We’re often asked if you can freeze dry blueberries, and the answer is yes, of course you can. Quality freeze drying equipment can manage just about any products with moisture in them, and blueberries are no exception.
The reason people ask is because it is not terribly obvious. Most farmers, preppers, backpackers, homesteaders, small food-business owners, etc., know that blueberries have a tough outer skin that is really resistant to moisture loss. It makes them durable in nature, but requires that you take an extra step when freeze drying to make sure they’re dried properly.
When simply dehydrated, the berries shrink, and become harder and chewy. This may not be a bad thing if you are making trail mix that will be consumed in a reasonably short time, but for durable, long-term storage, freeze drying is superior.
How to Freeze Dry Blueberries
Basically you have two choices in your approach. While it is possible to simply freeze dry them without any preparation, that method will extend the drying time by quite a substantial margin. If you have a lot of berries to process, every corner you can cut makes the whole job easier and more efficient.
For example, pre-freeze your berries! Putting them on the trays and tossing them in your freezer or deep freezer several hours before is a great short cut. Why make the machine do the work of freezing them when you have the perfect device right in your kitchen already?
If you have fresh berries that are particularly juicy, freezing them will often cause them to split their skins a tiny bit because water expands as it freezes. If they’re more conventional you’ll need to make them more permeable yourself.
Preparation Method One
If you have a food processor, install just the bottom blade. We are not looking to turn our berries into purée or dust, but instead, just to score the outer skin. Just a tiny nick on the solidly frozen berries will do the trick.
Pulse the blade three times, meaning just let it run for a split second, let it stop, and do that two more times. Sure, you’ll see that a few berries have been halved, but the majority will just have a couple of nicks on the surface, making that tough outer skin much more permeable to the water within.
Preparation Method Two
Pre-freeze your berries if possible, of course, and then either manually score them with a tool (like a paring knife), or simply chop them in half.
As an alternative, if you happen to have one handy, you can roll a fine or coarse spice grater over the berries in the tray. This is quite effective at making skin piercings without affecting the appearance too much.
Whichever method you choose, the actual freeze drying process is the same from here on in. Place the berries on the trays, ready for the machine, and make sure they are just a single layer deep to maximize the exposure to the vacuum inside the machine.
The Benefits of Freeze Drying
Why is freeze drying better than dehydrating? Removing water makes things considerably lighter, a consideration on hikes, or especially on long camping trips. Next, there is the aesthetic appeal—blueberries that look like blueberries are much more appetizing.
Dehydrated berries are typically hard, small, wrinkled, chewy, and still have 10% or more moisture in them. This makes them vulnerable to rotting (“going bad”) while stored. Their shelf life is measured in weeks, not years.
Blueberries that were freeze dried can have 97% or more of the moisture removed, making them far less susceptible to deterioration. In fact, freeze dried blueberries put in a vacuum-sealed bag (especially with an oxygen absorber packet) can last a quarter of a century or more, completely unaffected by age.
Freeze dried blueberries are lighter and crunchier, exploding into a burst of concentrated flavor when you bite them. Freeze drying retains their cellular structure but leaves them with a puffy, powdery texture that absorbs moisture in your mouth releasing their taste all at once. Probably the best comparison of the texture would be like a common breakfast cereal like TRIX or Cocoa Puffs, but with real true fruit flavor.
By the same token, by adding water and soaking, you can restore them to near fresh condition, sufficient for making fresh blueberry muffins in the middle of winter! Use hot water for speed and to fill your kitchen with their aroma, or cold water for a more fresh-picked texture. In either case it only takes about five minutes to restore.
Freeze drying anything provides a long term food storage option which preserves flavor and nutrition, while giving you a reliable source of nearly labor free food for emergency situations. Blueberries are a treat, just like any other high energy food, but don’t sell yourself short.
When cooking, make double, triple, or quadruple batches, and freeze dry additional “instant meals” that are “just add water” ready. It gives a whole new meaning to “meals in minutes”.
You could, for example, buy a case of 60 eggs for a lot less than the same quantity by-the-dozen at your local grocer’s shop. Crack them, blend them into a homogeneous mixture, and then freeze dry them. Break them up, or powder them in a blender, and you can have scrambled eggs anytime by adding a couple of tablespoons of the powder to a couple of tablespoons of water. Stir it up, it becomes eggs again, and one hot pan later, you’re having a nutritious meal!
Add some freeze dried onions and peppers and you’ve got a tasty omelette. Better yet, those eggs with some flour, sugar, baking powder, and blueberries would make a great blueberry cake, or muffins.
The sheer convenience and speed of freeze dried food easily pays for the cost of the equipment, and repays the efforts by having fresh fruits, vegetables, or even meats in the dead of winter. Think about some strips of freeze dried beef, freeze dried sour cream, a handful of eggs noodles, salt, pepper, water… Beef Stroganoff—in less time that it took for you to read this article!
Sure, you can start with blueberries, but you’ll quickly graduate to freeze drying everything that you grow (or buy). Why not give us a call today, and let us set you on the road to ultimate convenience, saving money, and independence? We’d love to hear from you!