How to Prevent Cut Peaches from Turning Brown

Adding an acidic ingredient to the fruit right after cutting is the key to keeping peaches bright.
Image Credit: alvarez/E+/GettyImages

Peach season runs from May to September, which doesn't give you much time to enjoy this sweet, juicy fruit.

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Fortunately, there's a fix: Freezing your peaches in the summer will allow you to enjoy them throughout the year and brighten the dull, dark days of winter.

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The best way to freeze fresh peaches involves making sure the bright golden fruit doesn't turn a dull brown, which occurs after slicing them.

Why Peaches Turn Brown

One of your main priorities when freezing peaches will be to prevent the beautiful fruit from turning brown. First, it might be helpful to understand ​why​ peaches brown.

This browning process is one of the reasons peaches — along with bananas, avocados and apples — have such a short shelf life when cut, according to the University of California, Davis.

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When you slice a fresh peach, a group of enzymes known as polyphenol oxidases (PPOs) are activated by the exposure to oxygen. Through a rather complex process, these enzymes create highly reactive brown pigments called quinones, which are quickly oxidized, causing your once bright, peachy fruit to turn an unappetizing brown.

For the record, peaches turning brown on trees before they're picked isn't caused by the same chemical reaction as the brown sliced peaches. Peaches that brown on the tree are infected with brown rot fungus. Once infected, the peaches quickly turn brown and rot, making them inedible, according to Ohio State University Extension.

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How to Keep Peaches From Turning Brown

In order to keep peaches from browning, you'll want to use some kind of anti-darkening treatment, per Colorado State University Extension. There are a few different solutions you can use, depending on your preferences.

Tip

Stop sliced peaches from turning brown by adding an acid — such as lemon juice, ascorbic acid or a commercial anti-darkening agent made for fruit — immediately after cutting them.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid is vitamin C that you can find at pharmacies and stores where canning supplies are sold. It helps preserve fruits' color and flavor (it'll also add some vitamin C).

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Ascorbic acid is available in powdered, crystalline and tablet form. You'll want to dissolve the acid in cold water before using it to treat your peaches. Ascorbic acid is said to be the most effective agent for preventing browning.

There are several ways to use ascorbic acid to freeze peaches:

1. Ascorbic Acid Syrup Packs:​ For syrup packs, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid or 1,500 milligrams vitamin C in each quart of cold syrup shortly before using. Stir it in gently so as not to stir in air. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Sugar Packs:​ For this method, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid dissolved in 1/4 cup of cold water over each quart of fruit just before adding sugar. Stir only enough to dissolve ascorbic acid.

3. Unsweetened Packs:​ Sprinkle dissolved ascorbic acid over fruit, and mix thoroughly just before packing. If fruit is packed in water or juice, dissolve the ascorbic acid in the water or juice. This can be a great option for when you're using fresh (not frozen) peaches in a recipe and want to maintain their golden hue.

4. Fruit Juices:​ Add ascorbic acid directly to the juice. Stir only enough to dissolve ascorbic acid.

5. Ascorbic Acid Mixtures:​ You may be able to find commercial anti-darkening products, which tend to include ascorbic acid mixed with sugar. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for freezing peaches.

6. Crushed Fruits and Fruit Purees:​ Add dissolved ascorbic acid to fruit preparation and mix.

Citric Acid or Lemon Juice

You can also use citric acid or lemon juice to treat peaches prior to freezing, though neither solution will be effective as ascorbic acid, per Colorado State University Extension.

  1. Mix 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in each quart of cold water. You can also use 1/4 teaspoon crystalline citric acid instead of lemon juice.
  2. Dip the prepared fruit in the solution and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and pack with water, sugar, syrup or fruit juice.

One gallon of citric acid or lemon juice solution treats about one bushel of fruit.

How to Freeze Peaches Without Them Turning Brown

Peaches are available at their freshest for only a few months, so if you want to enjoy them beyond summer, you can freeze them.

For ideal freezing conditions, select peaches that are firm and ripe. Sort, wash, pit and peel your peaches, then in halves, quarters or slices. You can peel peaches faster by using boiling water, per the Clemson Cooperative Extension.

  1. Dip a few peaches at a time into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer the peaches immediately into ice water.
  2. Now the skins should slip off easily. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Slice them into the size you like and treat them to prevent browning: with a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and water solution
    • Put the sliced fruit into a water and vitamin C solution prepared at a ratio of six crushed 500-milligram vitamin C tablets to 1 gallon of water.
  3. When all the peaches have been peeled and treated, drain the water and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of sugar for each quart of peaches. Stir gently and let the fruit stand for 15 minutes. The peaches will begin to make their own juice.
  4. Pack the peaches into freezer bags to within 3 to 4 inches of headspace at the top. Squeeze out the air, seal, label and freeze. You can also use rigid plastic containers. Leave about an inch of headspace before freezing.
  5. When thawed, the peaches will have a softer texture than when they were fresh, but they will still taste great.

You can follow the steps above, or you can freeze peaches in a syrup mixture, per Colorado State University Extension. In this context, "syrup" is a mixture of sugar and water. Freezing peaches in sugar is not necessary, but you'll still want to use some kind of anti-darkening solution (like the options above).

When you have your peaches and syrup mixture prepared, do the following:

  1. Heat peaches in boiling 40 percent syrup for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on size of pieces.
  2. Drain and cool peach pieces.
  3. Pack in cold syrup and ascorbic acid mixture

Tip

If your peaches are not quite ripe enough, place them in a paper bag, pierce the bag in several places, and set it aside at room temperature for a couple of days. Add an apple to the bag to speed up the process.

How to Make Sugar Syrup for Freezing Peaches

To make the syrup, dissolve sugar in cold or hot water.

If using hot water, cool the syrup before using it. You can make the syrup a day in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator. You can replace up to 1/4 of the sugar with corn syrup or honey.

While you may not want the added calories of sugar mixed with your fruit, it's possible to adjust the amount of sugar you use. See the different proportions possible in the sugar syrup chart below.

Sugar Syrup Recipes

Type of syrup

(% syrup)

Sugar

(cups)

Water

(cups)

Syrup Yield

(cups)

Calories per 2/3 cup

10

1/2

4

4 1/2

57

20

1

4

4 3/4

108

30

1 3/4

4

5

180

40

2 3/4

4

5 1/3

266

50

4

4

6

344

Source: Colorado State University Extension

Colorado State University Extension recommends packing peaches in a cold, 30 to 40 percent syrup, adding 1/2 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid per quart of syrup.

Alternatively, you can pack peaches in cold water containing 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid per quart of water.

Freezing Puréed or Crushed Peaches

Follow the instructions, from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, to safely freeze puréed peaches:

  1. Coarsely crush peeled and pitted peaches.
  2. For purée, press through a sieve or purée in a blender or food processor. (Heating pitted peaches for 4 minutes in just enough water to prevent scorching makes them easier to purée.)
  3. Add 1/8 teaspoon of ascorbic acid to each quart of fruit to maintain the integrity of the peaches.
  4. Pack into containers, leaving 1 inch of headspace for every quart.
  5. Seal the container and freeze.

Recipes With Peaches to Try

Now that you know how to freeze peaches, you'll be able to use them in recipes year-round. Here's some sweet and savory inspiration to get you started.

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