t get a bunch of ice, plus if there is water inside the berry, when the ice forms it will break the berry due to the difference in volume.
After the berries were dry, I placed them on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and let them freeze for a few hours. They looked like candy when they were frozen!
I then measured 1 or 2 cups of the frozen berries, placed in ziploc bags and labeled them with the date and quantity. You can also vacuum pack them and they won’t get damaged since they are pre-frozen, but I don’t have a vacuum packer.
I used the softer/partially damaged raspberries for a pie (recipe to follow) and also kept some of the ripe firmer ones for eating in the next few days. Unfortunately, raspberries don’t last for very long in the fridge, but the frozen ones should suffice for all my cooking needs 🙂
This was my first time berry picking, and despite the early start, it felt good to see all those bags of frozen raspberries in my freezer. Now, I just have to come up with a few recipes to use them 😉