farm-fresh peaches, frozen to perfection

peaches to freeze
AFRIEND WITH AN OLD PEACH TREE made me a beneficiary of too many fruits to keep up with one bumper-crop year, and into the freezer some went. But in my overzealous drive to avoid added sugar in my diet, I made an error that affected the quality and storage life of the frozen fruit—a mistake I didn’t make again. I’m sharing my tactics for freezing farm-fresh peaches this summer, so you can make peachy recipes anytime you please.

My semi-failed batch of peaches went wrong for a couple of reasons, besides skipping the sugar entirely. How to freeze peaches:

what I did wrong when freezing peaches:

I let the peach fruit get overripe before putting it into suspended animation. If you’re freezing fresh (uncooked) fruit, you want it to be ripe but still firm—not already so soft as to be on a downhill slide.  Fruit that drips down your chin when you bite into may be a sensuous summer pleasure, but it’s too far gone for putting up. More treacherous, though…

I didn’t reckon with the air pockets inherent in stuffing any irregular-shaped pieces of something solid into freezer bags, boxes or jars.  Air pockets invite freezer burn, which means deterioration of peaches.

peaches to freeze 2

what i do now:

I pack ripe-but-firm fruit in syrup. Peaches are easy to freeze in liquid—goodbye, air spaces between fruit slices!—and it needn’t be the traditional heavy, sugary kind. (And P.S.–you don’t have to consume the syrup, but can drain it off later.)

White grape juice (below) can act as simple syrup.

Even if you prefer a sugar-based syrup, a light simple syrup of just 1:3 parts sugar to water will do. No need for heavy syrup (1:1 ratio) or even medium (1:2). To make light simple syrup, gradually add 2 cups of sugar into 6 cups of water and heat just until dissolved. Chill the syrup before using to pack fresh fruit.

Whichever liquid you use, layer as much fruit as possible into the container before filling all the crevices with “syrup.”

Pieces will want to float to the top, poking above the liquid. The standard trick is to crumple plastic wrap in the “headspace” left above the contents to allow for expansion during freezing, then remove the wrap. I just top up with more juice after the contents freeze, to cover any escaped bits, protecting them from burn.

freezing peaches ingredientsAnother essential ingredient: an anti-oxidant. Tossing the fresh-cut peaches in lemon juice will retard browning, but ascorbic acid powder (available at health food stores in the vitamin aisle from brands such as Now or Solaray) is probably more effective because you know just how much oomph you’re getting. A half-teaspoon, or 1,500 mg. of ascorbic acid powder per quart of syrup, is recommended. Have the ascorbic acid-laced syrup or juice ready, and drop the fruit directly into the mixture as you slice.

I think jars are easier than freezer bags, and (as discussed) the less plastic in contact with our food, the better. If you want to use bags, select freezer strength, and stand them up while freezing so that any air migrates to the top, where you can force it out after the food freezes at least halfway, before resealing the bag.

Still prefer to pack fruit “dry”? Get out the sugar.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends 2/3 cup granulated sugar per quart (or 1-1/3 pounds) of cut fruit that was first tossed in ¼ tsp. (750 mg.) of ascorbic acid and 3 Tbsp. of water. Let the sugared fruit sit 15 minutes before packing and freezing, taking care to eliminate air spaces as above.

When it’s time to defrost, do so in the refrigerator or under cold water, then use the fruit at once. If your recipe doesn’t require any liquid, pour it off, and improvise: Use it as both the liquid and sweetener in a bread or other baked good you are making. Nothing goes to waste!

And one more thing: To peel, or not to peel? If you want to, the touted “trick” is to score the skins lightly with an “X,” then drop the fruits into a pot of boiling water for about half a minute, then into a bowl of ice water to make the skins easy to rub off. It’s the same tactic used for skinning tomatoes when canning whole tomatoes.

