Kitchen Confidence

How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer

By • June 20, 2013 • 23 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Don't let your berries boss you around. 

Berries: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Like many coveted objects, berries are both precious and frustrating, expensive and fragile. What is more maddening than splurging on vivid, juicy berries at the market only to find that your fruity jewels have turned to mush -- or worse, have been overtaken by dreaded mold -- when you return to them for a mid-week treat? 

Don't despair just yet: this berry horror story does not have to be your destiny. The culprits behind berry mold are the evil, microscopic mold spores waiting to make a home of the friendly, moist skin of your gorgeous berries. Fortunately, there is a simple way to kill off the mold spores and bacteria that find your berries as delicious as you do. 

More: Even if your strawberries are past their prime, they'll be perfect in strawberry rhubarb jam

It might seem counterintuitive to wash your berries before you're ready to eat them. One of the cardinal rules of keeping berries mold-free is to leave them unwashed until the moment before consumption. 

But by washing your berries in a solution of vinegar and water, you can extend their shelf-life by days (sometimes even weeks!). In a large bowl, make a diluted vinegar bath -- 1 cup vinegar, 3 cups water -- and give your berries a dunk. The vinegar will eliminate any pesky mold and bacteria. 

Next, drain your berries in a colander and rinse them under cool running water. This guarantees that you won't be able to taste any lingering traces of vinegar later on. 

Now that you've washed your berries, it's time to dry them as thoroughly as possible. Do not be fooled: moisture is still the enemy. The same salad spinner you use to dry off greens can be used to wick the water from your berries. Line it with about 3 layers of paper towels in order to create a pillow for your berries, then spin your berries for about 15 seconds, or until they are completely dry. 

Instead of putting the berries back into the container they came in, where they will crowd each other, upgrade their digs. Place them in a sealable container lined with paper towels and leave the lid partially open as to avoid trapping moisture. 

But what if you return from the store with pints of berries only to realize there's no vinegar in the pantry? A quick bath in hot water will also work to destroy bacteria and mold spores.

Dunk your berries in water between 120 and 140°F for approximately 30 seconds. Dry and store them in the same way you would after a vinegar wash.

Once you've learned how to extend the lifespan of your berries, the real question becomes: what will you do with them? If you can resist eating all of your berries fresh, a blueberry tartsummer berry pudding, or raspberry swamp pie might be the ideal ending to your next summertime feast. 

Do you have any tricks for keeping your berries fresh? Let us know in the comments! 

Jump to Comments (23)

Tags: kitchen confidence, berries, fresh, vinegar, rinsing, mold, how-to & diy

Comments (23)

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4 days ago CoffeeAndBaconYum

How long do you need to "dunk" the berries in the vinegar solution? I swirled blackberries in a bowl with the 1:3 vinegar to water solution for about one minute then rinsed well with cold running water at least four times. I ate a berry and could still taste the apple cider vinegar. :-(

I bought the blackberries on Sunday and refrigerated them in a closed plastic container with a paper towel. As of today (Weds), the berries have ripened a bit but are still good. I remembered this article and decided to give it a try. Perhaps this works best with fresh picked berries? I wondered if they had absorbed some of the vinegar because they were softer after a few days.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Elsa B Rivera

GREAT WAY TO KEEP BERRIES A LITTLE LONGER, <3 THE ARTICLE!!

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about 1 month ago nanaB

Before reading about this method, I have been putting blueberries in a colander and running water over them thoroughly. Then I pour them out on a kitchen towel to dry. I gently rub them as dry as I can, then put a paper towel in the bottom of a plastic container with lid. They keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or more. I'm anxious to try this new method to see if they keep longer. I do the same with strawberries, except I pull the stems off first. Then wash them so the dirt under the leaves is washed off, then dry them. After they dry I slice them, add a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, stir them, then put them in a container with a paper towel in the fridge and close the container. (Note: I have a red towel I use just for berries. Strawberry stains can't be seen. lol)

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about 1 month ago Rebecca Cherry

the comments talk about apple cider vinegar but, the article simply says vinegar. i used the plain, old, distilled white. will that work? never done this before.

