Preserving Peaches for Easy, Delicious Desserts
By Jenny Underwood “Millions of peaches, peaches for me, peaches for free.” Do you remember the lines of that old song? Well, I didn’t have millions of peaches for free, but I did get 50 pounds (one bushel) for $34! Our local small grocery store listed them in 25 boxes so I tried one and we liked it so well that I sent my husband for another box. 50 pounds of peaches is a decent amount of fruit to preserve, especially with four young children, but we managed to get them done in approximately six total hours. I ended up with 5 quarts of dried peaches, 8 pints of canned peaches, 2 quarts of frozen peaches, and 22 half-pints of peach butter. So how do you go about preserving all those peaches?
First, you will need to clean or wash your peaches. I used a fruit and veggie liquid that you add to water and soak the fruit for 5 minutes to remove any nasties. Then I pitted and peeled the peaches. These were super easy to peel with a knife but you can also blanch to peel peaches by dipping them in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. The peeling will slip off easily. Cut an “X” in the bottom of the peach before blanching and immediately place it in ice water afterward.
I did find it’s much easier to pit peaches before peeling versus after. Just follow the natural crease in the peach and cut all the way to the pit and twist your peach. It should come in half. Freestone peaches will have a pit that comes out easily. Cling peaches will need to have the pit removed with a knife.
One of my favorite ways of preserving peaches was to make peach butter. I used my Instant Pot for this but you can use a slow cooker or simply a pot on the stove. However, you will need to watch those closer. Once your peaches are washed, pitted, and peeled then you will cut them into quarters and dip them in a bowl with six cups of water to one tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Allow to sit for a few minutes or until your bowl is full.
I used a six-quart Instant Pot and filled it full of peaches. Then I sprinkled the sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice, and cinnamon on the top. I then placed the pressure valve on and chose 15 minutes to cook. After it was done, I released the pressure and used an immersion blender to blend the mixture until smooth. Then I simmered for an additional 10-15 minutes with the lid off to thicken, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a blender, food processor, or even a mixer. Be very careful because the mixture can splatter and burn easily! If you don’t have an Instant Pot, cook the peaches with a half cup of added water in a pan until soft. Then blend smooth and continue to cook down until it reaches the thickness you desire.
Everyone has different tastes but here is a good recipe to start with:
- 8 pounds peaches
- 1 cup sugar (I used raw and added 1/4 cup of maple syrup)
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- Cinnamon to taste
Now you’re ready to water bath can your butter. Heat water in your canner (I use my pressure canner without the weights on). You will need enough water to cover your jars by two inches. Make sure your rack is in! Carefully fill your jars (1/2 pints require 1/4 inch headspace) and place lids and rings on snugly. I personally still put my lids and rings in simmering water. I have an excellent success rate doing this.
Pints and half-pints will need to be boiled in a gentle rolling boil for 10 minutes. I put on a timer after the water starts boiling so my time is accurate every single time. You spend way too much time preserving food; don’t skimp on the processing!
After the time is complete, remove the canner from the burner and let it sit uncovered for 5 minutes. Then carefully lift the jars out using a jar lifter and set them on a towel (not touching each other) for 16 -24 hours. Remove the bands and gently test the seals. Label your jars with the contents and date and you’re done! Enjoy all year long!
Another great way of preserving peaches is by dehydrating them in slices. After I wash them, I pit them but don’t peel them. Then I thinly slice (1/4-1/8 inch) the peaches and place them in the solution of 6 cups water to 1 tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and let them soak for 5 minutes. Drain them and place them on dehydrator trays at 135 for 8-36 hours. The range of hours is incredibly broad because it all depends on the moisture level. I check mine every 6-8 hours until they start to get leathery, then I check every hour. Once they are crisp, I remove them and place them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. I sometimes sprinkle a bit of raw sugar and cinnamon in the bag and shake it to coat the peach chips. These are delicious, healthy snacks!
Freezing your peaches is very easy and they can be used in pies, cobblers, smoothies, or ice cream. After you wash your peaches, pit and peel them. Then place in vinegar or lemon juice solution for 5 minutes. Place a towel in a large pan and put the slices on it to drain. After 5-10 minutes, pack your freezer bags or bowls with peaches. Remove as much air as possible, label, and freeze!
Finally, you can can the peaches halved or quartered in syrup. I used a light syrup (5 3/4 cup water to 1 1/2 cup sugar) because I try to keep a lower sugar content on our foods. I prepared the peaches exactly how I did for peach butter except instead of placing them in an Instant Pot, I packed pint jars full of them. Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it. Keep it hot! Then I poured my hot syrup over the top until my headspace was reached (1/2 inch). Remove any air bubbles and place on hot lids and rings. Follow the directions for water bath canning above, but can for 25 minutes instead of 10 for pints (30 for quarts).
Now you have four wonderful, simple ways of preserving those delicious peaches! It’s easy to snack on the dried peaches or add them to breads or granola. Canned peaches can be used in pies or cobblers or eaten right out of the jar! Frozen peaches are extremely versatile also and can be slightly thawed and eaten as a yummy dessert and peach butter is phenomenal on pancakes, biscuits, or waffles! Try putting up your peaches this year and I think you may be like me and start thinking … “Now where can I plant a peach tree?”
Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.