Guide to Buying, Storing, and Cooking Fresh Peaches

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California, Georgia, and South Carolina are the largest producers of peaches in the United States. There are more than 300 varieties of peaches grown in North America. Peaches are typically available May through September with the season peaking in July and August. Peaches are stone fruits, or drupes, because of the pit aka stone inside that holds the seed. A juicy peach is one of the best things about summer. In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about buying, storing, and cooking fresh peaches.

Peaches in a wire basket on a wooden table

What is the difference between white and yellow peaches?

Yellow peaches have reddish-orange skin and golden yellow flesh, while white peaches have pale rosy-yellow skin and pale flesh. Yellow peaches are more acidic with a tartness that mellows as the peach ripens and softens. They are sturdier and hold up better when cooked. White peaches are less acidic and taste sweet whether they are firm or soft. When cooked they do not hold up as well and become mushy.

What is the difference between clingstone, freestone, or semi-freestone?

The biggest difference is the ease of removing the peach pit.

Clingstone peach flesh “clings” to the pit. These peaches can also be slightly softer, sweeter, and juicier than freestone peaches. Most grocery stores only sell freestone peaches. Clingstone peaches can sometimes be found at a farmers market or local orchard.

Freestone peach flesh does not “cling” to the pit making them easier to eat. They are slightly larger and less juicy than clingstone peaches.

You may also find semi-freestone peaches which are a hybrid of clingstone and freestone peaches. They are an attempt to combine the easy pit removal of freestone peaches with the extra juicy sweetness of clingstone peaches.

Fun Fact! Nectarines are, technically a variety of peach. The two fruits are so closley related that sometimes nectarines will even grow on the branches of peach trees!

How can you tell if peaches are ripe?

Choose peaches with golden yellow skin and no tinges of green that feel heavy for their size. The stem cavity of a peach should be yellow and not green. Ripe fruit should yield to gentle pressure and is intensely fragrant. There have been many times I have been walking through the produce section of the grocery store and have stopped to follow my nose to some delicious peaches.

Can you pick them before they are ripe?

Yes, peaches will continue to ripen after they have been picked. To quickly ripen peaches, place them in a paper bag. Add a ripe banana to speed up the ripening process. Check the peaches every day by holding them in the palm of your hand and giving them a gentle squeeze rather than poking them with your thumb and index finger which could cause bruising. Remove any ripe peaches.

Storing Peaches That Aren’t Quite Ripe

If your peaches need a few more days to ripen, the best place to store them is on the counter at room temperature. Place then stem-side down in a single layer to avoid bruising.

Peach streusel cake in glass baking dish
Delicious Streusel Cake Topped with PeachesSustain My Cooking Habit
Try this tasty streusel cake topped with soft fresh peaches.

How to store ripe peaches

Once peaches are perfectly ripe they should be stored in the fridge. The cold air will dramatically slow down the ripening process. Peaches will usually keep in the refrigerator for five days. Check the peaches frequently. The cold air will cause the peaches to dehydrate. As peaches dehydrate their skin begins to wrinkle. If you notice wrinkles on a refrigerated peach, you should try to eat it as soon as possible or toss it in the freezer (more on that option below).

How do you keep freshly cut peaches from turning brown?

Like many fruits, peaches will begin to turn brown or oxidize once they have been cut. This happens because when peaches are cut the cell walls are damaged, exposing them to air and causing them to release enzymes that result in browning. To prevent browning brush your peaches with a little lemon juice. Cutting your peaches in the largest slices possible will also help reduce oxidation.

peach tumeric iced tea in clear glass
Ginger Peach Turmeric Iced Sweet TeaTonya Staab
A refreshing sweet peach tea with fresh peaches, and if you want to booze it up, add a splash of peach Bourbon.

How to store cut peaches

Cut peaches should be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated as soon as possible. Once cut peaches should be eaten within three to four days.

How to blanch peaches

In my opinion, the easiest way to peel a peach is to blanch them first. Blanching peaches loosens their skin making them super easy to peel. The heat helps separate the skin from the flesh so the peels slip off with just a little pressure from your fingers.

To blanch peaches:

  1. Gently wash all of the peaches.
Scored Peaches

2. Slice a small X in the bottom of each peach being careful to not slice too deeply into the flesh. You only need to cut through the skin. This step allows for expansion when the peaches are blanched.

Peaches in Ice Bath

3. Place the peaches, a few at a time, in a large pot of boiling water for about thirty seconds. Don’t worry if the water starts to turn a brownish color. That is just some of the coloring from the skin reacting to the air and water. You will know the peaches are ready when the skin begins to pull away from the flesh where you made your cuts. Use a slotted spoon to move the peaches to a bowl filled with ice water.

Peeled Peaches

4. Once the peaches have cooled the skin should easily peel away.

Sliced Peaches

5. To remove the pit, start at the stem end and slice down and all the way around the peach, keeping the blade up against the pit in the center. Twist the two halves in opposite directions and then pull apart to expose the pit. Then simply pop the pit free. Slice or chunk your peeled peaches.

How do you peel a peach without boiling it?

My favorite method for peeling peaches is to blanch them first. In fact, if your timing is good you can’t even tell that the peach has been cooked slightly. But if you would prefer to skip the blanching step, check out these instructions on how to peel a peach from Dear Creatives.

