Just about every summer we luck into a case or two of extremely ripe peaches that must be used immediately. While we could make and eat a couple of dozen pies on the spot, it always seems more reasonable to freeze the peaches for future pies, cakes, and smoothies. Canning would certainly be an option, but we never have quite enough to make it worth the heat, sweat, and (sometimes) frustration of canning. We freeze instead.
The steps are basic:
In preparing your peach, your question will be: “To peel or not to peel?” I always peel. We rarely have a peach with a decent-tasting peel that isn’t overly fuzzy. If you are using your peaches in pies, you will probably want to peel them. That said, not everyone peels their peaches and more power to them. There is a lot of nutrition in the peach peel.
Regardless, begin by washing your peaches. At least 95% of us will then peel them.
There are two schools of thought on peeling a peach.
One school is that we just use a sharp pairing knife and peel it. This is what we do. If you are reasonably proficient with a pairing knife and if the peach is ripe, you will be able to peel the peach fairly easily.
The second school blanches and peels, as you would peel a tomato for canning. You simply boil water, submerge the peaches for about a minute, and then drain them and place them in cool water. The skin is loosed and becomes very easy to remove. For large batches in particular, this may be your best bet. If your kitchen is 110 degrees and you are about to die, you might get a cold drink and try the first approach instead.
In either case, you will find it easier to peel the peach starting from the end opposite the stem and working toward the stem.
Slice the peach in half to remove the pit.
Slice your peaches.
If the pit does not come free easily, you have a cling stone peach. Use your knife to remove “slices” from the whole peach as best you can. These are less convenient but tend to be extremely tasty.
When it comes to freezing peaches, the method you choose will depend on your own circumstances. The “tray freezing” method is great for freezing loose peach slices which are easily accessible for fruit drinks (smoothies) and smaller baking projects. We use this method almost exclusively.
The “sugar water” method will preserve your peaches longer without freezer burn. It is an exceptional option for freezing pie-ready peaches. They are already slightly sweetened for the pie. You can also freeze them in pie-friendly quantities (e.g. 2 cups at a time).
Once you have your peaches sliced, simply lay the slices on a cookie sheet, side by side, and place the tray in the freezer. When the slices are frozen, loosen them with a spatula and place them in a freezer storage bag.
If your peaches are especially ripe, you will have a lot of juice. Set it aside rather than adding it to your tray. It is difficult to scrape off a tray and can be used in a drink or in baking.
In cleaning out our freezer in the summer of 2012, we found two bags of peaches a friend gave to us in 2010. She packed them up in 2007. Five years later, there is very little freezer burn noticeable in the bag. I have included the picture here as a reminder of how effective this method is.
If you plan to keep your peach stash for more than six months, this is probably the best method for you.
You will want to experiment with the amount of sugar you use in your sugar solution. A sugar syrup with equal parts water to sugar will preserve your peaches best, but they will be awfully sweet. We tend to use about 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water but you can also use plain water without sugar if your circumstances require it.
Plan for about 1 cup of water for 3 peaches.
As you pack your containers, leave a bit of head room on top. Your sugar water will expand and potentially bust the top off your container or split your freezer bags. Leave about an inch of breathing room in each case.
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