Preserving garden peas by freezing
Peas are ripe in the garden. Green pods, filled with young tender peas are hanging from the vine. It is time to harvest and preserve peas for later use.
My favorite way of preserving peas is to freeze them. Freezing captures the natural sweetness of the pea and is the closest to fresh peas in taste. The process is quite simple; just shell, blanch and bag or should I say blanch, shell and bag. Blanching is a process of dipping vegetables in hot boiling water for a minute or two then plunging the vegetables in cold water to quickly cool them. Blanching stops the action of enzymes that can cause loss of flavor, color and texture over time. Most people shell peas before blanching but I have found that it is much easier to shell peas if you blanch first. Picking the peas is the hardest part of the job so I harvest my peas in stages. I pick a bucket of tender young peas, when the pods are full but not quite mature. I rinse the dust and sand off of them in the garden then bring them in the kitchen for blanching.I fill a large pot half way with water and put it on the stove to boil. Meanwhile I pack the peas loosely in a sack. I have used an old pillow case, cotton cheese cloth or a nylon potato sack for this purpose. This year a nylon potato sack was handy. Then I clean my kitchen sink and fill it with cold water. Once the water in the pot has come to a rolling boil I dip the sack of peas into the hot water for 2 minutes. Watch the clock it is important not to under-cook or over-cook the peas. The peas will change from dark green to bright green. When the time is up take them out of the hot water and plunge them into the cold water in your sink. Stir them around so that they quickly becomes cool. Once the peas are cooled put them into a colander to drain. Now it is time to shell them. You’ll find that the pods will snap open very easily making shelling much more pleasant and faster. After shelling I put the peas into plastic freezer bags press out the air, twist the end and knot it, then flatten the bags and lay them onto a freezer shelf. When I am finished I go back out to the garden and pick another bucket of peas and start over again. By the way, I keep a couple of plastic water bottles of frozen water in my freezer. I slip them into the water in the sink between batches to cool the water down again so that I can use the same water for cooling the next batch of peas.
For more information about preserving food visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.