How to Freeze Peaches
Tips for making your harvest last.
Peaches are among the fruits most amenable to preservation. They can well. They dehydrate well. But to truly capture that summertime fresh flavor for year ‘round use, nothing beats freezing. And nothing could be easier. (See more on freezing)
Peaches can be packed in syrup and frozen. They can be pureed. Peaches can even be wrapped and frozen whole. However, a peach that is skinned, sliced and dry packed has the most versatility. When not frozen into a solid bulk, a few can be taken at a time to spruce up that smoothie, garnish a cocktail or sweeten a cup of yogurt. The only downside to this convenience is that you may use them up before they can make it into that mid-winter peach pie.
When selecting peaches to freeze, make sure to use the free stone variety. The flesh of cling peaches, uh, clings to the pit, making it difficult to separate. The pit in a free stone rests loose in the fruit and can be effortlessly extricated.
Now about that skin. While the skin may be left on when freezing, removing it will give you some flexibility when it comes time to use your frozen bounty. Thankfully, there’s no need to pull out the peeler. Blanching peaches is easy to do and kind of fun.
To blanch peaches, drop the fruit into a large pot of boiling water for about forty-five seconds. Don’t dawdle! The idea is to loosen the skin without cooking the flesh. Remove the fruit from the boiling water and drop immediately into a bowl of ice water. The skin will now slip easily free of the flesh. Voila!
Cut your now naked peaches in half. Discard the pit and slice into bite-sized slivers. About half a dozen peaches will yield a quart (seven, if you eat as much as I do during the process).
In a large bowl, toss the slices with the juice of half a lemon and one third cup of sugar (or more, if desired) per quart and allow to macerate for about half an hour. The ascorbic acid will prevent the flesh from browning. Commercial ascorbic acid or even a little ground up vitamin C supplement may be effectively used in place of the lemon juice.
Plums are a natural for home gardens with their compact size and easy-growing nature. These trees tend to be beautiful specimens and bear heavy loads of fruit—not enough to overwhelm, but more than enough to balance fresh eating with sharing and putting by. ‘Opal’ plum trees are self-fertile. Fruit ripens early in the season, ripening over a two-week window, so you’re not overwhelmed with produce.
Give yourself a treat by planting a cherry tree. These trees add beauty with their spring blooms, and it’s tough to beat the tasty fruit. Just make sure you protect your crop from hungry birds with a little scare tape or netting. For small yards, look for Compact Stella, a self-fertile cherry that grows 10 to 12 feet tall and starts bearing within two years. If you’re into pie baking, plant sour cherries, which are self-fertile. Other cherries need a pollinating partner.
In warm regions (Zones 8-10), kumquats make an excellent addition to the family yard. Trees have a natural compact size and classic deep green citrus-type leaves. Fruits are small and egg-shaped and decorate trees from late fall to early spring. Kumquats are fully edible—skins and flesh. Skins are sweet, while the flesh is tart, making for an unusual flavor combination. It’s the ideal choice for marmalade. Trees adapt well to containers in areas with colder winters.
Few fruits compete with the sensory delight peaches offer, from fuzzy skin to juice-dribbling flesh. Peach trees are lovely in flower and add good color to landscapes. Most peach trees are self-fertile, so you can get away with planting just one tree. The most critical aspect of choosing a tree is cold hardiness—make sure you’re getting a tree that will survive your winters. In colder zones, avoid planting peach trees on southern exposures, or you risk early blooms that a late frost might zap. Check out columnar peaches, which take up little space and adapt to containers.
For gardeners in Zones 9 to 10, mandarin oranges can serve as a stunning landscape plant with their deep green leaves, fragrant blooms and bright orange fruit. In colder zones, choose dwarf mandarin trees for container culture. Mandarins are actually hardier than standard oranges and feature that easy-peeling fruit perfect for tossing into salads. Semi-dwarf trees usually withstand pruning to a certain size. ‘Satsumi’ is the coldest hardy variety. Other good choices are ‘Honey’ and ‘Encore.’ ‘Pixie’ is more of a shrub.
Pears combine beauty with delicious fruit that’s a gift to any size yard. Look for dwarf pears sold on rootstock Pyrodwarf, which produces trees 6 to 8 feet tall. ‘Beurre Bosc Dwarf’ is a genetic dwarf pear that grows 8 to 10 feet high. This photo shows cordon pears. Cordon refers to a type of stem training and pruning that results in a tightly upright growth form. The method works on pear or apple trees that produce fruit on spur-bearing shoots, which are short side shoots along stems. You’ll get the best harvest by planting more than one pear tree for cross-pollination.
