This has been a banner year for our peach (and apple) trees. I called UCONN’s cooperative extension service when this same scenario happened back in 2015 to ask why, and this is what was explained. Warm and sunny spring weather encourages bees to actively pollinate fruit blossoms. A dry summer with plenty of sunny days helps the fruit to grow well. In addition, dry weather discourages the growth of powdery mildew and other fungal infections. In other words, this summer we’ve had perfect peach (and apple) growing weather in our zone 5b Connecticut location.
Our four peach trees produced several bushels over the course of three weeks, so I had to get busy putting up these juicy, sweet delights before they spoiled. The first thing I did was refrigerate approximately a bushel to buy some time. We have two dorm-sized spare refrigerators available for moments like this. The rest I put up as quickly as possible before returning to the chilled peaches.
I filled our Excalibur dehydrator a few times with peeled 1/4-inch-thick slices. Typical dehydrating instructions recommend pretreating fruit in citric acid, ascorbic acid, or lemon juice to prevent darkening. I always skip this step and still have good results. I prefer to store my dehydrated peaches in the freezer. After cooling the slices, I loosely pack them in mason jars, tighten the lids, then condition them at room temperature for a day before storing in the freezer (conditioning allows the remaining moisture to redistribute evenly). The slices are easy to remove from the jars when frozen in this way, and thaw within seconds. Dehydrated peach slices pack a sweet punch of peach flavor and are a delicious addition to oatmeal, breakfast quinoa, cold cereal, and plain yogurt. We also enjoy eating them right out of the jar.
I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin to make twenty-one half-pints of low-sugar jam. I followed the instructions enclosed in the box of pectin but added the least amount of sugar suggested. The resulting jam has an explosion of peach flavor without being overly sweet.
I also put up a batch of sweeter, looser peach jam by following the directions on the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s websiteunder the category of “Making Jam without Added Pectin.” It actually came out more like a sauce, and is decadent when added to unsweetened plain yogurt or drizzled on waffles, pancakes, and the like. As an aside, there are delicious plant-based yogurts currently available. My favorite is the plain unsweetened Greek yogurt made by Kite Hill.
The peach salsa recipe I followed is also on the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s website, and is quite delicious! I processed sixteen half-pints for the pantry. My husband also grew the cilantro, red onions, red peppers, and jalapeños used in this recipe. The process calls for 5% white vinegar, but I substituted with 5% apple cider vinegar. The NCHFP states that it’s safe to make this substitution in canning recipes as long as the cider vinegar is also at 5% acidity.
Please note, when canning always follow safe lab-tested methods and recipes. In addition to the ones available online through the NCHFP, you can also find safe lab-tested recipes online through various cooperative extension offices, and in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (look for newer editions). Family recipes and recipes you find when searching online may or may not be safe; the biggest concerns are botulism and listeria when canning or pickling. Preserving food in these ways is fairly easy, but it needs to be taken seriously and done safely.
I made a second batch of peach salsa and put up six pints in the freezer. Since I wasn’t canning this batch, I was able to modify the recipe by adding more garlic and cilantro. Please note that half-pint, pint, and pint-and-a-half jars are rated for freezing. Look for the “fill line” etched into the glass and don’t fill beyond that line or the jar may break when the contents freeze and expand. Quart-sized regular and wide-mouth jars are not rated for freezing liquid products, although I have had good luck using them to freeze dehydrated foods.
Plain peach purée was made in my blender on a low-speed setting to prevent the formation of unnecessary air bubbles. I used my FoodSaver to vacuum seal several quarts in BPA-free bags. Plain peach purée is delicious as a beverage and can also be used when making glazes, barbecue and teriyaki sauces, baked beans, muffins and other baked goods. In addition, I froze peach halves and peach slices for making pies, cobblers, and smoothies.
While in the midst up putting up the peaches, my husband suggested that I should try freezing some whole to save time. I looked on the internet and saw that others suggest this as well. I tried it and had very good results! I first arranged them on trays and put them in the deep freezer overnight. The next day I vacuum sealed the frozen whole peaches using my FoodSaver. I now consider this process to be the easiest way to freeze peaches, and I wish I knew about it years ago. I was able to freeze over 100 peaches fairly quickly and easily this way.
When you hold frozen whole peaches under running water, the skins rub off easily if desired. Once they are partially thawed, the peaches can be cut in half and the pits removed. Use a cutting board for this process; don’t hold the peaches in your hand when cutting them in half, pitting, or slicing! Frozen peaches (whether whole, halved, or sliced) can be eaten as is or used for making jams, pies, cobblers, muffins, frozen desserts, smoothies and more.
To make a simple yet delicious frozen dessert for two people, put four partially thawed and sliced frozen peaches into an immersion blender cup. Add a tablespoon of honey if desired. Blend briefly, then serve immediately using an ice cream scoop.
I hope this post has given you new ideas for putting up an abundance of peaches whether they are home-grown or bought from a local farmer or farmer’s market. Now on to putting up our abundance of apples!
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