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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. Susan Cruz says:

    You got my attention with “Indian peach”. But it was not about my “indian peach” .
    My grandmother would make spiced pickled peaches from an heirloom clingstone peach simply called “Indian” for it’s maroon red skin and flesh . Yes, i idid say maroon flesh.
    They were multi generational peach growers with thousands of trees and tens of varieties but grew only a few Indians on the farm. I don’t think they even offered them for sale as fresh peaches in their roadside market. They were for family use almost exclusively. They were way to astringent for much fresh eating of the fruit . If you were to see me bite into one you would think it was a raw beet , not a peach !
    My grand mother peeled them , studded them with cloves , dropped them into boiling vinegar and sugar solution , then when hot , gingerly packed them in hot jars with a whole cinnamon stick ,lastly pouring the rich ruby liquor over them to cover. I think they were sealed with a lid and band no water bath necessary , I would ,at many times in my childhood ,take one of those jars down off the shelf and marvel at its beauty as I held it up to the light. But those peaches were not destined to be ogled but to be eaten! And they were the highlight of our thanksgiving day table ,well the shared highlight along with her cornbread dressing of course. Some have cranberry sauce but we have pickled Indian peaches !

  2. Susan Cruz says:

    Oh yeah, and while I’m at this stop in the road for I may pass this way again,
    The best variety,if you can find it ,for freezing whole in the skin is Riosa Gem.

    Also freezing peaches covered in
    Kefir – ultimate destination smoothie blender
    Cream -ultimate destination ice cream maker!

    I have also use “sweet” acidophilus milk such as mayfield milk equals
    No browning of peaches .

    1. Martha says:

      My mother always used tapioca! she would be 110 now if still alive. We liked the clearer color of the juice as well as the flavor.

  3. Rachelle says:

    A few of the links I tried took me to the current page of that website, blog, etc. not the post I was looking for . Sometimes that particular recipe was missing altogether even when I searched that site.

  4. CasitaOnSCortez says:

    Thanks to all for the good advice. We have used the vacuum plastic freezer bags for quite a while. Are there concerns about this type of plastic?
    My husband says better get on those peaches or the house will be a-buzzing today. How do those fruit flies find them so fast?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, CasitaonSCortez. Yes, those who worry about plastic include bags in their concerns, and say that even BPA-free plastic can have issues, so who knows? I have seen “BPA-free” products (including bags) and so on, but I figure that glass is just safer, and try to use as little plastic as I can these days. Sometimes bags are the only sensible container, I understand, and I do still use some for certain things.

      1. Heather says:

        when you say glass container, I’m guessing mason jars will work? I did not know you could freeze items in mason jars.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Linda. What browser and version are you using? Works for me in Firefox and Chrome. You don’t need to go to another page, because a tiny “box” drops down if you click the email button, and asks you what address to email it to, then you click “send email”.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Cindy. Hopefully the story answers that — the anti-oxidant ascorbic acid will help, as well the “syrup”.

  5. Celia says:

    My mother, who was diabetic, taught me to freeze apricots in orange juice. In January they taste like sunshine and look like it too. I don’t know why you couldn’t do the same with peaches.

  6. Mala Burt says:

    My mother, an Iowa farm girl, taught me to can. She used a table knife around the side of the jar to get those last few bubbles up to the top. And she taught me to put one peach pit in each quart of peaches we were canning.

  7. Jacqui says:

    I’m in California. Was busy with a wedding over the weekend and all four of my peach trees were ripe on Friday. Now it’s Tuesday morning, first chance I have had to pick peaches. The stone fruits are all two weeks early this year. Everything is past the point where I can freeze it or make jam. Guess I will have to make pie…can’t think of anything else that uses downhill side peaches. I thought maybe I could just juice them and make peach juice ice cubes for drinks or something ! Seems like such a tragedy to wait all year and then have the crop go unpicked when it was at perfection. Any other ideas for overripe peaches ? I don’t think they would be firm enough for peach salsa,

    1. Matthew says:

      For future reference, since I’m too late: peach jam, peach/orange smoothies, peach butter, peach sortbet. I froze several batches of overripe peaches a couple of years ago, and used all of them for the above. Don’t let them go to waste!

