I recently had a request from one of our Facebook followers, Cortney Brown, for instructions on how to blanch vegetables. And since I have been very busy in the kitchen the past couple of weeks blanching and freezing peas, squash, okra, and corn, I figured this was the perfect time to give Cortney some guidance on blanching and freezing her veggies so she can enjoy them year round! My instructions below can be used for most of your pea family….white acres, zipper peas, black eyes, pink eyes, purple hulls, butter beans, butter peas, ford hooks, dixie lee crowders, etc. However, it is not best for green beans, snap beans, pole beans. Those are probably better canned. Mom says those type beans don’t do well frozen. Please keep in mind that other folks may have their own way of doing this, but this is how I was taught and it works well. So let’s get to it!
First, you gotta get your peas. Either pick them yourself and shell them, or purchase peas already shelled by the bushel. The later is what I do since working full time prevents me from having time to shell several bushels at a time. The pic below is what they look like when you buy them already shelled.
Your peas need to be rinsed off well. Pour the peas into a sink full of lukewarm or cold water and stir around well. (I use my hands if I do it this way) After you drain the water (careful not to let peas down the drain!), you might want to rinse again by using the sprayer. Another option is to pour a ltitle at a time in a colander and thoroughly spray them with water until well rinsed.
After rinsing your peas, pour them into a large pot and fill with water. I use a 12 quart size pot for one bushel of peas. If you have a smaller amount of peas, say a half of bushel, then use a smaller pot if you wish. Place the pot on the stove and turn the eye on HIGH.
Bring the peas to a boil and boil 6 minutes. Do not add salt or any seasoning! You are simply “blanching” the peas at this point. Blanching stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.
It will take some time for the water to begin boiling, so while you wait, you can get your ziplock bags ready, or you could place some pans out on the counter. When the peas start boiling, you will notice foam arising to the top. (Don’t forget to set the timer once it starts boiling!) You need to skim the foam off the top and put in a cup or bowl to the side (trash the foamy stuff later). Be careful not to scoop out too many peas! They are too precious to waste! But its perfectly normal to accidentally scoop peas out while skimming. Just try not to scoop too many out if you can help it!
Continue to stir the peas and skim off the foam until most of it is gone and the timer dings.
Next, you need to drain the peas and begin the cooling process right away. You really need to get them out of the boiling water as quick as you can so they won’t keep “cooking” in the hot water. There are a couple of ways to do this.
Option one: You can pour half the pot of peas into a colander and spray rinse. Then pour those peas into several different pans you have on the counter. Pour only a little in each pan (a thin layer) so they can cool quicker. If you dump all the peas in one pan, it will be too “thick” for air to reach them and cool them. Once you’ve poured the first half of peas into some pans, continue with the second half of peas that’s still in the hot water (pour, rinse with cold water, and pour into pans).
Option two: Fill one sink full of ice water. Make sure the level of water doesn’t go over the height of your colander. Have your colander in the other sink and pour some peas into the colander. Once all the hot water has drained from the colander, place the colander of peas into the sink full of ice water slowly. This allows the peas to stay in the colander submerged in the ice water, without risking the loss of any peas. Use your hand to stir the peas around. This only takes a minute or two. Once cool, lift the colander out of the water, allowing all the cool water to drain back into the sink. The peas should be cool and you can pour them into some pans or bowls if you wish. If you have more peas in the pot of hot water, drain those and cool them the same way. You might need to add more ice into the sink filled with ice water because the first round of peas probably melted some ice. (I just did option two today and loved it so much better)
While your peas are cooling, you can go through them and pick out the bad ones or any scraps of shell that remains. If you have good, clean peas, you won’t have much to pick out.
Once your peas are completely cool, you are ready to bag them up. Scoop the amount you wish into a ziplock bag and close shut. For my husband and I, I scoop 2 cups in a pint-size ziplock bag. Last year, I had 2.5 cups per bag, and we always had leftovers. So this year I changed the amount, which gave me an extra bag or two. One bushel of peas with 2 cups per bag gave me 12 bags.
I like to lay my bags flat and stack them nice and neat in the freezer.
And that’s pretty much it! A great tip I can offer is to write down what you do each year so you can better prapare yourself for the next year. Keep a journal or small notebook with your cookbooks so you always know where it’s at. Write down the year, what you bought and how much it was, and where you bought it from. For example: 1 bushel of peas, shelled (farmers market) = $23. Then I write down the quantity of what I purchased, the amount I put in a bag, and how much I got out of it. So I write down the following:
2 bushels of zipper peas –> 2 c./bag = 24 bags
This is so helpful because I can look back at previous years and compare prices and plan accordingly. I can also look back at how many bushels total I put up for the year and determine if it was too many or not enough to last a whole year. This year, I concluded that 2.5 cups per bag was PLENTY…a little TOO plenty. So I backed off to 2 cups for serving two people. Write down as much as you can for what you did. Trust me, you won’t remember what you did the previous year and having notes is a life saver!
I hope this has helped everyone who is interested….especially our follower, Cortney Brown! Thank you Cortney for asking me to do this! I hope this is helpful and please don’t hesitate to ask questions! Good luck with your peas!