The straight up goods on how to freeze peas. You’ve worked hard to get those gorgeous shelled peas, so keep them tasting like they’re fresh out of the garden by freezing them properly.
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Please don’t be tricked into thinking you can freeze peas without blanching. They may be okay for the first two to three months, but after that they’ll start to taste starchy and bitter. Have you ever eaten peas from a big, fat bumpy pea pod, like in the photo below?
Yuck, right? As peas age and become overripe, sugar turns to starch and they start to taste bitter. They lose that sweet tender flavor we adore. That’s exactly what happens in the freezer if you don’t blanch them first. The aging enzyme continues to age the peas and even though they’re frozen, they turn starchy and bitter. You don’t want that.
So here’s what to do…
How to Freeze Peas to Capture Their Sweet Flavor
Harvest peas when the peas inside the pod are a nice round form but aren’t so big that they’re crowding each other and straining the sides of the pea pod. When you’re checking your peas, compare the feel of a small, medium and large pea pod and then do a taste test to get a sense of the difference in flavor between the different sizes. If in doubt, err on the side of underripe rather than overripe.
If you’re getting peas from a farmer’s market, have a good look at the pea shells and see what stage the peas are at. You want about 90% of them to be like the ones in the middle in the photo above. If there are a lot of shells that are tight and bumpy, leave them as they are overripe and will taste starchy not sweet. If there are too many that are too small, you’ll get good flavor, but you won’t get much volume – consider waiting until next week’s market.
In the photo below, notice how big the peas in the first pea pod are. Notice the color difference too, they’re a pale green compared to the juicy, sweet tender peas in the bottom pod. That top pod is overripe.
2. Handling Time
Shell, and freeze your peas as soon after picking or buying as possible. Peas will continue to age once picked. They’ll also start to lose moisture and get limp. Process them right away to capture that fresh sweet flavor.
3. Proper Processing
I wish I could tell you that you don’t have to blanch peas. But you do. Even if you find tons of internet sites that say you don’t have to – you really do! I know this both from my schooling as a Professional Home Economist and from first hand experience. Yes, despite knowing better, I was lured by internet posts that promised I didn’t need to blanch peas. I got suckered into freezing several bags of peas without blanching. BIG MISTAKE! When I took those peas out several months later, their color and flavor were not pleasant. The peas tasted starchy and bitter. Just like my profs said they would, the aging enzymes in the peas continued to age the peas, even in the freezer. So my young, tender peas tasted as bad as those big fat peas we hate.
So please, DO NOT freeze peas without blanching first – no matter what you might find on the internet!
To stop the aging enzymes and properly preserve flavor, color, texture and nutrient loss, you need to blanch veggies first.
If you choose not to blanch your peas, use them within two to three months before the effects of aging become noticeable and your peas start to taste off.
How to Blanch and Freeze Peas
Step 1 – Shell & Wash
Wash shelled peas in a big bowl of cold water. Simply swish about and scoop out with your hands.
Step 2 – Bring to Boil & Blanch
Bring a large pot of water to a hard boil. Add peas to boiling water being sure not to overcrowd the pot. There should be plenty of room for peas to move and the water should be able to come back to a boil within 1 minute. If there are too many peas in the pot, some will get over-cooked and some will be under-cooked.
Once the water and peas return to a hard boil, watch the timer carefully and boil (blanch) your peas for only 1 1/2 minutes. That’s all you need for blanching, but only start the timer once the water has returned to a boil.
Step 3 – Cool in Ice Water
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Immediately scoop out your peas and cool them instantly in an ice water bath. The ice water will help ensure the peas don’t continue to cook from their own heat. Overcooking the peas will leave them too mushy once you reheat them to serve later on. Once all the peas are cooled, drain the water well.
Step 4 – Freeze
There are two options for how to freeze your peas – freeze as individual peas or freeze as a meal-sized bunch.
If you want to be able to open a bag and have individual peas roll out, you’ll need to freeze the peas individually by placing them in a single layer on a large tray. Place the tray in the freezer for 1-2 hours and then transfer frozen peas into a freezer bag or container.
If you have a lot of peas, lack of freezer space, want to finish the job quickly or like freezing meal sized quantities, skip freezing the peas on a tray and put peas directly into a freezer container. Because of the water on the peas, they will stick together, but once thawed it won’t make a difference.
Remove as much air from the freezer bag or container as possible. Use a straw to suck out air of freezer bags.
That’s it. You now have delicious peas that will last until next year’s pea crop!
What’s your favorite way of using your frozen peas? A pat of butter? A sauce? In soups?
We like putting frozen peas in hot chicken noodle soup. We don’t even thaw them, we just add them at the very end just before serving. By the time we get eating, the peas have heated up and the soup has cooled down just enough.
Sign up to get seasonal recipes, preserves and tips by Getty delivered to your inbox. Getty is a Professional Home Economist, speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas. She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.