Peaches & Nectarines:
Aging occurs when there is an imbalance of pro-oxidants - free radicals - and antioxidants in the skin's cells. The sun's UV rays can accelerate free radical production while at the same time depleting antioxidants. Photoaging happens when damage from UV rays affects skin cell function, usually reflected in rougher, drier, wrinkled and less elastic skin. Antioxidants protect skin cells by counteracting free radical activity. Peaches and nectarines are rich in phytochemicals called phenols that act as antioxidants. Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), carotenoids (orange or red colored substances found in many fruits), and provitamin A/beta-carotene are the most notable.
Peaches and nectarines are a good source of fiber and vitamin A and C. A large-sized fruit has only 70 calories which makes it a fantastic snack or guilt-free dessert.
Pick peaches that are fragrant and fairly firm. Hard fruit with green color will never ripen. Peaches bruise easily so handle them with care.
Firm ripe peaches, with good ground color will become fully ripe and soft in three to four days when kept at room temperature in a loosely closed paper bag or ripening bowl. Peaches are ready to eat when they give to gentle palm pressure. Peaches bruise easily if squeezed. Store fully ripe peaches in the refrigerator, and for best peachy taste, serve fragrant ripe peaches at room temperature.
If a recipe calls for peeled peaches; with a knife, mark an X on the bottom of the peach, dip peaches into boiling water for about 30 seconds, and then plunge them immediately into ice water. The skins will slip right off. Fresh peaches darken quickly when exposed to air.
To ripen them, put your peaches in a paper bag that has a few holes in it. Once the fruit gives under gentle palm pressure, you can keep it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a couple of days.
- Peach halves or slices packed with sugar or in sweetened syrup remain plumper and firmer than peaches packed without sugar.
- Use medium or light syrup to preserve the fresh fruit taste.
- Frozen peaches make excellent pies or cobblers. When preparing peach pie filling, be sure to account for the sugar added to peaches before freezing. Frozen peaches used raw in fruit salad or compotes are best served with a few ice crystals still remaining. If completely thawed, they will become mushy.
- Puree peaches, add a dash of lemon juice, sweeten to taste and freeze in small quantities to be used as toppings for ice cream, yogurt, pancakes or waffles.
- Peaches can be stored in the freezer at 0ºF for eight to twelve months.
- One bushel (48 pounds) of peaches yields 32 to 48 pints for freezing.
- Use high-quality, firm-ripe peaches without any mold or signs of decay for canning.
- For a safe home-canned product, peaches must be processed in a boiling-water bath.
- Open kettle canning is not safe for any product and is not recommended.
- Hot packing is recommended for all fruits because it is safer and makes fruit easier to pack in jars. Hot packed peaches are less likely to float than peaches canned by the raw-pack method.
- It is safe to can peaches without sugar either in juice or water. Peaches canned in light or medium syrup are firmer and have better color and flavor, however.
- Artificial sweeteners tend to turn bitter from the heat used in canning. If you are watching calories, it's better to can peaches in water or juice, and add artificial sweetener before serving.
- The quality of dried peaches is excellent.
- For drying, select firm-ripe peaches that are heavy for their size.
- Before drying, peaches are usually peeled and halved or quartered. The pit should be removed
- Peaches require an anti-darkening treatment before drying to prevent browning.
- Dried peaches, slightly plumped, can be used in quick breads, chutney, cobblers, cookies, granola and pies.