Peach Strawberry popsicles on a blue plate
Peach Strawberry PopsiclesRecipes from a Pantry
These Peach Strawberry Popsicles are made with just 5 ingredients and are a healthier treat for hot days.

How to preserve fresh peaches

When I think of food preservation I think of three main options: freezing, canning, and dehydration.

What is the best way to freeze fresh peaches?

When peaches are in season I find myself buying peck after peck of peaches because they are so delicious. I want to be able to enjoy these peaches all year round not just for a short couple of months. Freezing is a great way to preserve peaches for use later.

There is no one best way to freeze fresh peaches. In fact, there are four different ways to freeze peaches. The method you choose depends on how you intend to use your frozen peaches.

How to freeze peaches without added sugar

There are two ways to freeze peaches without sugar.

Dry pack

The best thing about freezing peaches without added liquid or sugar is that you can use them as you would fresh peaches.

  1. In a large bowl toss the peach slices with lemon juice, crushed vitamin C tablets, or a fruit-preserving product such as Ball’s Fruit Fresh. This will help prevent browning.
  2. Lay the peaches out in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. Place the peaches in the freezer for about four hours.
  4. Once frozen place the peaches in a ziptop bag and label it with the contents. date, and amount.

Wet pack

  1. Pack peaches into a ziptop bag.
  2. Pour water or unsweetened fruit juice over the peaches.
  3. Seal the ziptop bag and label it with the contents. date, and amount.

How do you freeze peaches with sugar?

  1. In a large bowl toss the peach slices with lemon juice, crushed vitamin C tablets, or a fruit-preserving product such as Ball’s Fruit Fresh along with ½ teaspoon of sugar for each peach added. This will help prevent browning and will release juices from the peaches, eliminating air pockets when freezing.
  2. Cover and allow the peaches to sit for 15 minutes until they become juicy.
  3. Pack peaches into a ziptop bag.
  4. Seal the ziptop bag and label it with the contents. date, and amount.

Syrup pack

Allow 1/2 to 2/3 cup syrup for every 2 cups peaches.

  1. Choose a syrup:
  • Very Light Syrup: Use 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4 cups syrup. 
  • Light Syrup: Use 1-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-1/4 cups syrup. 
  • Medium Syrup: Use 2-2/3 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 4-2/3 cups syrup. 
  • Heavy Syrup: Use 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water to yield about 5-3/4 cups syrup.

2. Prepare the syrup:

Place the recommended amounts of sugar and water in a large saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and skim the foam off, if necessary.

3. Pack the peaches:

  • Pack peaches into a ziptop bag.
  • Pour syrup over the peaches.
  • Seal the ziptop bag and label it with the contents. date, and amount.
Slice Peaches in Ziplock bag

Tips for packaging peaches for freezing

  1. I like to package my peaches for freezing in zip-top bags. Be sure to remove as much air as possible. I label each bag with the contents, amount, and date.
  2. To help your peaches freeze more quickly, make sure to lay the bags flat in the freezer. Leave space between the bags so air can circulate around them. Flat bags are also easier to store and will take up less room in a crowded freezer.

How long do frozen peaches last?

Peaches can be stored in the freezer for up to one year. If there are dry spots or discolorations on the frozen peaches, freezer burn has begun to set in. The frozen peaches are still safe to eat, but the texture and flavor will be affected.

blackened salmon with peach salsa on wooden cutting board
Blackened Salmon with Peach SalsaCook at Home Mom
Blackened Salmon with Peach Salsa is my brand new favorite dinner! If you love sweet and spicy, this recipe is for you. Juicy peaches and creamy avocados are tossed with spicy jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro and salt to make the best salsa of all time, and it’s served served on top of super flavorful blackened pan-seared salmon. It’s all the flavors of summer on a plate!

Defrosting

To thaw frozen peaches, thaw in their container either in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cool water. Depending on your recipe, you may want to drain the peaches before using; you can also use the peach juice as a marinade or add it to a fruit salad. You can treat the excess peach juice the same as you would treat extra juice from canned peaches.

How to can

My great grandmother always had rows of mason jars filled with home-canned items from her garden. But then canning fell out of favor. Recently I have noticed a renewed interest in home canning. I am not an expert on canning and won’t pretend to be. It is really important that you closely follow the directions of a canning expert. Otherwise, you can make someone very very sick. Here are some great resources to check out:

How to dehydrate

Dehydrating peaches is a great way to store them for later use without sacrificing space in your refrigerator or freezer. Dehydrated peaches make a great snack or topping for a bowl of oatmeal. You can also rehydrate them and use them in recipes just as you would fresh peaches. Check out this guide from The Spruce Eats on how to dehydrate peaches.

What to do with lots of fresh peaches?

There are so many delicious ways to serve fresh peaches! You could make a smoothie, fruit salad, jam, cake, pie or cobbler. Peaches also pair really well with pork and poultry. Now that you know how to choose and store peaches lets dive into some amazing recipes!

Sliced peach bread on a wooden cutting board
Peach BreadSimply Stacie
 Peach Bread – Moist and fruity with a sticky brown sugar glaze.

What are your favorite peach recipes?

Thanks for Reading!

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Close up of Sliced Peaches

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