Notes for February 2018: The northern half of the U.S. (and most of Canada, of course) are under snow. So, the crops to pick are pretty much limited to Florida, Texas, southern California and a few other areas of the Deep South. Citus, for one, is a crop that is usually available now; and in those areas, soon also strawberries and blueberries.Check your area's copy calendar (see this page) and call your local farms for seasonal updates.
We also have a website for both Valentine's Day information, facts and fun and one for St. Patrick's day (including great recipes for corned beef, Irish stew, etc.)
Children's Consignment Sales occur in both the Spring and Fall See our companion website to find a local community or church kid's consignment sale!
Next year, don't miss an Easter Egg Hunt for your children: See our companion website to find a local Easter Egg hunt!
We also have home canning, preserving, drying and freezing directions. You can access recipes and other resources from the drop down menus at the top of the page or the site search. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to write me! It is easy to make your own ice cream, even gelato, or low fat or low sugar ice cream - see this page. Also note, there are many copycat website listing U-pick farms now. They have all copied their information form here and usually do not ever update. Since 2002, I've been updating the information every day but Christmas; so if you see anything wrong, please write me!-->
If you like peaches, nectarines or plums in the winter for cobblers, pies or just in a bowl; just imagine how good it would taste if you had picked a couple of quarts fresh or bought a them from a farm stand and then quickly froze them at home! It is also one of the simplest ways to put up a fruit for the winter. Here's how to do it, complete instructions in easy steps and completely illustrated.
In the winter when you pull them from the freezer, the fruit will taste MUCH better than anything you've ever had from a store, and by selecting the right fruit, it will use less sugar than store-bought frozen peaches. Peaches, plums, cherries or nectarines can be packed in very light, light or medium sugar syrup. They can also be packed in water, apple juice or white grape juice.
Prepared this way, the frozen fruit will have a freezer life of about 12 months, and aside from storing in a cool, dark place, require no special attention.
The most important step! You need peaches that are sweet, and to make the work easier, cling-free (also called freestone). This means that the peach separates easily from the pit! Same with nectarines, and this doesn't apply to cherries or plums.
Choose ripe, mature fruit. They should not be mushy, but they also should not be rock hard: just as ripe as you would eat them fresh. Green, unripe peaches will soften but will not ripen, nor have the flavor of tree-ripe peaches.
After this step, I'll just refer to "peaches" but it applies to plums, cherries and nectarines.
You can pick your own, or buy them at the grocery store. For very large quantities (more than a few bushels), you'll find that real* farmer's markets, like the Farmer's Market in Forest Park, Georgia have them at the best prices.
It takes about 5 good sizes peaches or nectarines (or about 10 plums) to make one quart or frozen peaches.
* - not the cutesy, fake farmer's markets that are just warehouse grocery stores that call themselves farmer's markets.
Peaches must be packed in a solution of water and sugar or fruit juice. It's up to you which to use. Sugar is added to improve flavor, help stabilize color, and retain the shape of the fruit. You only need enough solution to cover the peaches; about 1 cup per quart. It is not added as a preservative; but the solution does prevent drying, freezer burn and oxidation (browning). Peach, white grape or apple juice works great and is a natural alternative to using processed sugar!
|Type of Syrup||Sugar||Water||Yield|
|Fruit juice (peach, apple or white grape)||0||0||4 cups|
|Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you'll need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, (2 cups)||0||6 cups||6 cups|
|Light sugar||2 cups||6 cups||7 cups|
|Medium sugar||3 cups||6 cups||7.2 cups|
|Heavy sugar||4 cups||6 cups||7.4 cups|
Fruit juice syrup requires no preparation. To prepare sugar and Stevia (in a prepared form like Truvia, it measures same as sugar; if you use another form, you'll need do your own conversion) - or Splenda, if you prefer, syrups, while heating the water in a pot on the stove (or microwave), add sugar slowly, stirring constantly to dissolve. Once it is dissolved remove it from the heat. After preparing the liquid syrup, let it cool before mixing it with the peaches!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the peaches in plain cold or lukewarm water.
Nope, we're not going to peel them by hand; that's way too much work. Instead, here's a great trick that works with many fruits and vegetables with skins (like tomatoes): just dip the fruit in boiling water for 20 to 45 seconds.
NOTE: this works GREAT on ripe peaches, but if the beaches are rock hard, not so well. Best to let the peaches soften for a day or two first!
Remove from the boiling water using a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl or pot of cold water and ice for several minutes
The skins will easily slide off now!
Nectarines do not need to be peeled, if you don't mind the skins. Neither do peaches, but most people prefer them with skins off - they tend to be slimy after all this.
Cut out any brown spots and mushy areas. Cut the peaches in half, or quarters or slices, as you prefer! Remove pits!
Peaches will turn brown when exposed to air, even air in a sealed, sterile jar. To keep the fruit from turning brown, when you get a bowlful, sprinkle 1/4 cup lemon juice or Fruit-Fresh (which is just a mix of citric acid and vitamin C, perfectly natural). Then stir the peaches to make sure all the surfaces have been coated.
In a large bowl, combine the peaches and sweetener solution. Mix completely.
Ladle the peaches and solution into the freezer bags.
A. Ziploc Bags
If you are using ziploc bags, squeeze out any air bubbles and seal them. put them in the freezer on the coldest shelf. Since peaches, nectarines, plums, figs, and other soft fruit will be covered in a liquid, it is quite easy to remove all the air with a ziploc bag! Be sure to use the "freezer ziplocs", not the regular ones. The freezer ones are thicker and will be much less like to break, split or allow freezer burn. TIP: If you don't own a vacuum food sealer to freeze foods, place food in a Ziploc bags, zip the top shut but leave enough space to insert the tip of a soda straw. When straw is in place, remove air by sucking the air out. To remove straw, press straw closed where inserted and finish pressing the bag closed as you remove straw.
B. Vacuum Food Sealer
If you are using a vacuum food sealer, stand the bags upright on the shelves on the door of your freezer (so they don't spill) and allow them to freeze overnight (vacuum food sealers require liquids to be frozen first, or they would be sucked into the pump!)
The next day, take the bags out of the freezer, seal them and pop them back in the freezer!
If any of the frozen peaches are exposed on the surface, just pour a little more sugar syrup (or fruit juice, etc.) to cover them and put it back in the freezer. When that freezes, you can seal them.
Photos above at right, from top to bottom:
Q. Can I freeze peaches dry without any sweetener?
A. Yes. You might get some freezer burn, so you might want to add a little juice (peach or white grape) to fill the air spaces. Or pack them dry using a vacuum food sealer which would eliminate the need to add juice and still avoid most freezer burn. If you do dry pack, to prevent darkening, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) ascorbic acid (also known as "FruitFresh") in 3 tablespoons water and shake the peaches in a bag with this solution to coat evenly, then freeze.