The garden harvest season is on, and I know many of you are busy with all kinds of food preservation, canning, freezing, drying and pickling or fermenting. I know the weather has been a challenge, but there has been a bumper crop of many vegetables and fruits.
Earlier I wrote about the wonderful experience I have each summer, standing in the garden and eating the vegetables right out of hand; the flavor can’t be beat! Most of the time I don’t rinse it off, I just wipe it on my clothes and enjoy. I have shared with garden visitors when I do this that this one of many ways to keep up your immunity.
There is something about eating a tomato fresh from the vine and having the juice run down your arm. I think you all should have the same experience when it comes to eating peaches! There is just nothing like a fresh peach eaten out of your hands. I know most of us can’t just pick a peach from the tree, but we can stand outside in the wonderful sun and enjoy the peach and all its juices.
The sweet, juicy peaches grown today have little resemblance to the earliest peaches, native to China. Until modern horticulturists developed the strains we enjoy today, most peaches were small, fairly sour, and certainly fuzzier than modern varieties. Today there are many varieties. Some have stones that cling to the flesh that are called clingstone varieties; others are freestone.
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The peach is delicious eaten fresh and raw or preserved for later eating. Some of the recommended varieties for preserving are Redhaven, Redskin, Sunhigh and Triogem.
There are always new varieties coming out. Some have yellow flesh and others have white or pale pink flesh. Some have deep yellow skin with a reddish blush, while others have a white skin with a pink blush. Some are firm fleshed varieties designed for canning; others are for eating fresh out of hand. The peach is one the American’s favorite fruits and one the country’s most important fruit crops.
When selecting peaches smell them. Yes, smell them! An appealing fragrance is the best clue to a ripe peach. Also, look for fruit that gives slightly to pressure and has a yellow or creamy background color between its blushed areas. Avoid fruit with greenish undertones and fruit that is bruised or very soft. Peaches will keep in the refrigerator crisper for up to two weeks.
Peaches eaten out of hand do not require peeling. The peel on the peach, in fact, has more flavor and it is better for you: the peel contributes fiber which healthiest eating plans require. Most peaches are peeled for use in cooked food, but when making pie or cobbler for your family I would encourage you not to peel them, there will be more flavor and of course fiber.
Ripe peaches are usually easy to peel; others may need to be blanched first. To blanch cut a small “X” in the rounded end opposite the stem, dip fruit in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into ice water. The skin will peel away readily. Peaches oxidize and brown when exposed to air. To slow this down, or prevent it, rub or sprinkle the flesh with lemon juice.
A tasty way to preserve peaches is to freeze them. Select peaches that aren’t quite ripe, as freezing will make them a little softer. Instead of freezing in sugar syrup or dry pack, which is where you mix sugar with the fruit, try fruit juice. I have used orange juice, white grape juice and peach juice. I buy the frozen juice concentrate and make it according the directions and freeze the peach in it. I have used the juices alone and I’ve also combined them to make a delicious frozen peach. A real bonus was having the tasty juice to drink besides the wonderful peaches.
The Purdue University Extension has an excellent publication, “Let’s Preserve Peaches, Apricots, Nectarines.”
SYRUP PACK FOR FREEZING PEACHES
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid or three 500 mg vitamin C tablets, crushed
- 4 cups water
- Prepare peaches by blanching and pitting the fruit.
- In a pitcher, mix and dissolve the sugar, ascorbic acid (or vitamin C) and water.
- Add 1 cup of syrup for each quart of peaches.
- In a freezer bag, pack and press down the fruit. Add syrup to cover. If using pint bags or jars, leave 1/2 inch of headspace. If using quart bags or jars, leave 1 inch of headspace.
- In the container, place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper or wrapping material to keep peaches submerged.
- Seal, label and freeze.
DRY PACK FOR FREEZING PEACHES
Serving size: 1 quart
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid
- 3 tablespoons water
- Prepare peaches by blanching and pitting the fruit
- To prevent oxidation, dissolve ascorbic acid in water and sprinkle on the prepared peaches.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix 1/2 cup of dry sugar with a quart of prepared fruit.
- In a freezer container, pack the fruit. If using pint bags or jars, leave 1/2 inch of headspace. If using quart bags or jars, leave 1 inch of headspace.
- Seal, label and freeze.