Saturday, August 6, 2011

Freezing Fresh Sweet Peas

I went to my local farm market this morning in search of homegrown tomatoes and tart cherries (successful on both accounts) and ended up with several other homegrown veggies, one of which happened to be about half a pound (if that) of fresh sweet peas in the pod.

I'm weird in that I like every fresh vegetable known to man, almost, except peas.  I'm weirder in that I really only like canned peas.

But last summer I discovered how awesome fresh sweet peas are in garden vegetable minestrone soup, so I had to snatch some up.

Of course, I won't be making said minestrone for another couple weeks, as we're leaving for Disney World on Thursday. And I can't leave my sweet peas in the hydrator drawer, because then they will shrivel up and dry out in the meantime.  And while I'm sure a long simmer in a pot of minestrone would help things immensely, it's just not right to do that to these poor, innocent peas.

So they needed to be frozen.

Of course, you can't just throw the peas in the freezer and say, "See you in a couple weeks!"  I'm not actually sure what would happen if you do that, but I imagine it's not what you'd want to have happen.

It's actually really easy and quick to freeze fresh peas.  I originally found good step-by-step instructions here, but a really smart friend taught me an easy way to emulate a food-saver type vacuum seal, at least for short term storage, that works way better than the straw-and-ziploc-bag method.

First off, you need to hull your peas.  Note that this step is only necessary if you're using "regular" sweet peas, not snap peas or snow peas (which just need to have the stem ends and strings removed because you eat them pretty much like a green bean).  Hulling peas is simple and sort of a brainless activity, so if you have a lot of peas you can probably do so while watching TV, chatting with your husband, reading a book, crocheting a blanket.... okay, maybe not that last one, unless you can crochet with your feet.  Easiest way I've found is to squeeze the blossom end (not the stem end) of the pod.  If your peas are really fresh, the pod should literally pop open (it will even make a popping sound) along the "seam".  You can then just open 'er up and roll the peas out of the pod with your thumb. I like to catch mine in a wire sieve for convenience.

Next, bring a pot of slightly salted water to a rolling boil.  Add the peas, cover, and let them blanch for 90 seconds.

That's all you want to blanch them for, or this won't work.

The next step is even more important.

Immediately drain the peas, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water.  Literally, with ice.  This immediately stops the cooking process and helps the peas keep their color.  Let them sit in the ice water for at least 90 seconds (as long as you blanched them) but it won't hurt anything if you let them sit longer.

Once you've let the peas sit a while, drain them again and put them in a ziploc bag.  Now here's my fancy trick that my friend taught me.

Carefully push the bag into the bowl of water, pushing the air out of the top of the bag.  Zip up all but a little bit of the top, and then squeeze out the remaining air and close the bag.  It's about as close to a vacuum seal as you can get without a food-saver, and it works for short-term storage.

Into the freezer with the peas till you're ready to use them!

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