How to: Clean Low Bush Blueberries

We are done winnowing the berries. It took about a hour per box, and my wonderful hubby had to set up our winnower on our back porch so he could work thru a rainstorm, but it’s done.

The upside, we can move on to the next phase in cleaning them. The downside, I will be finding blueberry leaves everywhere for days. Possibly weeks- blueberry leaves have a knack for turning up…. well, every where. The glitter of the berry world. But it is a small, tiny annoyance to live with in order to take part in what is The Downeast’s second most valuable commodity.

So, next is the deep clean. This will get rid of the green berries, random stems and other icky-ness.

For this you’ll need:

  • flat surface (For a flat surface, we used our trusty window screen from the winnowing process)
  • A towel that’s a little on the rough side
  • a bowl to catch the clean berries
  • box about 8 inches high
  • A table or counter top to set up on

It is a pretty simple set up. The box goes on one end, the bowl on the other. The flat surface goes on top. The angle that’s created helps move the good berries along to the bowl.

Before the towel goes on

Now, throw that towel on top, and roll up the edges as the picture below shows. The sides being rolled will guide your berries right where they need to go.

The towel should be on the rougher side. All the better to catch the stems. The towel should be on the rougher side. All the better to catch the stems.

We transferred our berries from the big box to much smaller bowl. Now just dump some berries on the towel and go to town. It’s best to do this in small batches, like winnowing.

Mr. Gillis pouring berries onto the towel

If you used a window screen like we did, tap the underside gently and the berries will start sorting themselves as they roll down. You’ll still have to pick the bad ones out, but they’re a lot easier to see, and your hands stay cleaner.

The towel catches the majority of grossness. The towel catches the majority of grossness.

It’s a process, for sure, but well worth it when you end up with this-

After the second cleaning and washing. After the second cleaning and washing.

Well, since that’s done, it is officially time to figure out what to do with your berries. Our berries will be frozen, jammed, sauced and possibly relished. But more on that next time.

So until that time, have a wicked good evening.

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.

This is The Beginning

I am a 30 odd year old, cat owning, chicken keeping, alpaca herding, pasture pig raising, sewing, gardening, canning, foraging, stay at home mama and devoted wife. My husband and I have been trying to lead a self sufficient lifestyle with a fair amount of success. We strive to get better. We don’t always reach that goal. We do manage to laugh at, and learn from, most of our mistakes.

This blog, is about our journey to that self sufficiency. It will cover everything from our current projects to our garden harvest. From our experiences as first time parents, to our adventures taking care of our animals… It might seem like it lacks focus, but the focus is life. In all it’s messy, unfocused glory.

Follow us here, on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter as well!

Until next time, have a wicked good day!


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