Although you can't beat the taste of peas fresh from the garden, those preserved at home come close, especially in the middle of winter when fresh peas are scarce. Here are several methods for preserving peas:
Harvest tender peas and shell while fresh. Wash, drain and blanch peas in boiling water for three minutes. Drain them, reserving the liquid. Fill hot, sterilized jars loosely with peas. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint or one teaspoon to each quart, then add the retained liquid, plus additional boiling water if needed, leaving one inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process pints and quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (240° F).
Harvest, shell and wash tender peas while fresh. Blanch in boiling water for two minutes (three minutes for those in edible pods). Cool quickly in ice water and drain. Package peas in containers and seal. Date and label the containers, and place them in a single layer in the freezer for a quick freeze. They may be stacked the next day.
Allow southern peas to ripen completely and dry as much as possible on the vine. Then either pull the vines and hang them in a well-ventilated area to allow the peas to dry further, or harvest and shell the peas.
Spread these shelled, partially dried peas in a thin layer on cookie sheets and place them outside in an area that receives full sunlight and is well ventilated. It takes about three days of low humidity and few clouds to dry peas. Stir them occasionally while they're drying, and rotate the trays. It's best to bring the trays inside at night. The peas are dry and ready to store if they split when tapped with a hammer, or if they're hard and wrinkled.
Spread southern peas in single layers in the trays. Dry them at 120F for 10 to 12 hours, depending on how dry the peas were at harvest. Harvest and shell young green peas, then blanch them for two to three minutes. Continue as for southern peas. The drying process takes longer for green peas, but when the peas are dry, they'll also split when tapped with a hammer. Store dried peas in an airtight container.
Article published on April 21, 2005.