|Feature Article||From Harvest to Health|
|How to select, store, prepare and preserve a variety of farm-fresh produce|
Although fresh, high-quality peaches are sweet tasting, they
are low in calories, with one medium peach furnishing only about
37 calories. Yellow-fleshed varieties are a good source of Vitamin
A. Remember, making peach jam or canning peaches in sugar syrup
Fresh, tree-ripened peaches are delicious sliced over cereal,
ice cream or yogurt. Both canning and freezing produce an excellent
product and provide peaches for meals throughout the year. Dried
peaches make an excellent snack alone or mixed into your own homemade
trail mix or granola. For a real taste delight, puree peaches and
dry in the form of fruit leather. Freezer peach jam captures that
fresh peachy taste for use on toast and biscuits all winter long.
For best quality, select peaches that are firm to slightly soft
and free from bruises. The best sign of ripeness in a peach is a
creamy or golden undertone, often called "ground color." The rosy
"blush" on a peach is not a good indicator of ripeness and differs
from one variety to the next. Fresh peach fragrance also indicates
ripeness. Avoid peaches with a green ground color as they lack flavor
and usually shrivel and become tough rather than ripen. Peaches
that are picked green may develop more juice, but they will not
become sweeter. Missouri peaches are available tree-ripened and
Peaches are classified either as clingstone or freestone according
to how difficult it is to remove the pit. Clingstone peaches are
used primarily for commercial canning. Choose:
- Slightly underripe peaches for pickling;
- Firm-ripe peaches for canning and drying;
- Fully ripe peaches for freezing or eating fresh;
- Very ripe peaches without any signs of mold or rot, for making sweet spreads.
Using and Preserving Peaches:
Firm ripe peaches, with good ground color will become fully ripe and soft in three to four days when kept at room temperature in a loosely closed bag or ripening bowl. Peaches are ready to eat when they give to gentle palm pressure. Peaches bruise easily if squeezed. Store fully ripe peaches in the refrigerator, and for best peachy taste, serve fragrant ripe peaches at room temperature.
If a recipe calls for peeled peaches, dip peaches into boiling
water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them immediately into iced
water. The skins will slip right off. Fresh peaches darken quickly
when exposed to air. Powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) sprinkled
on peaches or mixed with syrup keeps them bright and fresh looking
for recipes or preserving.
- Peach halves or slices packed with sugar or in sweetened syrup remain plumper and firmer than peaches packed without sugar.
- Use medium or light syrup to preserve the fresh fruit taste.
- Frozen peaches make excellent pies or cobblers. When preparing peach pie filling, be sure to account for the sugar added to peaches before freezing.
- Frozen peaches used raw in fruit salad or compotes are best served with a few ice crystals still remaining. If completely thawed, they will become mushy.
- Puree peaches, add a dash of lemon juice, sweeten to taste and freeze in small quantities to be used as toppings for ice cream, yogurt, pancakes or waffles.
- Peaches can be stored in the freezer at 0ºF for eight to twelve months.
- One bushel (48 pounds) of peaches yields 32 to 48 pints for freezing.
- Use high-quality, firm-ripe peaches without any mold or signs of decay for canning.
- For a safe home-canned product, peaches must be processed in a boiling-water bath.
- Open kettle canning is not safe for any product and is not recommended.
- Hot packing is recommended for all fruits because it is safer and makes fruit easier to pack in jars. Hot packed peaches are less likely to float than peaches canned by the raw-pack method.
- It is safe to can peaches without sugar either in juice or water. However, peaches canned in light or medium syrup are firmer and have better color and flavor.
- Artificial sweeteners tend to turn bitter from the heat used in canning. If you are watching calories, it's better to can peaches in water or juice, and add artificial sweetener before serving.
- The quality of dried peaches is excellent.
- For drying, select firm-ripe peaches that are heavy for their size.
- Before drying, peaches are usually peeled and halved or quartered. The pit should be removed
- Peaches require an anti-darkening treatment before drying to prevent browning.
- Dried peaches, slightly plumped, can be used in quick breads, chutney, cobblers, cookies, granola and pies.
Quick ’N Fresh Ideas
- Use pureed fresh peaches in fruit punch, milkshakes, and as a basting sauce to brush over grilled meat or poultry.
- Peach halves are delicious barbequed. Sprinkle peaches with ginger and brown sugar, thread on skewers and grill until the sugar carmelizes. Serve with meat, fish or poultry.
- For a quick breakfast make Peach Slush: In a blender, whirl until smooth 1 cup peaches (fresh or drained canned) with 1/2 cup milk, 4 ice cubes and one cup (one 8-ounce container) of plain, lemon, or vanilla yogurt. Pour into two chilled glasses and garnish with peach slice. If slightly frozen peaches are used, omit ice cubes.
“Keep Your Cool” Peach Pie
One 9-inch homemade or purchased graham cracker crumb crust, chilled in freezer.
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
2/3 cup peach nectar*
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (one 8-ounce carton) plain yogurt
2 cups fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
(about 1 pound or 4 medium peaches)
Soften gelatin in peach nectar over low heat. Stir until dissolved. Stir in orange juice and vanilla. Chill until slightly thickened, then whip until fluffy. Fold in yogurt and whip again. Remove crust from freezer and arrange one cup of peach slices on the bottom. Pour in two-thirds of the filling. Arrange the rest of the peaches on the filling and pour in remaining filling. chill until set. Garnish with peach slices.
Makes: 8 servings
*Buy at store, or make at home by pureeing peaches and adding
water. Sweeten with a little sugar if desired.
Peach Crunch Bars
Homemade granola is wonderful in this recipe!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup margarine, melted
2 cups peaches, fresh, frozen or drained canned peaches
2 cups granola
Grease 9-inch square baking pan. Combine flours, brown sugar, and granola in a large bowl. Stir in honey and melted margarine until mixture is crumbly. Press half the mixture into the baking pan and arrange sliced peaches on top. Sprinkle remaining mixture on the top. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Cool in pan before cutting into bars.
Makes: 12 bars
For more preservation information, refer to guidesheets:
- GH1455 Quality for Keeps: Food Preservation--Fruitful Canning
- GH1502 Quality for Keeps: Freezing Fruits
GH1563 Quality for Keeps: How to Dry Foods at Home
To order any of the "From Harvest to Health" publications or
for more preservation information, please refer to the University
of Missouri Extension, Human Environmental Sciences Publications
Food, Nutrition and Fitness section.
Last update: Thursday, June 18, 2009