When you hear peach you probably think Georgia and for good reason (I don’t want to offend any Georgians here, especially because it is my husband’s home state). But did you know that the Texas Hill Country is also known for producing excellent peaches? Two weeks ago Zenie and I were back at the orchard to pick.
So I am into (as in maybe slightly obsessed with) eating in season. Foods are healthier, tastier and more affordable when they are produced and picked during their natural growing season. And eating in season goes hand in hand with eating local foods which encourages transparent farming and business practices and helps us to support our own economies.
So we picked a lot of peaches.
The staff at Marburger Orchard is great about explaining which peach is ready to pick.
You can tell a peach is ripe when it is deep yellow has no green left (this sounds easier than it is, in the scattered sun and shadows under a peach tree it can be tricky to tell. Picking my own always gives a much deeper sense of appreciation for the farm workers who are picking my food most of the year). When peaches ripen on the tree their flavor is fully developed once they turn yellow even if they are still firm. You can leave them on the counter to soften (lay on a towel and rotate them to keep from bruising) once they are at the texture you want you can stick them in the fridge where they will keep for a week or so.
Eventually even the best peaches will start get brown and bruised. Before this happens it is worth taking the time to freeze them to enjoy throughout the year. Frozen peaches work great in jams and cobblers (I’m still looking for a favorite peach cobbler recipe so message me if you have one to share) and let you get a fresh taste of peach even in the middle of winter.
The process of freezing is easy and isn’t as time consuming as you might think.
So before we get started there are a couple terms you may see thrown around the peach world that do weigh in a little on how easy this is going to be.
Early in the season most of the peaches are “clingstone” varieties. This means that the fruit of the peach stays adhered to the pit making them harder to cut and clean. Later in the season we get “freestone” peaches, with these the fruit separates easily, sometimes the seed even falls out when the peach is cut. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it does make a significant difference in time it takes to clean and freeze peaches.
The batch I did most recently were what the farmer called “semi-freestone” which meant they were somewhere in between. I didn’t give it much thought until I was cleaning them and found that cutting and separating the fruit from the pit was quite a bit messier and more time consuming than I expected. I realized that last season I mostly froze freestone peaches without planning on it.
So with all that, if you are planning on freezing or canning large batches it is worth asking your grower or your grocer what type they are.
Okay so now back to the freezing.
You will need:
Pot of boiling water
Pot of ice water
10 Simple Steps
1. Start with ripe or slightly over-ripe peaches. As they ripen the flavor becomes fuller and they become softer and a bit easier to peal. Don’t wait so long that they get brown and mushy though, then the process becomes more difficult.
2. Wash peaches. As in, rinse in water.
4. Drop 4 or so peaches into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. You will need longer cooking time for firmer peaches and for peaches that came right out of the fridge, and shorter cooking time if they are at room temperature and already soft.
5. Remove and place peaches into ice water for a few minutes. Then lay on a towel to dry.
6. Once all the peaches are done start peeling. The skin should come off easily.
7. Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Slice into quarters or smaller depending on how you plan to use them (at this point my hands were too sticky to keep taking pictures).
8. Lay peaches onto parchment covered baking sheets.
9. Freeze peaches. Once frozen remove and place into bags or other storage containers. This will let you remove as many peach slices as you want for use throughout the winter.
If you know for sure that you plan to make jam or something that does not require peach slices you can skip step 8 and just drop your halved or quartered peaches into a bag and they will freeze as one solid mass.
10. You can apply this same general principle to berries or almost any other fruit.