BY: CHRISTINE PATRICK
COUNTY EXTENSION AGENT
QUEEN OF FRUITS IS A REAL PEACH
Peach time in South Carolina ushers in the season for peach shortcake, peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach pie, peaches & cream, and plain peaches.
What a misnomer that is. Peaches, sweet and tree-ripened, with no accompaniment, are not plain fare. The peach is not called the Queen of Fruits for no reason.
This stone fruit, a native of China, came to the New World by way of Persia and finally found a home in South Carolina, where it produces fruits unsurpassed in taste.
Besides offering a sweet treat, a medium raw peach will give you both vitamins A and C and less than 40 calories. Peaches bruise easily, so when selecting fruits lookout for soft spots.
If the peaches you have bought are not quite ripe enough, place them in a paper bag, pierce the bag in several places, and set it aside at room temperature for a couple of days. Add an apple to the bag to speed the process.
Roadside stands are popular stops for peach lovers in our state, as well as local farmer’s markets. Pick-your-own orchards give customers a chance to choose their own fruit directly from the tree.
You have the choice of buying a little or a lot – a small basket just for you and your family to eat or a bushel for preserving.
You may can them or freeze them, or even make preserves. Freezing is the most popular option since it takes less time.
Peeling a bushel of peaches goes a lot faster with the boiling water dip. Dip peaches a few at a time into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer the peaches immediately into ice water.
The skins should slip off easily. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Slice them into the size you like and treat them to prevent browning.
The recommended way to do this is the put the sliced fruit into a water and vitamin C solution prepared at a ratio of six crushed 500 mg. vitamin C tablets to one gallon of water. You may also find vitamin C packaged as ascorbic acid.
When all the peaches have been peeled and treated, drain the water and sprinkle on a half cup of sugar for each quart of peaches. Stir gently and let the fruit stand for 15 minutes. The peaches will begin to make their juice.
Pack the peaches into freezer bags to within three to four inches of the top. Squeeze out the air, seal, label, and freeze. You may also use rigid plastic containers. Leave about an inch of headspace before freezing.
When thawed, the peaches will have a softer texture than when they were fresh, but they will still taste better than canned peaches or the imported fresh peaches you may find at your supermarket.
If you plan to serve your peaches fresh within a few hours, just hold them in a marinade of orange juice or lemon water – both contain adequate amounts of vitamin C to keep the peaches from darkening until they are eaten.
For more information on canning, freezing, or preserving peaches visit the Clemson University Home and Garden Information Center on the web at http://hgic.clemson.edu.
Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer
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