Peach season in South Carolina ushers in a time for peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach pie, and peaches plain. Besides offering a sweet treat, a medium raw peach will give you both vitamins A and C and less than 40 calories.
Roadside stands in peach-producing counties are popular stops for peach lovers in our state, as well as local farmer’s markets. Pick-your-own orchards give customers a chance to choose their own fruit directly from the tree. You have the choice of buying a small basket just for you and your family to eat or a bushel for preserving. Peaches bruise easily, so when selecting fruits look out for soft spots. If the peaches you have bought are not quite ripe enough, place them in a paper bag, pierce the bag in several places, and set it aside at room temperature for a couple of days. Add an apple to the bag to speed the process.
You may can, freeze, or make preserves out of them. Freezing is the most popular method since it takes less time. To freeze peaches:
- Peeling a bushel of peaches goes a lot faster with the boiling water dip. Dip peaches a few at a time into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer the peaches immediately into ice water.
- The skins should slip off easily. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Slice them into the size you like and treat them to prevent browning. The recommended way to do this is the put the sliced fruit into a water and vitamin C solution prepared at a ratio of six crushed 500 mg. vitamin C tablets to one gallon of water. You may also find the vitamin C packaged as ascorbic acid.
- When all the peaches have been peeled and treated, drain the water and sprinkle on a half cup of sugar for each quart of peaches. Stir gently and let the fruit stand for 15 minutes. The peaches will begin to make their own juice.
- Pack the peaches into freezer bags to within three to four inches of the top. Squeeze out the air, seal, label and freeze. You may also use rigid plastic containers. Leave about an inch of headspace before freezing.
- When thawed, the peaches will have a softer texture than when they were fresh, but they will still taste better than canned peaches or the imported fresh peaches you may find at your supermarket.
- If you plan to serve your peaches fresh within a few hours, just hold them in a marinade of orange juice or lemon water – both contain adequate amounts of vitamin C to keep the peaches from darkening until they are eaten.
For more information, check out Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center website and look for fact sheets HGIC 3140, Preserving Peaches or HGIC 3534 Peach Basics.