Peaches are a wonderful Louisiana treat. Fresh Louisiana peaches are available from mid-May to early August, with the peak season from mid-June until mid-July. The national peak period is July through August.
Peaches are classed as clingstone (flesh clings to the stone), freestone (flesh pulls away from the stone easily) or semi-freestone. Most early-season peaches are clingstone varieties. Peach flesh may be yellow or white.
LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames says peaches are low in fat and calories and are sodium-free. One medium peach has 38 calories. Yellow-fleshed peaches are good sources of beta carotene, niacin and potassium.
When buying peaches, the nutritionist advises selecting those that are firm-ripe or becoming a bit soft. The base color of the skin between the red areas should be yellow or creamy. Hard peaches with a green background are immature and will not ripen; they shrivel instead.
High-quality fruit will have a tight, fresh-looking skin, free of bruises, disease and insect damage. There are usually three to four medium peaches or 2 cups sliced peaches per pound.
Store firm-ripe peaches at room temperature, away from direct sunlight until fully ripe. Spread them uncovered in a single layer in a cool place. They should become full-ripe and soft in three to four days. Refrigerate soft peaches and use them within three to five days for best quality. To enjoy peaches all year, freeze or can them.
Before freezing peaches, Reames says to dip them in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds, then immediately immerse them in cold water. Skins should slip off easily. Hand peeling gives a more attractive frozen product.
To prevent darkening during preparation of large amounts of fresh peaches, place peeled fruit in a mild salt solution (1 1/2 teaspoons salt to 1 quart water) or use 1 1/2 tablespoons commercial ascorbic acid mixture in 1 quart water. A little lemon juice enhances the peach flavor in most recipes.
Freezing Peaches With Sugar
Add 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or 1 teaspoon commercial ascorbic acid mixture to each cup of sugar. Mix 1 cup sugar with 4 to 5 cups sliced peaches. Stir gently. Allow to stand up to 15 minutes for syrup to form. Package in moisture-proof, vapor-proof containers or plastic bags in cardboard-covered boxes. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. Crumple waxed paper on top of peaches in rigid containers to keep peaches under juice. For bags, fill and push out as much air as possible. Seal airtight, label and freeze.
Freezing Peaches in Sugar Syrup
Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 2 cups water for a medium syrup or 1 cup sugar to 3 cups water for a light syrup. Add 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid or 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid mixture to each cup of syrup. Fill freezer container 1/4 full with syrup. Slice peaches directly into container. Fill container, cover with syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Place a piece of crumpled waxed paper on top, seal airtight, label and freeze.
Freezing Peaches With Sugar
Dissolve ascorbic acid or commercial ascorbic acid mixture in a little water. Sprinkle over peaches and stir, being sure they are well-covered. Fill container, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Place a piece of crumpled waxed paper on top, seal airtight, label and freeze. Add artificial sweetener or sugar to sweeten peaches, if desired, before eating or serving defrosted peaches.
Peaches also may be canned or made into preserves. If using low-acid white or yellow peaches, take special precautions to acidify them for canning.
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or firstname.lastname@example.org