It’s Florida and life’s a peach . . . at least it will be if the peach-growers have anything to say about it. Nature abhors a vacuum and, thanks to Florida plant scientists, vacant land is being filled with not only profitable crops, but delicious ones too. The profit takes longer than the flavor to develop. We can all do our little bit to help local growers by buying what they produce. If you have a choice of sending Florida funds to another state or another country, I know where my preference is.
One advantage of local fruit is that we can often get it ripe. No waiting around for the green to go away and the color to develop. Some that I got the other day were crunchy, though, and needed time in a paper bag to soften and sweeten too. They were worth the wait.
Because the season is just a few weeks you have to plan ahead to have peaches when the season is over, just as we do with blueberries. The easiest way to keep peaches is freezing. You can freeze them naked, or in water or sugar, or sugar water.
Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Have another pot or big bowl of ice water ready. Make a cross cut in one end of each peach and lower three or four into the boiling water. Forty seconds later move them into the ice water bath. When they are cool enough to handle the skin should almost fall off with help from a paring knife.
The peaches I tried didn’t fall off the pit, as do freestone varieties. You have to coerce them off in slices . . . or any other way you can convince them to cooperate.
Now spread them on cookie sheets that will fit in your freezer. When the slices are firm transfer them to plastic bags. Slide a drinking straw down one side when it is almost sealed and suck the air out. You can put a few small bags in a larger one to keep even more air out.
If you are going to use them for smoothies and sauces, the fruit can be blended until smooth and frozen in bags or rigid containers, leaving head room for expansion. Freezing the puree flat makes it easier to break off a chunk or two for smoothies and the fruit thaws quicker than in a block. They stack nicely in the freezer, too.
What do you do with frozen peaches? Mostly the same thing you would do with fresh fruit, taking into consideration the juice that is released in thawing.
For a simple dessert, thaw a couple of cups or so of slices and divide them between four bowls you use for ice cream. Top with vanilla ice cream. Then sprinkle with cinnamon. Now drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Leftover biscuits won’t go to waste if you have frozen peaches. Layer thawed Florida peaches and their juice on split biscuits—great for out-of-state visitors who don’t believe Florida grows peaches.
article by TRENT ROWE
Trent Rowe is the food editor of Central Florida Ag News.