One of the many opportunities for farmers worldwide to grow markets, turnover and raise profit margins is by adding value to crops through agro-processing (food processing).

Most value-added food products available to consumers have been processed in some way and two main methods of processing can be identified:

Primary processing: This type of processing includes the simplest of processes such as washing, peeling, chopping, ageing and milling.

Secondary processing: This type involves the conversion of primary processed products into more complex food products and includes processes such as mixing, depositing, layering, extruding, drying, fortifying, fermentation, pasteurisation, heating etc.

Blackberries

  • Frozen blackberries: Fresh blackberries are frozen in the container (straight pack), with or without the addition of sugar. Unsweetened frozen blackberries are used in the preparation of bakery fillings, while the sweetened product is used as a base ingredient for making pie toppings, syrup fillings, soups and yoghurt flavouring.
  • Individually quick-frozen (IQF) blackberries are frozen before being packaged in the retail container. The berries maintain their individual identity and have the appearance of ‘fresh fruit’. Frozen blackberries can also be incorporated into a mixture of other IQF berries. The IQF method is used since it best preserves the cell structure, texture, colour, flavour and aroma of the berries.
  • Canned blackberries are prepared from fresh berries. The blackberries may be packed in either water or syrup. The water-packed product can be used as fruit fillings and toppings. The sugar syrup-packed blackberries can be used as dessert fruit.

Blackcurrant

  • Blackcurrant juice is the crushed and pasteurised liquid derived from fresh or frozen blackcurrants which can be used as a beverage or in sauces, flavourings and fillings.
  • Concentrated blackcurrant juice is obtained by the evaporation of water to yield a final product with at least double the standard strength. The concentrate is preserved through freezing or aseptic packaging. Sugar, preservatives and stabilisers may be added to the concentrate.
  • Blackcurrant jam is produced from fresh or frozen blackcurrants harvested at full maturity. Jam is defined as the product that consists of whole fruit, pieces of fruit or fruit pulp that is cooked with sugar until syrup with the desired solids content formed. Upon cooling, it becomes a soft gel.
  • Canned blackcurrants are prepared from fresh, ripe currants. The currant may be packed in water or as with other berry products, in sugar syrup.

Blueberries

  • Blueberry jelly is produced by concentrating and gelling unsweetened blueberries.
  • Dried blueberries have an intense fruit flavour and can be incorporated into dry baking mixes or other confectionery products.
  • Carbonated blueberry juice: The basic method of manufacture involves preparing the basic blueberry juice to which sugar and other permitted ingredients are added to produce a syrup which is then diluted by carbonated water.
  • Explosion-puffed blueberries are dehydrated berries with a porous, slightly puffed, crunchy texture. They have an intense fruit flavour and are used in cereal mixes, especially ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
  • Frozen blueberry purée: Fresh blueberries are crushed and screened to produce a purée. The frozen purée is used extensively in products such as confectionary, beverages, sauces, dairy flavourings, fillings and juices.
  • IQF blueberries: Fresh blueberries are individually quick frozen (IQF) to produce a product that maintains its individual identity and has the appearance of ‘fresh fruit’.
  • Blueberry jam is produced from fresh or frozen blueberries which are cooked with sugar to produce a syrup with the desired solids content. Upon cooling, the syrup forms a soft gel.
  • Canned blueberries are packed in water or sugar syrup. The water-packed product can be used as pie fillings and toppings. The sugar-packed berries can be used as dessert fruit.
  • Blueberry jam is produced from fresh or frozen blueberries which are cooked with sugar to produce a syrup with the desired solids content. Upon cooling, the syrup forms a soft gel.

Cape gooseberries

  • Dried Cape gooseberries have an intense fruit flavour and can be incorporated into dry baking mixes or other confectionery products.
  • Canned Cape gooseberries may be canned in water or sugar syrup. The water-packed gooseberries are used as Danish and fruit pie fillings and toppings. The sugar syrup-packed berries can be used as dessert fruit.

Cherries

  • Canned maraschino cherries are sweet cherries that have been preserved in almond-flavoured syrup. Maraschino cherries are used in cocktails. These cherries derive their name from the Italian sweet-sour liqueur originally prepared for bitter cherries.
  • Canned sour cherries: Sour cherries are canned in water or sugar syrup and used for pie fillings.
  • Canned sweet cherries: Sweet cherries are canned in water or sugar syrup and used as a dessert fruit or in baked products.
  • Cherry jam: Cherry jam is produced from fresh or frozen cherries harvested at full maturity. Jam is a product which consists of whole fruit, pieces of fruit, fruit pulp or fruit purée of one or more types of fruit, with fruit juice or concentrated fruit juice as an optional ingredient and may contain permitted food additives and sweeteners.
  • Frozen cherries: Cherries are frozen in the retail container. In-container freezing does not allow for rapid freezing as in the case of IQF products. Slow frozen cherries do not maintain their shape and individual identity. The product has considerable drip loss upon thawing. This product is used to make pie fillings, toppings and syrups. Yoghurt manufacturers can also use it as a fruit flavouring.
  • Glazed cherries are prepared from fresh cherries that are pitted, coloured and infused with sugar syrup. They are used in baking, ice creams and desserts and for the decoration of baked goods.
  • IQF cherries: Fresh cherries are rapidly frozen to produce a product that maintains its individual identity and has the appearance of ‘fresh fruit’. This makes it ideal for inclusion into bakery products as well as fillings. Frozen cherries can also be incorporated into a mixture of other IQF berries or currants. The IQF method is used since it best preserves the cell structure, texture, colour, flavour and aroma of the cherries.
  • Canned cocktail cherries are coloured cherries canned in sugar syrup along with other fruit pieces and are used for cocktails.
  • Dried cherries have a chewy texture (similar to raisins) and strong cherry flavour. They are used in pastries, confectionary, ice cream, sweets, fruit salads, cheese and yoghurt.

Written by Theresa Siebert, Agricultural Research Council – Institute for Agricultural Engineering

Agro-processing of berries (Part 2)

The Manual on the Agro-processing of Berries, Volume 1 contains complete information on the products discussed above, as well as many other processing methods, and is available from the Agricultural Research Council – Institute for Agricultural Engineering (ARC-IAE). Contact Elmarie Stoltz on 012 842 4017 or email stoltze@arc.agric.za for more information.

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