August 6, 2013

Blueberry Bounty & Frozen Pies

I am having an abundant harvest of blueberries this year.

Every other day I pick a bucketful of blueberries.

My month for blueberry picking is July, although last year I started in the middle of June. This year they weren't ready until after July 1st, I believe, because we've had so little sun. Blueberries love to ripen in the sun. Even so, they have been beautifully plump and sweet because of all the rain. This is an amazing contrast to my first year, when we were at the tail end of a drought. That year they were small, hard, and tart.

Blueberries in the food dehydrator

We've been eating tons of them fresh and in pies, pancakes, and muffins. I've also given quite a few away. The rest I've been preserving. I'm dehydrating them for the goats this winter, for part of their homegrown vitamin and mineral top dressing. In our humidity, they must be dried rock hard or they will get moldy. I experimented with this awhile back, to learn how much they needed to be dried.

I don't find reconstituted blueberries as flavorful as frozen, so for us, I freeze quite a bit.

I freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet, then transfer to freezer bags once frozen

I use them in pancakes, muffins, and pies, although in the past I've canned my own blueberry pie filling. I usually freeze more than we need, and use the surplus to make blueberry jam the following summer.

For the canned blueberry pie filling I bought a five pound bag of Clear Jel. Since then, the company that used to make ClearJel (National Starch) has been bought out. The website has changed and their non-GMO statement is gone. Consequently I won't buy more once I use up what I have. Then I read about freezing pies, and thought I'd try it.

Fresh blueberry pies ready for their top crusts. Then it's into the freezer.

I researched this and picked up a few tidbits to share:
  • Increase the flour in the filling by 1 tablespoon per pie
  • Do not cut steam vents in the crust before freezing
  • Place individual pies on a baking sheet to freeze before wrapping to prevent the wrap from sticking to the crust. 
  • Once frozen solid, they can be wrapped and stacked.
  • They can be removed from the pie tins once frozen, if needed.
  • Can reuse aluminum pie crust pans, or pick up pie pans cheaply at any thrift store.
  • Double wrap in plastic wrap or aluminum foil
  • Optional - cover pies with paper plates before wrapping
  • Label each with filling type and baking instructions
  • Do not thaw to bake, but plan to add an additional 20 minutes or so to the baking time.

I placed my frozen, wrapped pies in a large brown paper bag. Dan heard on the radio that this helps prevent freezer burn. We've found that it certainly helps.

To bake: preheat oven to 425°F/218°C.  Cover edges with aluminum foil or a pie ring to prevent burning. Bake for 15 minutes, then decrease oven temp to 375°F/190°C until done (40 - 50 minutes).

Lastly, here are a few links:


Tina T-P said...

Those will be such a nice treat next winter! I used to make frozen cherry pies all the time when I lived at home (in high school my mom was ill so I did most of the cooking) You will really enjoy them!

jewlz said...

Terrific harvest. Do you just have the one bush that's corraled from the goats?

Unknown said...

That bucket o'blueberries looks AMAZING!!!

Theresa said...

Hope you have some vanilla ice cream at the ready for those pies. Oh YUM!

Leigh said...

Tina, I'd love to add cherry pies to my list of winter treats! I did plant a cherry tree, but this year the birds got all the goods. Are you keeping up with your blueberry blog, BTW?

JW, it is, isn't it? All those came from that one bush (thanks to the goat proof fence, LOL) After that first year, with it's disappointing harvest, I planted two more blueberry bushes in another area, but they haven't grown very much, so that original bush is my mother lode.

Tanya, they taste amazing too. :)

Theresa, a big YES to the vanilla ice cream! I'm so glad I bought the ice cream maker. Wht a treat on those hot pies. :)

Anonymous said...

That's a fabulous idea about freezing the pies. Will be curious to see what you think of the taste when you try one out down the road.

Farmer Barb said...

