How to build: Winnower

Winnow- (Verb) To free (ex.grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced air currant to blow away impurities.

Recently, we went on our yearly excursion to the blueberry fields of Columbia- Downeast, Maine. These fields are owned by a friend of the family, and we have an arrangement- We rake blueberries to our hearts content and we give him canned goods and zucchini bread.

So my darling hubby and I packed up the munchkin and got on the road. We made a quick pit stop to pick up my mom and nephew, and hit the fields around 10 am. My mom and I have raked a lot of blueberries in our lives, so we filled the boxes while Mr. Gillis hung out with the kids. My nephew is almost 5, but our daughter is only 10 weeks old, so he pushed her stroller, while he helped my nephew pick wildflowers to give to my mom.

Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with some ice cream. It was a pretty great way to spend the morning. But we had 4 boxes of blueberries that needed to be cleaned, so it was homeward bound for us.

2015 blueberries 2015 blueberries

So to the nitty gritty of this post- how on earth do we get that many berries cleaned before they go bad? Well the short answer is, we don’t. We freeze a box after being winnowed, for future use as chicken snacks. Blueberries are one of their favorites.

But that does leave us with 3 other boxes to clean out for jams and my personal stash of freezer berries.

So, the setup requires a few things.

  • a couple of sawhorses
  • 2 large totes
  • two boards
  • large box fan
  • an old screen from a window
  • and a container to catch the clean berries.

My husband set this up- he is always very handy.

Our homemade winnower. Our homemade winnower.

What he does is set up the sawhorses a few feet apart. If you don’t have sawhorses, just get a couple lawn chairs.

Next he places one tote in between them. Then he uses the boards to brace the box fan.

The screen goes on top of the sawhorses. The other tote is used to hold up the container that is ready and waiting for your now cleaner blueberries. I say cleaner, because this only gets rid of most of the leaves. You’ll still need our next setup to get out the underripe berries.

Now, place your berries in small amounts on the screen while the fan is on its highest speed. Swish the berries around with your hands gently, or even shake or tap the screen lightly, and watch the leaves whirl on up and away. This works best when berries are newly picked and firm.

Cleaning away. Cleaning away.

When the berries are sufficiently leafless, lift your screen at an angle and carefully tap the berries into your container.

Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process Cleaner berries, ready to go to the next process

Now, repeat until you’ve cleaned a good amount of berries. I usually keep going until an entire container is done, take a break and go back for some more cleaning.

As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone. As you can see, the leaves are mostly gone.

This is before and after the fan treatment. Yea for a successful winnowing!

Next up for those berries is the deep clean. But it will have to wait til my next post.. I have a lot more winnowing to do.

Until that time- have a wicked good evening.

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