Fresh ripe apricots are nothing like their hard, store-bought cousins. A ripe apricot is actually too soft to ship, so the only way to enjoy that taste treat is to pick it fresh from the tree. Apricot trees are medium size, but you can find dwarf varieties. This fruit tree easily holds its own as an ornamental in the landscape. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but most need a partner nearby. In colder zones, look for varieties that flower later to avoid losing blossoms to late spring frosts.
Fragrant leaves, flowers and fruits make Kaffir lime a delight to grow, whether in the landscape or in a pot. Dwarf Kaffir Lime tops out at 6 to 10 feet and is versatile in the kitchen, prized for its leaves, fruit zest and juice. This is the must-have lime for preparing Thai, Lao and Cambodian cuisine. Mexican or key lime is another good choice for home gardens. Lime trees are very cold sensitive and must be protected from frost. Most limes are self-pollinating, although the flowers easily beckon bees with their sweet fragrance.
Whether you grow them in a pot or small backyard orchard, apples bring a familiar, cherished fruit to the landscape. Spring flowers transform trees into works of art. Choose dwarf or cordon-type (columnar) trees for landscapes and containers. Apple blossoms need to be cross-pollinated. Ask where you purchase your trees which varieties are compatible with yours.
Small, 1-inch fruits resemble tangerines and offer an unusual taste treat. The peels on calamondin are sweet, while the flesh has more of a tart zing. This is a citrus tree that’s commonly grown in containers. It’s one of the more cold-hardy citrus trees, tolerating temperatures to 20°F. The trees are highly ornamental with deep green leaves punctuated by white flowers or orange fruit.
When it comes to easy, figs are near the top of the list. Plants grow with few demands. Pruning may be top of the list, although if you grow naturally short types, like ‘Black Jack’ or ‘Improved Brown Turkey,’ pruning to control height isn’t needed. Some varieties send up suckers to form fig colonies that resemble an oversize shrub. You can also raise a fig tree in a container, which is one way to grow this tasty dessert fruit in colder zones. Figs are self-pollinating.
Don’t overlook lemons when planning an edible home landscape. Fresh lemons bring sparkle and color to the dinner table and play a key role in many dishes, including fish, vegetables, desserts and cocktails. Ripe ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon fruit lasts eight months or more on the tree. In colder zones, grow lemons in pots that you can haul outside for summer and place in a protected location come winter.
For a stunning fall display, you won’t go wrong adding persimmons to your landscape. Fall leaves offer a host of fiery hues, and fruits turn deep orange when ripe. Most unripe persimmons are astringent, but ripened fruits are referred to as “food of the gods.” Asian varieties tend to be shorter, while native American types are full-on trees. Look for dwarf varieties for smaller spaces. Persimmons aren’t self-fertile; you’ll need two trees for fruit production.
Botanically speaking, tangerines and mandarin oranges have the same Latin name. In California, ‘Dancy’ is a long-favorite variety, with loose skin and late-season ripening. For many orchard owners, ‘Dancy’ sets the standard for tangerine flavor. In the home garden, consider ‘Fremont’ tangerine, with fruit that’s wonderful fresh or juiced. Ripe fruit lasts up to 8 months on the tree. Another long-time California favorite is Ojai Pixie, which is usually sold as ‘Pixie’ mandarin.
At this point, the peaches could be packed into ziploc bags and frozen, but the moisture would cause them to clump together. Not a problem if you plan on using the entire quart at once. For our purposes though, we want the peaches to be stored loose in the bag.
Spread the peach slices on a baking sheet or large plate lined with parchment paper, making sure they do not touch. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. My freezer space is limited, so I use two plates and very gently stack one on top of the other. Pop them into the freezer for a few hours or overnight.
The now-frozen peaches may be easily packed into quart-sized ziploc bags without sticking together. Once full, squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible to prevent freezer burn. Using a sharpie, label each bag with the contents and date packaged. Back into the freezer. We’re done!
Well-packaged peaches will retain full flavor for about a year in the freezer, but can be kept even longer. Of course, by this time next year, peaches will be back in season and we’ll be ready to freeze a new batch. Preserving the harvest has never been so tasty.