The first Georgia peach crop of the year is arriving at roadside fruit stands, farm markets and grocery stores. Preserving peaches by canning, freezing or drying is the best way to extend the use of this popular fruit long after the harvest is over.
First, select well-ripened peaches and handle carefully to avoid bruising. Use safe food handling practices before, during and after preserving the fruit.
Wash hands with soap and water. Wash all surfaces and utensils with soap and hot water, rinse and air dry.
Wash peaches by gently rubbing under cold, running water, then drain and blot dry with paper towels. If peaches are not used immediately, refrigerate at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below until ready to preserve.
To prevent peaches from darkening, fruit that has been peeled and cut can be placed in an ascorbic acid solution. To peel, dip peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds until skins loosen, then dip quickly in cold water and slip off skins.
Traditional yellow peach varieties can be processed by both methods in either halves or slices. Yellow peaches can be packed in water, apple juice, white grape juice or a light or medium sugar syrup for canning. Hot packs are recommended for the best quality.
Canning white-flesh peaches is not recommended due to their low-acid nature. Freezing is the recommended method of preserving white-flesh peaches.
Freezing peaches is easy and less-time consuming than canning.
Choose a sugar syrup, dry sugar or unsweetened pack with halved, sliced, crushed or puréed peaches. When ready to eat, sliced or halved peaches are best served partially thawed so textural changes are not as noticeable from the effect of freezing on fruit tissue.
Sweet peach spreads and condiments
Sweet spreads and syrups are a favorite way to preserve peaches.
Jelled or thickened peach products include jellies, jams, preserves, conserves and marmalades; most are preserved partially by their sugar content.
Other products that are partially preserved by a high-sugar content but not jellied include peach butter and peach honey.
USDA recommendations include a reduced sugar peach-pineapple spread that can be made without adding sugar or optionally adding less sugar and canning it for room temperature storage. It can also be frozen for storage.
Reduced sugar or no-sugar-added jam requires purchasing special commercial pectin modified to gel with a reduced sugar content.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation website at nchfp.uga.edu has some other offerings for home-canned specialties that use peaches, such as peach salsa, chutney, several relishes and pickled peaches.