By Cat, Aug 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
I used to have a ‘market basket’ tree, which had peaches, apricots and two varieties of plums grafted to the main trunk, but unfortunately it died after a freak late freeze. Nevertheless, I loved getting its mix of fruits and freezing some for the winter, and I’d love to try another such tree.
This article applies to all stone fruits, including apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums/prunes.
Freezing Stone Fruits (Peaches, etc.)
These instructions, from PickYourOwn.org (1), are for the stone fruits, which includes peaches, plums, nectarines and cherries. Many of our local cherry orchards also grow peaches, plums and apricots, but these trees don’t generally have a long life, as the once-in-a-decade or two late spring hard freezes will kill them off. But they are great while they last.
Cling-free peaches are the best to use because it is so much easier to remove the fruit from the pit. It takes about 5 good-size peaches or nectarines to fill a quart size bag or jar.
All stone fruits are best frozen in a liquid to avoid freezer burn: sugar water (light, medium or heavy syrup) or fruit juice such as apple, peach or white grape. However, it is possible to freeze them dry, or with just a bit of added syrup, just be aware there may be some freezer burn.
- Use freshest fruit possible. Harvest in early morning, especially during hot weather, for the most flavor. If you cannot freeze them right away, store in fridge or on ice in an insulated cooler. Choose Organic or spray-free, as the toxins in the sprays are readily absorbed into the fruit through the thin, porous skin.
- Packing in fruit juice requires no special preparation, but sugar water must first be cooked to make a syrup. PickYourOwn.org on peaches (1) provides a table for sugar to liquid ratios. I prefer a light syrup since I avoid sugar; this requires 2 cups sugar to 6 cups water, to yield 7 cups syrup, which will provide for 7 quarts of peaches. (You need about 1 cup syrup for 1 quart of peaches).
- Heat water in saucepan or stock pot, slowly adding sugar so that it dissolves rather than sinking to the bottom, while you stir constantly. When all is dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool before using.
- Wash fruit in a large pot or bowl, then rinse in a colander for at about 10 minutes.
- If desired, remove peel, not by peeling, but by blanching in boiling water: Hold in the water for 20-45 seconds, then remove using slotted spoon, to an ice water bath for several minutes. The peel should easily slip off. However, if you don’t mind the skin, it doesn’t need to be removed.
- Slice into halves, quarters, or wedge slices, cutting away any brown or mushy spots or bruises. Toss the pits. To prevent browning, sprinkle with ¼ cup lemon juice or fruit fresh (citric acid), then tossing gently in a bowl. (I’m not sure what quantity of peaches goes with this ¼ cup; check the label on the Fruit Fresh.
- Add fruit juice or syrup, about 1 cup per quart of fruit. Stir gently to combine.
- Fill freezer bags or freezer jars. leaving ½ inch head-room since the liquid expands as it freezes. See also “Notes” below.
- Label bags/jars with contents and date, then set in freezer.
- If using a vacuum sealer: You must first freeze the peaches and their liquid in regular bags, to avoid sucking up the juice by the vacuum device. Before sealing, if some of the fruit is exposed above the frozen liquid, add a bit more juice/syrup to cover.
- If using zip-lox bags: Before sealing, if some of the fruit is exposed above the frozen liquid, add a bit more juice/syrup to cover. Then insert a straw to suck out excess air before closing bag completely.
- When using jars, it is impossible to exclude the air above the fruit & syrup mix, so be sure the fruit is well covered with the liquid. This is tricky, and be aware the jars may break.
- PickYourOwn.org, Freezing Peaches (pickyourown.org//peachesfreezing.htm