Okay, so technically it’s not Summer yet, but it’s starting to get quite warm out and the farmers markets are really showing signs of life. At the end of Summer last year, I lamented the fact that I hadn’t been proactive in preserving the fruits and vegetables I love and enjoy so much during the hot months. I was really missing fresh corn and peas when it was cold outside and all I could find at the farmers markets were lots and lots and lots of potatoes. So I promised myself that this Summer, I would buy a little extra produce and store it away for the Fall and Winter. I know nothing about properly canning or freezing anything, but I figured I was a relatively resourceful gal (and there is this thing called the Internet that the young’uns are raving about). And me being ever so generous, I thought I’d share what I learned with you. So throughout the Summer, I’ll be posting guides on how to preserve or can or freeze a particular fruit or vegetable. This week, we start with one of my favorites: English peas!
Knowing I was fairly clueless about the age old practice of freezing vegetables, I googled “freezing fresh vegetables” and got a wealth of sites with countless tips, instructions and guidelines. Honestly, it was all a bit overwhelming. Then I hit across a blog post that extolled the virtues of a book called “Preserving Summer’s Bounty”. According to the blog (and for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of it), the book gave simple but thorough information and steps on everything from canning and freezing to making preserves and drying herbs. I got a copy of the book from the library and after reading up on freezing vegetables, I decided to give it a try. I’ve been chasing down English peas for the past few weeks now, so it seemed only logical to start my little preservation project with them. Earlier this morning, I headed out to the West End Farmers Market in Alexandria for the first time and picked up some shelled peas from J&W Valley Farm. The entire process of freezing the peas took about 30 minutes, but would have taken less time had I not been taking pictures. Before I knew it, I had a gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag stuffed with peas and handily labeled with the date. So without further adieu, here is a step by step guide to freezing English peas!
I would like to think that it should go without saying the peas should be washed first before anything else is done. But according to the book, this is an often overlooked step by people freezing vegetables. I’m not sure what that says about the intelligence of the American people as a whole, but nonetheless, please first wash the peas. Look for any rotten peas or stray pieces of sticks, grass or other remnants that don’t belong.
Fill a large mixing bowl with water and ice and place it near the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Note: if the water from your tap is hard, use filtered water for blanching. Apparently using hard water will make the vegetables tougher. Once the water starts to boil, use a slotted spoon (like the one above) or a steamer basket to submerge the peas into the water. If you have a lot of peas, do this in small batches.
Allow the peas to cook for ONLY 1 to 1 1/2 minutes and then scoop them out with the slotted spoon. Immediately put the peas into the ice bath next to the stove. Continue this process until all the peas have been blanched.
Leave the peas submerged in the ice water until they’re cold to the touch. Then drain them and put a small batch on a clean towel. It is very important that the peas get as dry as possible before being frozen.
Fold the kitchen towel over the peas and gently roll the peas back and forth to absorb some of the moisture.
Then roll up the the peas in the kitchen towel (as seen above). Do this gently…peas are a delicate veggie. This will get the excess water, ensuring a dry set of peas.
Pour the peas from the kitchen towel to a Ziploc freezer bag (I used the heavy duty, double zipper gallon sized freezer bags) carefully. Continue drying the rest of the peas until all of them are dry and in freezer bags. Shake the peas down to the bottom of the freezer bag and half zip the bag. Then squeeze out the rest of the air in the bag and zip it the rest of the way. Your ziploc bag should be completely devoid of air to prevent any freezer burns.
So why not simply freeze the peas without blanching them? Enzymes in vegetables will break down their vitamins and turn their natural sugars into starch. If not rendered inactive, the enzymes will take away the fresh taste and beautiful colors of the vegetables when they are ripe. The heat from the blanching process renders the enzymes inactive, while the ice bath stops the cooking process from continuing. Without the ice bath, the vegetables will continue to cook even as they’re packed and placed in the freezer. This will lead to a mushy vegetable once defrosted. By first blanching the vegetable and then submerging it in ice water, you preserve the taste and texture of the vegetable (as well as its nutrients) for future use. Hmmmm…I feel all “Bill Nye the Science Guy” now.
Hopefully when I pull out these peas in the months to come, they will be as fresh and delicious as they are now. If not, I’ve just wasted about 30 minutes and an entire post on something that doesn’t work. And won’t that make us all a little sad?Print This Recipe