Few things say summer more than sweet, ripe peaches. You probably have fond memories of sitting on a porch eating peaches, the juice dripping down your chin. Home-grown or local peaches taste infinitely better than those trucked from hundreds of miles away, but the fresh peach season is brief.
Fortunately, through freezing and canning, you can preserve that fresh peach taste to enjoy throughout the year. Read on to learn how.
Selecting Peaches for Canning or Freezing
Peach growers have a dilemma: peaches taste best when harvested almost ripe or ripe, yet they’re highly perishable. Pick them too early and they’ll never ripen fully. These fruits lack flavor, have a wrinkled skin and may have a mealy or mushy texture. Pick them too ripe and they’ll decay before they reach the market.
This is why there’s such a difference between local peaches and peaches transported long distances. Harvesters can pick local peaches when they’re at the peak of ripeness so they always taste delicious. When selecting peaches, look for a few things:
First, the peach should smell like a peach, with a heady sweetness. If it doesn’t, it was probably picked too early.
Look at the “ground” color (pale backside) of the peach. Most peaches have a red or orange tone, but the underlying color should be cream or yellow, not green.
Once you find a source for great local peaches, pick up a few boxes. You’ll need 2 to 3 pounds of peaches for each quart of canned peaches, so 20 to 40 pounds isn’t an unrealistic amount to buy if you want enough peaches to last the winter.
Freezing peaches is fast, simple and the absolute best way to retain fresh peach flavor. Frozen peaches taste great alone, added to smoothies or baked into cobblers and crisps. To freeze peaches, fill a bowl with cold water and add the juice of one lemon to the water or 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid (available in the canning section of your supermarket). This treatment keeps the peaches from darkening.
Peel the peaches, pit them and slice them. Drop the cut fruit in the water for no more than 20 minutes. Drain and rinse. Now you have two options for proceeding.
In a bowl, combine the 5 pounds sliced peaches with 2/3 cup sugar and ¼ teaspoon ascorbic acid. Allow the peaches to sit for 10 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Pack the peaches into freezer boxes, leaving ½ inch headspace at the top of the container for expansion. Freeze the peaches. This method is quick and easy, but the peaches lose their shape and mound together after freezing. It works best if you plan on using the peaches in baked dishes.
Prepare the peaches as described above by peeling them and soaking them in water. Drain very well and spread the peaches in a single layer on cookie sheets. Freeze for 30 minutes, or until the peaches are firm and mostly frozen. Place the peaches in freezer bags or boxes, leaving ½ inch headspace. This method retains the peaches’ shape and freezes the peaches individually so you can take out as many as you want. Flash freezing works well if you want to use the peaches for smoothies or eating plain.
Canning peaches slightly alters their texture and taste, but it’s a great option for long-term storage. And if you’re freezer goes on the blink, you can still have delicious canned peaches. To can peaches, follow the directions below:
- Fill your water bath canner with water and start heating it. Wash quart or pint jars in very hot soapy water and keep them warm. Heat the lids and rims in simmering water.
- Prepare one pot of boiling water and one bowl of cold water.
- Drop the peaches briefly in boiling water for 30 seconds, then let sit in the ice water for several minutes. This will loosen the skins.
- Add ascorbic acid to the bowl of cold water, as detailed above. Peel, pit and slice the fruit and put the slices in the water. Allow it to sit no more than 20 minutes and rinse with clean water and drain.
- Heat your sugar syrup. Although peaches can be canned without any added sugar, sugar helps retain the peaches’ texture and taste. To make light syrup, heat 2 ¼ cups sugar with 5 ¼ cups water, which yields 6 ½ cups syrup. You can substitute pure apple or pear juice for the sugar syrup if you prefer.
- Place the peaches, cavity side down in the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace at the top. Fill the jars with syrup, again, leaving space at the top.
- Run a plastic spatula around the inside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a damp cloth to remove any residue.
- Place the lids and rings over the jars and put the jars in the water bath canner. Heat the water in the canner to a rolling boil and boil pints 25 minutes, quarts 30 minutes. If you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level, increase cooking time by 5 minutes for every 3,000 feet.
For Further Peach Freezing and Peach Canning Reading:
Selecting, Preparing and Canning Peaches – National Center for Home Food Preservation
Preserving Peaches – Clemson Cooperative Extension