Peaches are among the fruits most amenable to preservation. They can well. They dehydrate well. But to truly capture that summertime fresh flavor for year ‘round use, nothing beats freezing. And nothing could be easier.
Peaches can be packed in syrup and frozen. They can be pureed. Peaches can even be wrapped and frozen whole. However, a peach that is skinned, sliced and dry packed has the most versatility. When not frozen into a solid bulk, a few can be taken at a time to spruce up that smoothie, garnish a cocktail or sweeten a cup of yogurt. The only downside to this convenience is that you may use them up before they can make it into that mid-winter peach pie.
When selecting peaches to freeze, make sure to use the free stone variety. The flesh of cling peaches, uh, clings to the pit, making it difficult to separate. The pit in a free stone rests loose in the fruit and can be effortlessly extricated.
Now about that skin. While the skin may be left on when freezing, removing it will give you some flexibility when it comes time to use your frozen bounty. Thankfully, there’s no need to pull out the peeler. Blanching peaches is easy to do and kind of fun.
To blanch peaches, drop the fruit into a large pot of boiling water for about forty-five seconds. Don’t dawdle! The idea is to loosen the skin without cooking the flesh. Remove the fruit from the boiling water and drop immediately into a bowl of ice water. The skin will now slip easily free of the flesh. Voila!
Cut your now naked peaches in half. Discard the pit and slice into bite-sized slivers. About half a dozen peaches will yield a quart (seven, if you eat as much as I do during the process).
In a large bowl, toss the slices with the juice of half a lemon and one third cup of sugar (or more, if desired) per quart and allow to macerate for about half an hour. The ascorbic acid will prevent the flesh from browning. Commercial ascorbic acid or even a little ground up vitamin C supplement may be effectively used in place of the lemon juice.
At this point, the peaches could be packed into ziploc bags and frozen, but the moisture would cause them to clump together. Not a problem if you plan on using the entire quart at once. For our purposes though, we want the peaches to be stored loose in the bag.
Spread the peach slices on a baking sheet or large plate lined with parchment paper, making sure they do not touch. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. My freezer space is limited, so I use two plates and very gently stack one on top of the other. Pop them into the freezer for a few hours or overnight.
The now-frozen peaches may be easily packed into quart-sized ziploc bags without sticking together. Once full, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible to prevent freezer burn. Using a sharpie, label each bag with the contents and date packaged. Back into the freezer. We’re done!
Well-packaged peaches will retain full flavor for about a year in the freezer, but can be kept even longer. Of course, by this time next year, peaches will be back in season and we’ll be ready to freeze a new batch. Preserving the harvest has never been so tasty.