With peaches, though, I think it yields a raggedy piece of fruit, so I peel them with a vegetable peeler—or leave the skins on, another reason for the ripe-but-firm fruit rule. Imagine peeling overripe peaches! And what’s a peach with a hint of fuzz, anyhow?

this peach clafoutis won’t last

peach clafoutis 3
MY BEST PEACH RECIPE (above) isn’t sugar-free at all, and it doesn’t last very long. It’s for Peach Clafoutis (the easiest of fruit desserts, though it puffs up and looks gorgeous as if you’re a master baker). Confession: I borrowed the batter from my friend Martha.

peaches: the botanical viewpoint

ALTHOUGH I DIDN’T KNOW how to freeze peaches well at first, I did have some peach savvy—mostly of the scientific or botanical variety. Did you know peaches are related to roses, for instance (that and other stone-fruit trivia is here)?

peaches for freezing

  1. Kristie says:

    Any idea how I can travel with 20-25 pounds of Colorado peaches across country to the Midwest without harming or over-ripening them? I have big plans for them if they make it! I have a cooler, and half the peaches are at the point of dripping when you bite into them. I will stop and freeze them at a friend’s house if I must!

  2. John Snell says:

    I’m surprised at some of your suggestions! I buy two bushels of peaches and lay them out on the floor, picking out the ripening ones every day or two. These I drop into boiling water and then into cold water so the skins literally slide off. Slice them “pole to pole,” add a small amount of sugar to stimulate juicing and some ascorbic acid (or similar commercial powder) to prevent browning, pop them into gallon freezer bags (about 4-6 cups/bag) which I then flatten out, squeeze the air out, and freeze them flat. I do agree that defrosting them in cold water or the fridge and eating them immediately is the best way.

  3. Audrey says:

    We do not skin the just ripe but not overripe peaches. We just take out the pit, cut them in quarters, dip them in Fruit Fresh (from Ball with directions) and put them in the freezer on cookie sheets. not touching. When frozen we pack them in freezer bags and squeeze out the air. No sugar added. No liquid added. No browning with this method and the flavor is delicious. We have them for breakfast every morning.

      1. Linda says:

        My favorite way to freeze peaches is just pop them in the freezer whole. When you want one just remove from freezer and hold under water… skin pops off. No browning. Cut carefully and use in a recipe or eat while partially frozen.

  4. Beckie Moran says:

    At a self pick peach orchid the owner shared her way to freeze peaches that you do pic right or don’t have time to deal with them the same day. You put the whole peach (not washed) on a cookie sheet and freeze, than transfer to a large freezer bag. When you want to eat one you take a peach out of the freezer, run it under hot water and the skin comes off easy. Then while it is still frozen, eat it like a popsicle. If you let them thaw the whole way then you have a mush. Mush is not for show but you can cook them up in a cobbler.
    I love peaches.

  5. Eve Fox says:

    Hi Margaret,
    just wanted to say I’m glad you’re thinking about minimizing plastic – so important from both a health and environmental perspective. And also wanted to suggest to folks that a soft skin fruit and veggie peeler (made for things like peaches and tomatoes) is a great and minimal investment if you’re doing canning/preserving on a regular basis and don’t want to bother with the pot of boiling water (I never do!) I love mine! My write up from a million years ago: http://www.thegardenofeating.org/2008/09/gift-from-kitchen-gods-soft-skin-peeler.html

  6. Linda says:

    My favorite way to freeze is just wash them, towel dry, place on a sheet with parchment and pop into the freezer. When frozen transfer to a plastic bag with air removed. No sugar, or peeling. To use just remove quantity wanted, run under water when frozen, the skin slides right off,slice when partially frozen and use in your recipe. No browning!

    I also do this with tomatoes. Enjoy

  7. Pat Markley says:

    We skin our peaches and cut them in half. We line them up on a sheet pan and freeze them. Once frozen, we put them in vacuum sealer bags (about 4 halves each). No syrup, no sugar and no processing. Thaw and cut to suit your recipe!

  8. Tracy says:

    How do you keep the glass jars from breaking in the freezer? I leave an air space but they still break. I only use Ball mason jars.

    1. margaret says:

      Best to use straight-sided jars, not ones with necks. And to leave headroom (air) above the food inside — not just the depth of the rim, but another half inch or more below that.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Great show on the Mint family, I had no idea so many of my plants are in this family. Thanks for you curious mind Margaret, another great podcast.

  10. Leslie says:

    Very interesting post. I wonder: if the peaches are too ripe, can one make a puree (like something to use for homemade ice cream) and then freeze? I guess still add some acid.

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