You're living my dream, baby! I can only dream of the day when I measure my blueberries by the pound, not the cup!

You GO, Blueberry Lady!

Question: If you kept goats and sheep together, how would you manage the feeding? Separate pens or separate feeding areas?

Leigh said...

Barb, I was fortunate to have that bush well established when we bought the place! The two I planted remain scrawny. :(

I'm not sure about keeping sheep and goats together, i.e. no experience in that. Hopefully another reader will chime in here.

Stephanie, I forgot to mention that according to the experts, frozen pies should be used before 3 or 4 months. I know I won't use up all those pies by then, so I'll have to let you know on how long they keep. Dan is sensitive to freezer burn taste, so he'll let me know!

I think in part, the 3-4 months has to do with the way things are prepared for the freezer these days, in plastic. Plastic is porous, of course, so not really ideal IMO. Back in the day they used brown paper, which is what I've done too; two layers of plastic wrap and then placed in a brown paper bag.

Woolly Bits said...

blueberries by the bucket load - that would be nice:) our bushes in large containers don't bring that much, so there's never enough for freezing or canning, but with the prices they fetch in the supermarkets, every mugfull is something! I am still waiting for most of the pickings, only a handful have ripened so far...
enjoy your bounty!

Quinn said...

Oh I am dazzled by your blueberry abundance! I have only one native bush surviving on my property - with an absurd bulge in the fenceline just to protect it from the goats - and the berries are ripening sooooo slowly this year...every morning I have about 6 berries to savor after chores.
I was lucky enough to find wild blueberries twice, and picked about a pint each time - quite a treat. I can barely imagine being able to pick a pailful of blueberries, every other day.

Julene said...

Another great post full of useful tips! We too have a vast amount of blueberries this year. I will try freezing a couple of pies the way you have suggested! Your goats must love their natural vitamins! You are one amazing person to do all that you do!

Renee Nefe said...

Those pies look wonderful!

Common Ground Homeschoolers said...

Sandy Livesay said...


Now that's a mighty good looking harvest of berries my friend.
Thank you for the information regarding the brown bag, I had no idea. This will help me out in the future.

Hey, do you need someone to help eat those pies? LOL.......

Ed said...

Reading this has been like living in a dream. I cannot fathom someone who has so many blueberries that they are feeding them to their goats! Someday I hope to have that many blueberries if only to see how many my daughter can eat at one sitting. She can polish off a quart with no problems!

How many blueberry bushes do you have or are they all wild?

Leigh said...

Bettina, that's how it is with our strawberries, few and far between but highly prized!

Quinn, those fenceline bulges are necessary with goats!

Julene, I'm looking forward to a warm, freshly baked pie this winter! I am fortunate to get so many blueberries, I had some dried ones leftover one year and offered them to the goats. They loved them. They love fresh ones too. :)

Renee, I hope they taste as good as they look!

Common Ground Homeschoolers, that is one amazing pie!! Mine look pretty amateurish in comparison. :)

Sandy, the brown bag works pretty well and I'm amazed I only found one other reference to it.

Ed, those are from one bush, well probably several bushes in one big clump. It's been here a long time, however. We didn't even know about it until a neighbor came over and told us where it was.

Sue said...

I am reaching the end of the blueberries I froze last year (love throwing a handful into the blender when I'm making a smoothie. Cools and thickens everything else up so nicely).

I run my goats and sheep together (the does are in the pen with my boys). They all eat together. The only thing they can't share is salt (the goats need a lot more copper than the sheep, which can die from too much copper). Even thought the goats are smaller, they are much feistier & have no problem holding their own with the boys.

vlb5757 said...

Love the blueberry post. I try to eat them everyday. We live in Southern VA and our picking time is July also but because of all the ran we had this past spring, they did not rippen very quickly. We went on opening day and it was slim pickins. I got about 3 pounds in the freezer. Last year I canned pie filling so I am ready for blueberry pies! Thanks for sharing all your knowledge. I learn something new and interesting every time you post.

