Keeping peaches beyond summer, freezing and jam

Q: How do you freeze peaches?

A: You’re not the first one to call about information on freezing peaches, so I thought I should put the information in my column to spread the word. I do have to say the peaches are so yummy this year! No wonder there are lots of calls about preserving that flavor.

Select well-ripened peaches and handle carefully to avoid bruising. Sort, wash and peel. (Note: Peeling without a boiling-water dip gives a better product.) Slice or halve if desired.

Syrup pack: Dissolve 2 cups of sugar in 3 cups of lukewarm water, mixing until clear, then chill before using. For a better quality product, add 1/2 teaspoon of crystalline ascorbic acid for each quart of syrup. Slice the fruit directly into the syrup in the container, starting with 1/2 cup of syrup to a pint container. Press the fruit down and add syrup to cover, leaving headspace. Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper (such as freezer paper or plastic wrap) on top to hold fruit down. Seal and freeze.

Sugar pack: Before combining the peaches with sugar, treat with the following solution to prevent darkening: 1/4 teaspoon of crystalline ascorbic acid and 1/4 cup of cold water. Dissolve the crystalline ascorbic acid in cold water and sprinkle over 1 quart (1 1/3 lbs.) of fruit. Mix 2/3 cup of sugar with each quart of fruit. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Pack into containers leaving head space, seal and freeze.

Unsweetened pack: Pack the peaches into containers. Cover with cold water or juice containing 1 teaspoon of crystalline ascorbic acid for each quart leaving head space, seal, and freeze.

Puree: Coarsely crush peaches that are peeled and pitted. Press the peaches through a sieve or puree in a blender or food processor. (Heating pitted fruit for about 4 minutes in just enough water to prevent scorching makes them easier to puree.) Mix 1 cup of sugar with each quart (2 pounds) of pureed fruit. For better quality, add 1/8 teaspoon of crystalline ascorbic acid to each quart of fruit. Pack into containers leaving head space, seal and freeze.

To package, fill pint- or quart-size freezer bags to a level of 3 to 4 inches from the tops, squeeze out the air, seal and label. Before freezing, the bags may be inserted into reusable, rigid-plastic freezer containers for added protection against punctures and leakage. As a quick estimate, a bushel of peaches weighs 48 pounds. An average of 1 1/4 pounds makes 1 pint of frozen product.

Note: If purchasing a commercial ascorbic acid mixture, like Fruit Fresh, read the label on the container for the amount to use.

Q: Do you have a recipe for sugar-free peach jam?

A: Here’s one that’s adapted from Kraft Foods that’s in our pamphlet on “Food Preservation with Artificial Sweeteners” on our website, under Food Preservation.

No-Sugar-Needed Peach Jam

3 cups prepared peaches (buy about 3 pounds fully ripe peaches)

3/4 cup water

1 box Sure.Jell for Lower Sugar Recipes Fruit Pectin

1/2 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, Granular or 12 Splenda Packets No Calorie Sweetener

Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

Peel, pit and finely chop or grind peaches. Measure exactly 3 cups prepared peaches into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Stir in water. Gradually add pectin, stirring until well-blended.

Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in Splenda Granular or Splenda Packets. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

Makes: About 3 (1-cup) jars or 48 servings, 1 tablespoon each.

Diet exchange: Free.

Nutrition (per serving): 10 calories, 15 milligrams sodium, 2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams sugar.

Just in case you are interested in making a fresh peach cobbler, here’s one that I recently took to a food judges training event. It earned a purple ribbon, according to the judges who participated in the training.

Peach Cobbler

4 cups sliced fresh peaches

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup 2 percent milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Arrange sliced peaches in greased 8- or 9-inch round or square baking dish. Mix the 2/3 cup sugar and cornstarch together in a saucepan. Gradually stir in boiling water. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in almond extract. Spread cornstarch mixture over peaches. Place in a 400 degree oven while topping is being prepared.

Topping: Sift flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, baking powder and salt together. Cut in shortening. Beat the egg with a fork and combine with the milk. Add liquid all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until the flour is moistened. Remove peaches from oven. Spoon dough in small dollops over hot peaches. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Place back in oven and continue baking at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly brown.

Serves 6 to 8.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.