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about 1 year ago Hockeymom

Does this work for strawberries too?

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about 1 year ago julie

of course! You can wash any fruit or vegetables in an apple cider rinse. 1/4 cup apple cider to 2 1/4 cups fresh water.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Keli Green

You can avoid all that work by purchasing frozen fruit.

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about 1 year ago julie

You make it all so difficult! I rinse my berries in a 10% cider vinegar solution., do not rinse, place back into the container they came in with a paper towel lining the bottom. It drains, it breathes, and the berries last weeks, if need be! I purchase the large Costco containers and they last a very long time.

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about 1 year ago Darlene Mai

don't know about berries, but I keep onion longer by peeling outer layers and cutting off ends. Then I wrap it in a paper towel and keep it in the fridge in a plastic container. I change the paper towel every couple days. The onion dries slowly but the taste doesn't change. I have used an onion little by little for up to a month this way.

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about 1 year ago laurelei235

Different trick. Especially with berries that come in the clear plastic containers, I fill my 2qt mixing bowl 2/3 with water, add a splash of hydrogen peroxide, and then dunk everything, containers and berries, in the liquid. To get all sides, I may have to turn the box upside down, sideways, etc. Then I put my berries on a plate and let them sit on the counter an hour or so to drain and dry a bit. Then into the fridge. My last purchase started to dehydrate, but no mold.

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about 1 year ago muse2323

I was able to keep four pounds of washed blueberries last summer for four weeks in my Tupperware FridgeSmart container--and that without doing a vinegar rinse, which I have been doing this year. We forgot about them in the fridge--they got shoved to the back; I dreaded opening them when I found them, but they were just as good as the day we bought them from the farmers market, and continued to be just as good till we polished them off weeks later.

Eager to see if the vinegar rinse helps me keep my raspberries and blackberries longer this year (not that they're ever around long enough to go bad--we don't buy them five pounds at a time).

Stringio

about 1 year ago Loren Robeck

What kind of vinegar do you suggest? I probably have four kinds on my shelf!

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about 1 year ago Morizou

Distilled white vinegar, I'm presuming. . . .

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over 1 year ago Shelby Brisendine

I have found that if you slice strawberries, lightly sprinkle with sugar, then add a few grains of salt(just what you can hold between your thumb and index finger) they will be good for a very long time. Store in the refrigerator, of course. Read this tip in Gourmet or Bon Appetit.

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over 1 year ago calendargirl

This is definitely worth a try and I am going to get right to it. My current trick is to use a product I first saw at a local farmers market a year ago: Fresh Paper. It works for all sorts of produce, but in my experience it is best for berries and I have not tossed any since using it. It's available at some Whole Foods stores but also online from the manufacturers/inventors: http://www.fenugreen.com/

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over 1 year ago barb48

Once they've been dried off, how should they be stored in the fridge or should they stay on the counter?

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about 1 year ago lucia

Place them in a glass jar. They can keep up to a year in the freezer or some months in the fridge (dry but fresh, not leathery).
Same applies also to dry mushrooms without loosing its flavour.
Lucia

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over 1 year ago _lotus

GENIUS! I am going to do this from now on.

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over 1 year ago Gildy

Thank you, I'm on a limited budget, trying to eat healthily but get tired of losing fruit because of this...will give it a go and tell others.

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over 1 year ago Rhonda35

Since I just dumped an entire container of moldy raspberries into the garbage a half hour ago, I am SO happy to see this helpful post. Thank you!

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over 1 year ago Matt Piazza

Having low standards also helps extend the shelf life of everything.

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over 1 year ago Rhonda35

LOL!

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over 1 year ago chelsey

I am in love with this. I like to keep berries on hand all summer, but it gets frustrating when the next day a whole box is on its way out! This is amazing! I'm so excited to try it.