When you start to see fresh blueberries in the produce aisles of the grocery stores you frequent, you know they’re in season. And it’s so easy to buy an extra bag when they look so fresh and delicious, and the price is reasonable.
If you’ve bought more blueberries than you need, you need to know how to store them and what their shelf life is. It doesn’t matter if you’re making cranberry sauce as a side for Thanksgiving, or any other dish that includes those bright red berries, you don’t want the rest to go to waste.
This article is here to help you avoid it. In it we cover Storage (and Freezing), Shelf Life, and Spoilage of Blueberries. After reading it, you should know what to do with your blueberries, so that you use them all. Let’s dive in.
How to store blueberries
Blueberries require refrigeration (PSE, NCFHP, USC). Sure, they’re not in the fridges at the grocery store or farmer’s market, but they won’t be staying there for long. And you probably want to preserve the quality of the berries for longer, so keep them cold in the refrigerator. If you are buying bagged cranberries, throw them away vegetable drawer in your refrigerator.
If you’re buying cranberries in bulk, transfer them to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag before chilling in the refrigerator.
While blueberries have a much longer shelf life than other berries, freezing them is also an option. And a perfect one if you already know you have more than you need in a couple of weeks.
Alternatively, you can always make homemade cranberry juice. That’s a great way to use up a lot of blueberries in a short time.
How to Freeze Blueberries
The cranberry is one of the fruits that everyone agrees can be frozen, no matter if you ask US Cranberries (USC) or universities like Pennsylvania (PSE) or Michigan (MSUE).
When it comes to how to do it, there are two popular options: freeze dry and freeze blueberries in their packaging.
If you bought blueberries in bags, just throw the bag in the freezer (MSUE, USC, PSE). If you’ve bought them in bulk, first transfer them to a freezer bag, then do the same.
The second, somewhat more complicated method of freezing these fruits is dry-freezing. There is nothing difficult or time consuming, but it is much more convenient than just putting the bag in the freezer. Is that how it works:
- Prepare the blueberries. Sort the bad ones and place the good ones on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
- Freeze the fruits. Put the tray in the freezer and leave it there for a couple of hours. I usually put it in there overnight and freeze the fruit in the morning. If you want to read more about this process, check out our guide to flash freezing.
- Transfer the frozen berries to a freezer bag or airtight container. The packaging protects the fruit from the cold and is more convenient than storing a tray in the freezer. Label the package if you wish.
- Put it back in the freezer.
Frozen blueberries retain quality 8 to 12 months ((MSUE, PSE, USC)).
How to thaw blueberries
If you are cooking with blueberries, there is no need to thaw the fruits. (USC). Instead, take them out of the freezer, rinse them under cold water, drain any excess water, and add them to the dish you’re making. Remember to wash the berries, unless of course you washed them before freezing. Almost all blueberries come unwashed.
If you really need to defrost the fruit (for example, for a salad), put it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, then wash and dry it. Again, keep in mind that blueberries need to be washed before eating.
How long do blueberries last?
If you buy blueberries in bulk and leave them in an open bag in the fridge, they retain their quality for about two weeks (PSE). If you’ve bought them bagged or followed the advice to put them in a freezer bag, they keep quality for about a month (USC, NCFHFP, PSE).
As usual, prepackaged cranberries come with a date on the label, and that date is a pretty good estimate of how long they’ll keep. Of course, the berries will probably last a couple of days, maybe a week, after that date, but that’s about it. The longer you keep them, the softer and more bruised you will find..
When buying cranberries in bulk, transfer them to a freezer bag and label them with the date of purchase. This way, you won’t have to remember when you bought them and know roughly how long you have until you need to use them all.
|blueberries||Expiration date + 5-7 days or 2-4 weeks|
Please note that the periods above are estimates only.
How to know if blueberries are bad?
For starters, let me make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what a fresh, ripe blueberry should look like. The National Center for Home Food Preservation describes it as follows (NCFHFP):
The berries should be brightly colored: completely red or yellowish-red with a smooth, shiny, firm skin.
Anything that doesn’t fit that description is a bad blueberry, and you need to fix it. In particular, discard berries that:
- are smooth, wrinkled, or wrinkled (i.e., appear parched)
- has surface blemishes, bruises, signs of mold
- smells bad, sour or funny
If you’re not sure that the blueberries you have are perfectly fine, throw them away. Whenever you feel that there is something off about a food product, you are usually right. And prevention is better than cure.