PEACHES, I’ll admit, are not as easy to freeze as green beans or herbs. To preserve their color, texture, and mouth-watering juiciness, the fruits must be blanched, peeled, tossed with ascorbic acid, and then suspended in a sugar-syrup. Here’s my fully-illustrated freezing-routine that guarantees succulent success:
Start with ripe, ready-to-eat peaches. “Free-stone” peaches (commonly available in late summer), are a good choice, since the pits are easily removed. The pits of “cling-stone” peaches (these are available in early summer) can be difficult to work with, as their pits are firmly attached to the flesh.
Wash the peaches in cold water.
Making the Sugar Syrup. Combine 2 parts water to 1 part sugar.( My peck of fruit required 8 cups water, and 4 cups sugar.) Heat this mixture on the stove, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Then let the syrup cool to room temperature. I’m told that white grape juice is a healthier (if less flavorful) alternative to sugar syrup.
Blanching and Chilling. In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a rapid boil. Working in batches, 3-6 peaches at a time, drop the fruit into the boiling bath for exactly 60 seconds. Then grab a slotted spoon, and transfer the peaches to a big bowl of ice-cold water, and let chill for at least 60 seconds. You will save a lot of time and dropped peaches if your ice water is located beside the boiling pot.
Peeling. Once blanched and chilled, peaches are supposedly easy to peel. This has not been my experience. I find that if the fruit is set stem-end down, and the skin is scored at quarter intervals with a knife (as above), it can be peeled rather cleanly. Start peeling from the pointy bud-end, not the flat stem-end.
Pitting and Slicing. Slice the fruit in half, and remove the pit. Then slice the halves into 1/2-inch segments (or just leave in halves).
Tossing with Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C). Scoop up the peach segments, lay them in a bowl, and gently toss with “Fruit Fresh,” a powdered ascorbic acid product available at most supermarkets. Otherwise, give the fruit slices a squeeze of lemon juice. The goal is to prevent browning.
Packing in Bags. Place 3 cups or so fruit per one-quart zip-lock bag. Ladle in enough sugar syrup to cover the fruit, then fold the bag at the liquid-level (to express air). Seal and freeze.
Packing in Tubs. Place 3-4 cups fruit in a plastic tub, add liquid to cover, leaving approximately one inch of head room. To keep fruit from floating to the top, and consequently being exposed to air, place a crumpled piece of waxed paper over fruit, as above. Then place seal (below) and freeze.
Processed this way, you can count on peaches to keep well for up to 12 months in the freezer. If you have any questions to ask, or have your own peach-freezing tips to share, by all means post them in the comments field below.
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