Unknown said...

WOW, wish I had your berries! I may try that- freezing apple pies. We have a bumper crop coming...

Leigh said...

Sue, frozen blueberries in smoothies! Oh yes! (I like mine with kefir).

Thank you for sharing about your keeping goats and sheep together. Very helpful.

Vickie, thanks! They are so tasty and healthy. Yes, the lack of sun has really slowed down ripening. Not only blueberries, but my figs and tomatoes too.

Nancy, freezing apple pies sounds excellent! I may have to try that myself.

Bill said...

I'm very envious of those blueberries. :)

Our attempt to grow them here was a fail. The deer and birds got all the berries until we gave up.

But I'm inspired to give it another shot next year!

Common Ground Homeschoolers said...

Oh LOL! I didn't realize that I was still logged into my homeschooling email address. I'm CGH.

Did you see this

I think transporting the goats would be the most expensive part.

Renee Nefe said...

oops! I did it again. I'm CGH.

Sorry, we're in the middle of renewing dues and starting co-op, so I've been leaving our email open.

Leigh said...

Bill, if I had to rely on the blueberry bushes I planted three years ago, we'd only have harvested about 10 blueberries. I'm fortunate we have a well established clump!

Renee, I knewCommon Ground Homeschoolers sounded familiar; I've seen in on your G+ page!

The article about using goats to trim weeds in a cemetery was a bit puzzling. They said "poisonous plants that could suffocate the trees" and showed clover. I had to leave them a comment about that!

Donna OShaughnessy said...

yOur days must be so long and your satisfaction level high or at least it should be. you are my homesteading hero! And the blueberries look good too.

luckybunny said...

Awesome! Blueberries are the absolute best :)

Leigh said...

Aw, Donna. I have to say that will all the rain we've had this summer, my days are much less productive than usual. Not only is it hard to work outside, but everything has been slower to ripen.

Donna, does this mean your home? :)

Glenda said...

I use glass pie pans because I don't want to put any food near aluminum. I wonder if you freeze the pie in a glass dish can you then transfer it into a plastic bag, suck the air out manually, and stack bags on top of each other in the freezer. You can cook the pie in a glass dish when you take it out. I gave up aluminum years ago in my deordent and other items. Love those antioxidant blue berries.

Leigh said...

Glenda, I use glass pie pans for the same reason, actually pyrex. I do mention aluminum quite a bit in the post, however, don't I, LOL. Chalk it up to regurgitated research.

Once frozen, the pies can be removed from the pie pan, wrapped, and stacked as you say. Since the pie is still frozen when placed in the oven, however, I would definitely make sure the glass pans are pyrex. Alternatively, you can get tin pie pans; a little more expensive than aluminum, but obviously worth it.

Candy Krop said...

Have you considered a vacuum saver? We freeze fresh fish & it lasts for at least a year in the freezer. Taste is great when we cook it.

We are trying it with our berries ( blueberries, blackberries & raspberries ). We freeze them in a single layer then vacuum save them in one to two cup amounts & return them to the freezer for use in the winter. It works very well as they don't get frostbitten as there is no air in the bags. I imagine you could vacuum save an entire pie once it is frozen. Hope this is helpful.

Leigh said...

Hi Candy. We talked at one time about a vacuum saver, but never followed through. It's nice to know it extends the freezer life of foods. I'll have to look into it again. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

Chelsea said...

I've read your blog for awhile now but haven't commented. I got behind on your posts and decided to read back. Thanks for all the great posts.
I haven't tried it so I don't know if it's any good but your comment about Clear Jel not being GMO free made me curious enough to look up alternatives. This is what I found:

Leigh said...

Chelsea, thank you so much for being a faithful reader and also for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the information so much! The article was extremely interesting, and hopeful for those of us needing thickners. I'm definitely going to be looking into, and trying these.