Guidelines for Preserving Peaches
For everything there is a season, but that season can be extended and enjoyed year round when preserving; peaches, for example can be either frozen or canned so that they are available throughout the year.
Fresh foods are readily enjoyed when picked from the vine; bursting with great flavor and nutrients in their natural state. Capturing that just picked freshness began as a need centuries ago when pioneers lived off the land, and they started the tradition of preserving foods. Early methods of preserving were rudimentary, as resources were limited. Sunlight, however, was abundant, and even early man found that drying various foods in the sun and dry air served to conserve the nutritional value of the food as well as its flavor while extending its useful life. While the basic technique of drying has been vastly improved upon to still provide a great way of storing foods beyond their fresh state, other methods have also been devised and perfected to help individuals store fresh foods such as peaches.
Probably the most popular method of long term storage of food is canning. When home canning is performed, there is a specific process that must be followed to ensure the safety of the food. Fruits such as peaches are typically canned with a syrup solution made of sugar and water. There are two methods of canning peaches; cold pack, in which the sliced and pitted peaches are placed in the jars raw or the hot pack method, which is done by cooking the sliced, pitted peaches in the syrup until heated through. For both types of canning, the jars must be processed in a hot water bath for either 20 minutes when canning pints or 25 minutes when canning quarts. Using canning as a means for preserving peaches means that this fresh fruit will be available on your pantry shelves for up to one year.
Deep freezing is another method of having food available for future consumption. To prepare peaches for freezing, slice and remove the pits of ripe, unblemished fruit. The peaches can be either preserved as halves or in slices, depending on personal preference. As the flesh of peaches discolor easily when exposed to the air, it is best to treat the fruit with ascorbic acid or lemon juice to avoid darkening. The discoloration does not affect the flavor or value of the peaches, but is more aesthetically appealing. Peaches can be frozen naturally, with sugar or in syrup. Freezing natural fruit simply involves placing the fruit in the freezer container of choice. To use a sugar pack, the desired amount of sugar is added to the peaches and allowed to dissolve before placing the fruit in freezer containers. A syrup solution of sugar and water can also be prepared and added to the peaches before freezing in the desired containers. The frozen peaches will remain good for approximately one year.
A more recent development in the field of preserving peaches and other foods is the vacuum sealer, also called “cryovac”. Prepare the peaches by slicing and removing the pits and either place in the sealer bags in their natural state or sprinkle them with sugar. The edges of the bags are then placed on the vacuum sealer machine and the lid closed; the device vacuums all of the air from the bag and tightly seals the bag to prevent air and bacteria from reentering. This method allows the sealed packages to be frozen or refrigerated for extended periods of time.
Preserving peaches and other foods allows fresh picked goodness to be enjoyed throughout the year. While store shelves are full of processed foods containing numerous unpronounceable additives and preservatives, you will have the satisfaction of knowing the natural ingredients in your own preserved food.