Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pass the “Peas” Please

Crisp, tender sugar peas combined with new potatoes make a tasty dish that signals the beginning of a bountiful garden.  English or hull peas are equally delicious.  With careful processing, peas can be preserved to be enjoyed throughout the year.
English or hull peas, snow peas, and sugar snap peas are the most readily available types in Pennsylvania.  All can be frozen and the hull peas may be successfully canned in the pressure canner.  Peas will have the best quality if canned or frozen the same day as they are harvested.

Snow peas should have a firm crisp pod that is flat with the seeds inside being small and immature.  If the peas inside the pods are fat and visible, the pods will be tough and stringy.  Remove the tips and the string on the side just before freezing.

Sugar snap peas differ from the snow peas in that the pods look like the green hull peas and the peas inside are fully developed.  Sugar snap peas have two strings that should be removed before cooking.

Freezing Peas:  When freezing snow or sugar snap peas, work quickly preparing small batches at a time.  Sort peas by size because the blanching time is dependent upon the size of the pod. Blanch peas to fix color and to preserve flavor and nutrients.  Blanch small podded peas 1 to 1 ½ minutes, medium peas 2 minutes.  Blanch one pound in one gallon of rapidly boiling water.  If it takes more than one minute for the water to return to a boil after adding the peas, you need more water or less food.  The peas will cook and be less crisp if it takes longer for the water to return to boiling.

After blanching long enough for heat to penetrate to the center of the peas, remove quickly and immerse in ice water just until chilled.  Avoid soaking the peas.  Drain thoroughly on toweling.  Individually quick freezing works best to keep this type of pea crisp.  Spread in a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid.  Then package in a moisture, vapor proof container.  Snow or sugar snap peas frozen in mass will take longer to thaw and cook, and will loose the crispness usually desired with this vegetable.  Label and freeze up to one year at 0°F.

Green hull or English peas should be harvested when pods are filled with young, tender peas that have not become starchy.  Wash and shell the peas; blanch for 1 ½ minutes in boiling water; drain and chill in ice water.  Drain well.  Package, leaving ½-inch headspace.  Seal and freeze.

Canning peas:  If peas are canned, they must be processed in a pressure canner.  Because peas are dense, pack them loosely (either raw or boiled) into hot jars and cover with boiling water allowing 1-inch headspace.  Process pints and quarts 40 minutes at 11 pounds pressure in a dial gauge pressure canner or at 10 pounds in a weighted gauge pressure canner.  Large peas over 1/3-inch need to processed 10 minutes longer.