When we were growing up, my Mom would freeze the peaches. There is nothing like opening a container of frozen peaches in the middle of winter. After they thaw, they taste as good as they did in the summer. By canning these fruits and giving them to us in our lunch boxes, she instilled in us a love for fruits that we still have today. These are the steps you can take to freeze peaches:
1. Select firm, ripe peaches. We always use Red Haven Freestone peaches. They are the best for canning and freezing. They maintain their color and taste all winter. Make sure to use FREESTONE peaches. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.
2. Prepare cold syrup. The syrup recipe is:
Stir together: 3 cups sugar
5 ½ cups water
1 TABLESPOON Lemon Juice (to help retain freshness)
Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Wash peaches thoroughly.
4. Peel the skins off the peaches. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit.
5. Place the peaches into either pint or quart-sized clean plastic containers. You can freeze the peaches in halves, quarters, or slices. I think slices are best.
6. Cover the peaches in the container with cold syrup. Make sure peaches are completely covered.
7. You need to allow ½ inch for expansion at the top of the container. An easy way to make sure you do this is to crumble a sheet of wax paper into a ball and place it on top of the peaches. It will help keep the peaches under the syrup and create head space.
8. Cover the container with a lid and place peaches in the freezer.
Helpful hint: Freezing peaches is not difficult, but it must be done methodically. Only do 2 or 3 containers at a time. You can’t peel all the peaches, than put them all in containers, etc. The peaches could get brown. Instead, work on a 5-10 peaches at a time and see the process completely through. Then, you can begin again.
Also, if you run out of syrup, just make more. How much syrup you need depends on how many peaches you freeze. Frozen peaches will keep for at least a year.
If you don’t have a freezer, but you’d still like to preserve fresh peaches for the winter, why not try canning peaches? My Mom did it every year while we were growing up, and then she taught me. Now I would like to pass the skill on to you.
If you’ve never tried home canning before, don’t be afraid. You can start with a small quantity and see how it goes. I will tell you that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. When you are eating a bowl of fresh fruit in the middle of winter, you will be so glad you tried it. So here are the directions for home canning fresh peaches:
How to Can Peaches
1. The first step in any canning process is washing and sterilizing the jars. Whether you are buying new jars or reusing old ones, it is absolutely necessary to wash and sterilize the jars to prepare them for the food. This process is very simple.
Start by washing the jars like you would normally wash dishes. Then place them upside down in your oven. Set the temperature at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10-15 minutes. This process will dry up the moisture and kill any bacteria in the jars. It will also remove any unwelcome odors from the jars. When the cooking time is over, turn the oven off, but let the jars in the oven until you are ready to use them.
2. The next step is choosing peaches. Start with fresh, ripe FREESTONE peaches. Only use freestone peaches. This will save you a lot of time, effort and frustration. We always use a variety called Red Haven Peaches. They retain their flavor, color, and quality very well throughout the canning process. If these are not available, ask your local orchard what variety they recommend for the canning process.
3. When you are ready to can your peaches, fill your canner with water and turn to a “HI” temperature until it boils. This will take a long time. By the time the water is boiling, you will have several jars finished and ready to process cook. If it starts to boil, turn the water off. However, you will probably be done before the water boils.
4. Next, prepare your syrup. Some people do not use syrup. We always do. To make the syrup, combine 3 cups of water to 2 cups of sugar. Place on the stove to heat up. Stir thoroughly until all of the sugar is dissolved.
Honestly, it is best to make several batches at a time. That way you don’t have to constantly stop to make more syrup. Realistically, we combine 9 cups of water to 6 cups of sugar. However, the larger the batch, the longer it will take to heat up. The syrup is ready when it comes to a boil.
5. While you are waiting for your canner and syrup to boil, you can start working with your peaches. Begin by washing your peaches thoroughly to remove any pesticides.
A note of warning: This is not a process you can do assembly line. You need to work with one jar at a time. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself or the peaches will turn brown. Remember the canner will only hold 6-7 jars at a time.
6. Now you are ready to remove a jar from the oven. Set it close to your work space.
7. Cut the peaches in half and remove the stone. This will go easier if you buy freestone peaches. After the stone is removed, peel each peach. Then wash each peach again.
8. Place each peach in the jar until the jar is filled. Fill the jar tightly, but do not go above the jar ring. You need space for the juice and expansion, so pack the raw peaches to ½ inch of the top of the jar.
9. Next, take the jar of peaches and add the BOILING syrup. That’s important: the syrup must be boiling. Make sure to leave ½ inch space at the top of the jar. A few years ago, we discovered an interesting trick you may want to try. Insert a butter knife around the jar after you add syrup. This will remove any air pockets that have formed in the jar. You will probably need to add a little more syrup after you do this. Again, don’t forget to leave ½ inch of space at the top of the jar.
10. You are now ready to place the lids on the jars. Before you can do that, you need to sterilize them. You can do this by cooking them in boiling water for about a minute. Boil both the jar lid and the ring.
11. Before placing the rings on the jars, take a wet paper towel and wipe the top of the jar.
12. Take the jar lid and ring out of the boiling water and place it on the jar. Make sure it is on tightly, but DO NOT PRESS THE CENTER OF THE JAR LID. For more information on this, read the directions that come on the box of jar lids.
13. Set that jar aside while you finish the other 5 jars you will be able to process cook. After all the jars are finished, place them in the rack that comes with the canner.
14. You are now ready to process cook your jars. We do this using a canner. To do this, you lift the rack into the canner. The water CANNOT BE BOILING when you put the jars into the canner. It can be hot, but not boiling. If it is boiling, take the lid off and let it cool down a couple of minutes. Then place the rack into the canner.
15. The water must completely cover the jars. If it doesn’t, you should add more water.
16. When the water in the canner turns to a rolling boil, turn the stove temperature down to a medium heat. Set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer is done, carefully lift the peaches from the canner and place on a glass cutting board.
17. After a few minutes, carefully remove the jars from the rack. Remember, they are very hot. Also, don’t accidentally touch the inside of the jar lid. You want the lid to pop on it’s own.
18. Allow the peaches to cool overnight. The next day, tighten the jar lid and wipe the jar with a damp cloth. For some reason, peach jars get dirty.
19. Finally, you need to test the seal on the jar. To test a jar that has a flat metal lid, press the center of the jar lid; if the lid is down and will not move the jar is sealed. It is ready to be stored in a cool, dry place. If it didn’t seal properly, you will hear a little “pop”. The jar didn’t seal properly. You can still eat the food; you will just need to store it in your refrigerator.
These are the directions my family has followed for years as we can peaches. Year after year, the peaches are delicious. If you would like more information or instruction on home canning, sterilizing jars or jar lids, or how to know when a jar is sealed, you can contact Ball or Kerr at www.freshpreserving.com . These people are the experts in home canning, and can address any issues or questions you may have. I’m sure they would love to help you.