      My favorite:

      peach sorbet

      1.5 lbs fresh or frozen peaches, pitted (leave peels on)
      1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
      2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
      1/2 cup water
      3/4 cup sugar
      1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

      Combine ingredients in a blender and purée until very smooth. Refrigerate overnight. Strain purée and churn in an ice cream maker for 30 minutes. Transfer to a container and chill in freezer for 2 to 3 hours, or until firm.

  8. I lightly cook the sliced peaches in water, just barely to cover them – makes a kind of compote, and creates its own syrup. I never add sugar – to me the natural peach sweetness is enough, concentrated by the cooking. Sometimes I add a cinnamon stick, but like it plain, too. I put the cooked peaches and the liquid in mason jars, refrigerate, enjoy a lot of them and give the rest away to friends, letting them know these are not processed and have to be eaten soon. Could I freeze this, do you think? and if so, would I need to add the ascorbic acid and sugar?

  9. Lee says:

    I have been successful slicing peaches in half,leaving peel on, and freezing on metal trays to keep separate and then bagging. this year I will place in glass containers. I like to remove just a few at a time.
    Also I made Peach Butter last week with a few left from last season. Color and flavor excellent.

  10. frances says:

    my aunt use to put whole peaches in a brown bag and set them in the freezer when we want a old snack she would gave us a frozen peach , anyone ever tried this

  11. Holly says:

    This couldn’t come at a better time. We are freezing some peaches right now thanks to our friends Chappell Farms in Kline, SC. I know they say Georgia peaches are the best, but we love the ones our friends make right in the heart of SC. Your tips are amazing, thank you so much!

  12. Jody says:

    Just arrived at my family’s cabin in Pennsylvania with a bushel of peaches (and one of tomatoes, too) in tow. Weekend mission: canning. Who popped up to the top of my search results when seeking instructions and recipes? My old friend and coworker, Margaret! Hope you’re well, and wish my fruit and me luck. :)

    1. margaret says:

      I don’t know Linda, maybe a couple/few days. But I don’t defrost them (they get soupy and mushy), rather I toss them into a smoothie frozen, or lay the frozen slices in a clafoutis or cobbler pan with the batter/crumbles.

  13. Kathy Oburg says:

    Thanks for the clafoutis recipe, Margaret. I can’t wait to try it.

    I love your newsletters and enjoy reading them even though I don’t have a veggie garden. I don’t have enough sun so I have semi-shade flower gardens but no veggies. You give us so much useful info on so many things.

    Don’t know how you manage to do everything. Talk about superwoman!

    Kathy

  14. Tracy Perez says:

    Be careful using fruit pits. Many are poisonous, especially if they taste like almonds.

    I can peaches in brandy. Blanch and peal peaches , quarter and remove pit. Put an inch or so of brandy in each quart canning jar. Add peaches , a half sick of cinnamon, a few cloves. Cover with medium syrup, process in boiling water bath 15 minutes. I buy a box of seconds at an orchard in West Virginia, great for canning and reasonable cost.

    I do the same with fresh figs, but use port and instead of cinnamon and cloves , I put a vanilla bean in syrup while it cooks. These I do in pints, a figs are expensive.

  15. Ceacy Henderson says:

    I freeze peaches as a compote with minimum sugar and it is divine come mid-winter. But I also make scrumptious peach chutney which I can and later give as gifts. I think since the chutney is cooked and then put through a hot water bath to can, using less than perfect peaches is not noticeable.

  16. Lisa says:

    Peach/date/chili chutney would be great to make with any ripe peaches. Add garlic and raisins too if desired. Also, I always add approx 1/4-1/2 tsp almond extract when making peach jam, pie, cobbler. Must check my trees now, the peaches have bent the limbs to the ground, but we’re unripe as of 2 days ago. These posts have gotten me inspired.

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