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Tips for Buying, Storing, and Preserving Peaches

A fresh, juicy peach is like nature's candy—a sweet and delicious treat. Here's how to pick the perfect peach and a simple method to preserve the summer-fresh flavor.

Buying

Like other produce, the fresher the tastier. If you can get your peaches from an orchard, roadside stand, or farmers market, do so. Be sure to taste any samples offered—or even ask if samples are available. If you're not familiar with the vendor, don't be shy about asking if the peaches are locally grown. In a supermarket, you'll also want to look for signs of where the peach came from. The further it had to travel to get to the store, the earlier it will have been picked.

Wherever you're shopping, uses your senses to help you pick the perfect peach:

•See. Look for a golden color beneath the blush (skin). Vibrant reds and yellows indicate ripeness. Avoid peaches with a green tone. That means the peach was picked too early and won't be sweet. You'll need to give the peach a quick once-over, too. Avoid ones with bruises or blemishes. Is the skin wrinkly? Skip it. That's a sign it's drying out.

•Touch. Give the peach a gentle squeeze. Ripe peaches will have some give to them when pressed, and means they're ready to eat. They'll be sweeter and juicier than firm peaches. That doesn't mean you should pass up firm peaches—just know that you'll need to allow time for them to ripen at home. Depending on when you plan to use the peaches, you may want a mix of ripe and firm.

•Smell. A strong peachy aroma is a sign of a ripe peach. Peaches that need to ripen longer should still smell sweet, but they won't be as fragrant.

Storing

By all means, cut right into a ripe peach to enjoy as soon as you're home! Store others at room temperature, stem side down. They'll be at their juicy best when they feel soft when pressed, so eat those ones first. If the peaches are ready to eat but you're not ready to use them, move them to the fridge to stop them from ripening further. Need them to ripen faster? Put them in a paper bag for a day or two—and be sure to check them to make sure they're not getting too ripe.

Preserving

Enjoying your fresh bounty months later doesn't have to involve canning jars or a labor-intensive process. This freezing method, featured in the August 2018 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, remains a favorite for its simplicity:

1. Wash and pat peaches dry. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each peach. Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds to loosen skins. Immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and quickly cool the peaches. (This hot-to-cold process, called blanching, firms the flesh, heightens flavor, and makes peeling easier.)

2. Peel, halve, and pit peaches. To prevent browning, toss with lemon juice (2 Tbsp. juice per eight to 10 peaches) or treat with an ascorbic acid color keeper. (This is essentially Vitamin C and prevents oxidation (browning). Look for it with canning supplies in supermarkets or online. Use according to package directions.)

3. Slice peaches; arrange slices in a single layer on baking sheets or shallow trays. Freeze 2 hours; transfer frozen slices to quart-size freezer bags.

4. Label and date bags; return to the freezer. Use within 6 months. Yield: 1 qt. per 2–3 lb.

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