How to pick, peel and use peaches

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18 Aug How to pick, peel and use peaches

3  Peach Recipes - The Messy Baker

I’m on Kitchener CTV’s News at Noon talking about peaches. While they’re generously allotting me 5 minutes, the entire news hour isn’t enough time to tell you how much I love peaches. And just how much do I love peaches? Last year, I bought an upright freezer to accommodate my lust for Blazing Stars. To keep Andrew happy, I allow the odd batch of homemade Italian meatballs and bag of oven-dried tomatoes to take up precious freezer space, but peaches are the real reason a honking big white box sits in our basement sucking up energy at a horrific rate.

Last year I looked at buying and storing peaches. But based on emails and discussions, a few unanswered questions.

Freestone or clingstone? Which is best?

The type of peach depends on what you want to use it for. Freestone peaches are easy to handle and make wonderful straight-from-your-hand eating, but don’t ignore the clingstones. While they can be a nuisance to pit, clingstones hold together better when cooked, making them a better choice for pies and canning.  Semi-freestones, as the name implies, fall in between and are a good general purpose peach, good for both eating and canning.

Most people buy freestone peaches by default because that’s what’s available at the grocery store. But Ontario alone grows more than 30 different kinds of peaches. That means 96.7% of peach varieties go unheralded.  So for a truly heavenly peach experience, hie thee to the Farmers’ Market and experiment. Try a Bellaire or Blazing Star, which have intense peach flavour. Taste a candy-sweet, low-acid white peach. Nibble a firm Baby Gold. You’ll be surprised at the differences between the varieties.

How do you peel peaches?

Some peaches peel easily with a paring knife when ripe. Others are more stubborn. To remove the fuzz from any peach you can:

  • Blanch them: Plunge peaches into boiling water for 1 minute. Remove the peaches with a slotted spoon and put them immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. The skin should come off easily with a paring knife.
  • Use a fruit peeler: If fruit peelers can take the skin off a slippery smooth tomato then a peach is no challenge. Unlike the smooth blade of a potato peeler, the serrated edges of this specialty item removes a think layer of skin leaving almost all the fruit.

Once the peaches are peeled you can prevent them from browning with a splash of lemon juice.

What can I do with my peaches?

Pies, jams and plain old as is are the three most popular choices. Want more? Here are some suggestions from the archives.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting a few new peach-related recipes including a savory salad and an upside down cake. In the meantime, how do you use your peaches?

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10 Comments
  • Hilda
    Posted at 09:59h, 18 August Reply

    I always learn so much from your posts!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:23h, 19 August Reply

      @Hilda, thanks ! I learned a lot from talking to the growers. They really are passionate about their crops (understandably) and freely share so much information.

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 14:23h, 18 August Reply

    I typically use the 1 minute boil / ice water bath method … but, truth to tell, I hate peeling peaches! Which is probably why I don’t bake with them as much as I should.

    I feel silly for admitting that I’ve never thought to use a veggie peeler. Will try that next time. Thanks!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:24h, 19 August Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, if you hate peeling peaches, you can usually swap in nectarines, which don’t require peeling.

      That veggie peeler is very versatile. Does tomatoes, kiwi fruit, pears and even pulls the strings out of celery stalks.

  • Robin Smart
    Posted at 10:37h, 19 August Reply

    I know I am a little strange, but I love peach shortcake (make with mom’s recipe) even better than strawberry shortcake – if that is possible – ’cause Lord knows I really love strawberry shortcake.
    Love your passionately peachy sister.

  • Alison
    Posted at 11:29h, 22 August Reply

    Found your site thru @smithbites. Great post and love your site

  • Freedom Journey
    Posted at 12:14h, 25 August Reply

    Thank you! We’re going peach picking this weekend and I was wondering how to process them.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 12:24h, 25 August Reply

      @Freedom Journey, you’re going peach picking? I’ve never been, but it sounds wonderful. Have a super time and enjoy your bounty.

  • Jodi Ramirez
    Posted at 20:03h, 03 October Reply

    When I’m in the store buying peaches, how can I tell the difference between ‘freestone’ and ‘clingstone’? I prefer the ‘freestone’ because no matter how juicy I can cut nice, clean slices to just eat raw, I just haven’t figured out how to tell the difference when in the store.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:43h, 05 October Reply

      @Jodi Ramirez, good question. You can’t tell by looking. Unless they are labelled you can’t know for sure. Just so you know, clingstone peaches tend to ripen early in the season and the freestone tend to ripen later.

      I’m not sure where you’re located, but here in Ontario, the peaches in the store are usually Redhavens, which are freestone.

      If possible, I recommend buying peaches from a grower at the Farmers’ Market. The peaches are usually tree-ripened (and tastier) and it eliminates a lot of the guess work on the clingstone/freestone question.

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