Photograph Copyright Sandra Gutierrez,2009; All Rights Reserved
Every season has its charm.
An aspect of eating local food is the realization that local produce will come and go with the seasons. Take summer, for instance, when basil, tomatoes, and peppers are at their peak. Locavores know that unless they prepare in advance, they won't have another chance to eat these until next year. Therefore, this is the time of the year in my kitchen when basil gets transformed into pesto, tomatoes are oven-dried or made into sauce to be frozen, and when peppers are pickled and preserved.
My favorite summer delicacies are peaches--particularly the ripe, local peaches from the Sandhills area of North Carolina. Every summer, I trek that way to purchase luscious orange, yellow and white fruit to eat fresh. I also purchase enough to make pies, cobblers, jams, and turnovers.
The season for peaches is from mid-June to the end of August in the South. That gives me just a few more days to enjoy the juicy, sweet nectar and the plump and meaty flesh of summer peaches. Or does it?
Not one to give up easily on a favorite treat that is both healthy and succulent, I recently bought a few bushels of peaches to enjoy during the rest of the year. Freezing them allows me to eat local peaches throughout the fall and winter months. I will make peach pies in November, add peaches to my cranberry relish for Christmas dinner, and enjoy warm cobblers in the middle of February.
For this post, in place of a recipe, I want to share my method for freezing peaches so that you too can enjoy their deliciousness throughout the year. You will need a lot of baking sheets, freezer bags, and a special, little tool (keep on reading). Oh, and extra freezer space, of course.
First I begin by selecting only freestone peaches. Those are varieties in which the pits are not attached to the flesh of the peaches, making them easy to remove. Ask your local purveyors which varieties they recommend in your area.
It is important to wash the peaches very well in cool water before proceeding. I go about this task by filling my largest sink (or a bathtub) with peaches and by giving them a good rinse. Then I get ready for the messiest part: peeling them. Wait! Do not stop reading. I promise you no blanching or shocking...really.
Purists, relax. I know you have done it the old-fashioned way for years. But there is a quicker way: a shortcut. Heresy, you say? What if I told you that this way of doing it is much quicker and involves less equipment?
The traditional method for peeling peaches, for those of you who don't know, calls for cutting a small "x" in the base of each peach. They are then blanched, which means to place them into boiling water, for a few seconds. Then they need to be shocked (no, not by scaring them or by showing them something inappropriate) by plunging them into iced water, to stop the cooking process. This causes the skin to split and separate from the flesh and makes them easier to peel. It also makes a big mess.
I suggest you invest in a little tool, easy to find in most kitchen stores, a little gadget that will save your sanity: a serrated potato peeler. It will become a favorite tool in your kitchen. It makes peeling peaches (tomatoes and mangoes too, for that matter) a very easy affair. It's as easy as pie, I'm telling you. No fuss, no muss.
Armed with one of these, you can attack your pile of peaches with gusto. You too will be able to peel hundreds of peaches at a time. (And you thought I was joking when I said I need a tub to wash my peaches...).
Peel the peaches. Slice them in half. If you bought freestone, removing the pits is a simple chore. Then slicing them is easy. Yes, easy as pie.
Place the sliced peaches on a single layer on baking sheets.
Freeze them until they are solid, about 2 hours. Then transfer them into freezer-safe baggies and place them in your freezer, where they will last for 6 months.
Make summer last the whole year long. You have only one or two more weeks before peaches disappear from your local markets.
Preserve summer in your freezer. Have a peachy time! (Sorry, I could not resist).
Copyright Sandra Gutierrez, 2009: All Rights Reserved