If you love peaches, you might describe this time of year as “peachy keen.” The dictionary definition of this phrase is “unusually fine.” Local markets are featuring peaches from Georgia and Colorado, but you might be lucky enough to grow your own or purchase directly from an orchard.
Start by selecting bright, fresh-looking peaches that smell “peachy.” Look for smooth skin and a creamy or yellow color with red blush or mottling. The crease should be well defined and run from the stem end to the point. Ripe peaches yield to gentle palm pressure. Avoid peaches that are hard and green, brownish, excessively soft, bruised or shriveled or that have tan circular spots.
One pound of peaches is equal to 2-4 whole medium peaches. You can expect about 2 cups sliced or 1 1/2 cups pureed peaches from 1 pound. Nutritionally, a 1/2 cup of sliced fresh peaches has 37 calories, 1 gram of protein, 9 grams of carbohydrates and no fat. Peaches are a good source of Vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium.
Cover and refrigerate ripe, unwashed peaches in a single layer. To ripen, store in a single layer with one apple at room temperature in a loosely closed paper bag and check daily. High heat causes peaches to become dry and mealy; exposure to the sun will make them shrivel.
To enjoy fresh, rinse peaches under cold running water to remove fuzz and dirt. Cut off bruises and decay. To keep peaches from darkening after slicing, sprinkle with lemon juice, orange juice or ascorbic acid powder.
Prior to freezing, consult your freezer manual to determine the maximum amount that can be frozen at one time to maintain quality. Guidelines are typically 2 to 3 pounds of food for each cubic foot of freezer space. Thus, if you plan to freeze 20 pounds, your freezer will need to be at least 10 cubic feet.
An average of 1 1⁄4 pounds of fresh peaches makes 1 pint frozen. For quick peeling, dip them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Then remove and place in cold water. Skins will slip off easily. Slice or halve if desired and package with syrup, sugar or in an unsweetened packs. Crystalline ascorbic acid is often added to help produce a better product. Pack into containers leaving headspace, seal, and freeze.
K-State Research and Extension has a resource series called “Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe.” Contact the local office at 221-5450 to obtain or visit www.cowley.k-state.edu. The series provides a variety of recipes and food preservation instructions for seasonal produce. We’re here to provide “Knowledge for Life.”
Upcoming K-State Research and Extension Event
• Aug. 19 — Stay Strong, Stay Healthy Level 1, 11 a.m. to noon; spots still available, $20 registration fee.
Becky Reid is the family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension, Cowley County. She can be reached at 221-5450 or (620) 441-4565.