At the height of summer, it’s easy to be seduced by the baskets, bushels and flats full of juicy, fragrant peaches. But what do you do with that many peaches when you get them home? If you’re planning to eat them fresh, the best way to store them depends on how ripe they are.
A perfectly ripe peach is firm but yields slightly to a gentle squeeze; it will also give off that lovely peach smell. And, as with other fruit, ripe peaches should feel heavy for their size. Using this as a guideline, check each of your peaches to determine how to best store them.
Although peaches — like all fruit — continue ripening after being picked, it’s best to avoid those that have any trace of green on their skin and/or are as hard as a baseball. Those peaches likely will not ripen properly.
Peaches that feel more like a tennis ball when squeezed, and that haven’t yet developed that rich peach smell, should be stored at room temperature and allowed to ripen. You can even put them in a sunny spot, as long as it doesn’t get too hot.
Peaches are best stored stem (or “shoulders”) side down, and not touching. If you have to mound them in a bowl, try not to stack them too deeply.
If you want to ripen your peaches, quickly put them in a brown paper bag and leave them on the counter. Like other fruit, peaches naturally release ethylene gas, which speeds along the ripening process. Ethylene trapped inside the paper bag will be more concentrated and will ripen the fruit more quickly. For even quicker results, place a banana or apple in the bag, too.
Peaches have the most flavor when they’re eaten at room temperature. If you have perfectly ripe peaches that you can eat within a day or two, just leave them on the counter. As above, it’s best to store them stem-side down and not touching.
If you can’t eat them all within a couple of days, store the extras in the fridge. The cool temperatures will slow down the ripening process, and give you about a week before the fruit becomes overripe. Take them out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before eating to enhance their flavor.
If you have a peach that’s already quite soft to the touch, either eat it right away or toss it in the fridge. These peaches will last only a day or two at best, even when refrigerated.
The cool, dry air in refrigerators is hard on peaches, and if they are stored loose in the fridge, they will begin to dehydrate (shrink and get wrinkled skin) within a couple of days. If you expect to refrigerate peaches for more than two days, protect them with a plastic bag. It’s best to poke a few small holes in that bag, though, to allow the peaches to breathe.
If you have too many ripe peaches to eat within a week of refrigeration, it’s time to figure out a way to preserve them. Making peach butter, preserves, fruit leather, or a pie is one way to go, but it’s fairly simple to freeze peaches, as well. Just peel, slice and freeze the slices on a cookie sheet before transferring them to a freezer-safe container or bag. In the depths of winter, you’ll be grateful for the rich flavor of those peaches in ice cream, smoothies or baked goods.
Did you buy a bunch of peaches this summer? If so, what’s your favorite way to make them last longer – even into the winter months?