Monday, July 4, 2011

Peas: From Garden to Freezer

Every year my parents plant 9 rows of peas in their garden.  They grow three varieties-- Frosties, Laxton Progress, and Wandos-- mostly because you never know what the weather will be like each growing season and peas are picky about the weather.  Peas require rich well-draining soil, plenty of water, and cool temperatures.  Peas are one of the earliest crops, both to plant and to pick.  If it stays too cool for too long just after my father plants the peas, he replants any variety that doesn't sprout.  Another reason to plant three varieties is that they mature at slightly different times, which spreads out the hard labor of picking the peas.
Three varieties of peas in  my parents garden, June 2011.

This year, my parents planted peas in March and picked them in June.  Once the peas are picked, they need to be shelled.  My mother says, "If you're lucky your husband will see the bags of peas waiting to be shelled and offer to help."  Shelling peas isn't hard, but it always seems to take forever.  You start out with giant bags of pea pods and end up with a small bowl full of peas.  My parents picked peas several days in a row and got two plastic grocery bags full of peas each day.  According to my mother, this was a great year for peas, and after they were picked and shelled, she ended up with about 30 pints of peas.  They ate 6 pints and froze 24 pints.

Peas blanching in boiling water, 2011.

Process for Freezing Peas:
  • Wash shelled peas in cool water.
  • Drop approximately 2 pints of peas in boiling water and blanche them for 2 minutes.
  • Remove blancher basket with peas to the sink and run cold water over them to cool.
  • Pour cooling peas into an ice bath and leave until blanched peas are completely cool.
  • Drain well in a colander.
  • Dry thoroughly by letting peas sit in a microfiber or other absorbent towel for several minutes.
  • Once you think the peas are pretty dry, roll peas back and forth in towel several times to make sure they are REALLY dry.  (It is important to get the peas dry or ice crystals will form on the peas after you put them in the freezer.)  
Blanched peas drying in microfiber towel, June 2011.  Photo courtesy Linda Lutz.

    Processing Peas, cont.
    • Pack in one-pint freezer containers.
    • Repeat process until all the peas are packed in freezer containers.
    • Freeze immediately.
    Ten pints of peas ready for the freezer, June 2011.  Photo courtesy Linda Lutz, 2011.

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