English or hull peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas are commonly available. All can be frozen, and the hull peas may be successfully canned in the pressure canner. Peas will have the best quality if canned or frozen the same day as they are harvested.
Edible pod peas include sugar, Chinese, snow, and sugar snap varieties. Snow peas should have a firm crisp pod that is flat with the seeds inside being small and immature. If the peas inside the pods are fat and visible, the pods will be tough and stringy. Remove the tips and the string on the side just before freezing. Sugar snap peas differ from the snow peas in that the sugar snap pods look like the green hull peas and the peas inside are fully developed. Sugar snap peas have two strings that should be removed before cooking.
Harvest sugar snap peas when the pea is just beginning to form; they will be about half the size of hull peas. When freezing snow or sugar snap peas, work quickly, preparing small batches at a time. Sort peas by size, because the blanching time is dependent on the size of the pod. Blanch peas to fix color and to preserve flavor and nutrients.
Blanch small-podded peas 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, medium peas 2 minutes. If the peas have started to develop, increase the processing time to 3 minutes. If the peas are already developed, shell and follow directions for canning green peas. Blanch 1 pound in 1 gallon of rapidly boiling water.
If it takes more than 1 minute for the blanching water to return to a boil after adding the peas, you need more water or fewer peas. The peas will cook and be less crisp if it takes longer for the water to return to boiling. An alternative to water-blanching is to steam-blanch the peas for 2-1/2 to 4 minutes depending upon size.
After blanching long enough for heat to penetrate to the center of the peas, remove quickly and immerse in ice water just until chilled. Avoid soaking the peas. Drain thoroughly on toweling.
Individually quick-freezing works best to keep this type of pea crisp. Spread peas in a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid. Then package frozen peas in a moisture- and vapor-proof bag or box. Snow or sugar snap peas frozen in a mass will take longer to thaw and cook, and will lose the crispness usually desired with this vegetable. Label and freeze up to one year at zero F.
Green hull or English peas should be harvested when pods are filled with plump, young, tender peas that have not become starchy. Wash and shell the peas; blanch for 1-1/2 minutes in boiling water; drain and chill in ice water. Drain well. Package peas, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Seal and freeze.
Canning is suitable only for green hull or English peas. Peas are low-acid vegetables and must be pressure-processed to be safe. They may be packed into jars raw or hot.
To raw pack, place the peas loosely into hot jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. Do not shake or press down. (The reason peas and other starchy vegetables must not be packed too tightly is that they absorb the packing water and swell significantly during pressure canning.)
To hot pack, boil small peas (less than 1/4 inch) for 3 minutes; boil medium peas (1/4 to 1/3 inch) for 5 minutes. Drain; rinse in hot water; drain again. Pack hot peas into hot jars, leaving a 1-inch headspace.
Salt is optional and may be added for flavor. For either raw- or hot-pack method, 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint or 1 teaspoon salt per quart may be added. Ladle boiling water over peas, leaving a 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps.
In a dial-gauge pressure canner, process pints or quarts for 40 minutes at altitudes of 2,000 feet or below. At altitudes of 2,001-4,000 feet, process at 12 pounds pressure, at altitudes of 4,001-6,000 feet, process at 13 pounds pressure, and at altitudes of 6,000-8,000 feet, process at 14 pounds pressure.
In a weighted-gauge pressure canner, process pints and quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. At altitudes above 1,000 feet, process the jars at 15 pounds pressure.
If you have food preservation questions, a home economist is available to answer questions on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., by calling 717-394-6851 or writing Penn State Extension, Lancaster County, 1383 Arcadia Rd., Rm. 140, Lancaster, PA 17601.