Monday, June 7, 2010

Snap Peas in a Pod

In the grand scheme of attempting to eat healthier, and increase the amount of vegetables in my diet, I’m embarking on a summer full of picking and freezing my own. Due to the fact that I live in an apartment, my eventual plan of growing my own will have to wait until I own a house. So for now, I’ll just head to some great local farms and see what they’ve got to offer.

I loved going berry and apple picking as a kid, but once my mom had four of us to wrangle, we stopped going as often. Consequently, I now have no idea when picking seasons actually are. After missing out on everything but apples last summer, I proactively searched out all the local farms and got on their mailing lists. About a week ago I got my first email from Rowe’s Produce in Belleville, Mi. They are a good sized operation that has pick-your-own Strawberries, Peas, Sweet Corn and Raspberries. They also have a pretty fantastic looking produce market that’s set to open in July selling everything else I could want!

The email stated that Strawberries and Sugar Snap Peas were ripe and ready to be picked. My husband, his younger sister and I headed out and met up with one of my best friends and her two kids for a morning of picking. It was warm, but not hot and overcast, which made being out in the fields rather pleasant. In about an hour – an hour and a half, we’d managed to collect two pecks of peas and several flats of strawberries.
Miles - helping pick peas!
Rachael and Josh get to work.
Rachael, Me, Ruth and Maren in the field
Fresh Sugar Snap Peas

And here entered a slight problem, I had no idea how to freeze peas. I knew with berries I just had to spread them out on a tray, freeze them and pop them into freezer bags. I was pretty sure peas would require a little extra work. My mom confirmed my suspicions, I first had to blanch them and then I could freeze them.

I hadn’t really had to blanch anything before, but I knew the concept, it’s pretty simple. I started out snapping the tops off the peas (with Sugar Snap Peas, you can eat the pod), and rinsing them. Once rinsed, I dumped them into a large pot of boiling water and set my timer for two minutes. I don’t know all the chemistry behind it, but you want them just slightly cooked before freezing, but not too cooked or they’ll be mush when you want to use them later. When my timer went off, I strained out the hot water and placed them in a large bowl of water that had been waiting in my fridge.
Rinsing all the sand and anything else off.
Blanching the Peas

I now had a bunch of room temp, slightly cooked peas! I spread them out on a paper towel and patted them to remove some of the water. Next I filled three quart sized Ziploc vacuum bags. I used to have a vacuum sealer, but it no longer seals, so when I saw the new Ziploc version, I was sold. All you have to do is seal the bag, place the plastic plunger over the circle delineated on the bag, and pump out the air.

Drying them out a bit...
Ziploc's Vacuum Seal bags - Labeled and ready to go.
My husband demos the ease of sealing them.
Sealed and ready to eat when I want them!
My freezer is looking healthier already!! I can’t wait for the rest of the peas to get ripe.

A decent start on a self-stocked Freezer: Snap Peas and Strawberries.

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