Freezing peas, storing peaches year 'round, and seasoned butter.
July 2006: From Our Kitchen
Freezing peas, storing peaches year 'round, and seasoned butter.
| Credit: William Dickey / Styling Rose Nguyen / Food Styling Mary Allen Perry

Puttin' Up Peas
It is the perfect time to freeze fresh Southern field peas. Whether you lean towards delicate lady creams or heartier black-eyed or crowder peas, head down to your local farmers market to pick up your favorite types. You can even include some snap beans to add a different texture and color to your frozen mix. When choosing peas in the shell, look for pods that are flexible and well-filled with tender seeds.

To prepare for freezing, wash shelled peas, and cook in boiling water (1 gal. per lb. of peas) for 2 minutes. (Cook snap beans 3 minutes.) Drain and immediately plunge into ice water; let stand 2 minutes. Drain well. Transfer peas to airtight containers, leaving 1/2-inch headspace, or pack into zip-top plastic freezer bags, squeezing out excess air. Freeze up to 6 months. Use frozen field peas as you would fresh; do not thaw them before using.

Peaches Year-round
Savoring the sun-kissed flavor of juicy peaches all year long is easy--simply freeze them at their peak. Freeze sliced, peeled peaches with or without a sugar syrup, depending on how you plan to serve them. Either way, add lemon juice or commercial powdered fruit preservative such as Fruit-Fresh to protect color and texture. Look for fruit preservatives in the produce or canning sections of your supermarket.

For jams and jellies or cooked dishes, such as pies and cobblers, freeze peaches without sugar, and thaw only partially prior to use. Thaw in the refrigerator about 6 hours or until peach slices can be separated but are still semi-frozen; use immediately.

As sugar syrup further helps retain color and texture, peaches frozen with syrup are the better bet for uncooked applications, such as served over pound cake or ice cream. Thaw syrup-packed peaches in the refrigerator 8 to 10 hours, and plan to use thawed peaches within 1 day.

Unsweetened peaches: Gently toss 4 cups sliced, peeled peaches with 1 Tbsp. powdered fruit preservative or a mixture of 1 tsp. lemon juice and 1 Tbsp. water. Pack into a 1-qt. zip-top plastic freezer bag, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Squeeze out excess air, and seal; freeze. Use within 3 to 6 months.

Syrup-packed peaches: Stir together 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or 4 tsp. powdered fruit preservative, and 1 qt. water until sugar dissolves. Pour 1/2 cup sugar syrup into a 1-qt. zip-top plastic freezer bag. Add 4 cups sliced, peeled peaches and additional syrup to cover peaches (about 1 cup), leaving 1 inch of headspace. Squeeze out excess air, and seal; freeze. Use within 8 months.

Flavored Seasoning Butter
Prepared in minutes and kept on hand in the freezer, this herb- and citrus-scented butter gives last-minute meals a burst of fresh flavor. Try it atop grilled fish and meats or melted into hot cooked pasta or rice; it's especially delicious stirred into steamed or grilled veggies. Give it your signature by substituting your favorite herb or by adding a touch of lime or orange zest or a small amount of minced garlic. (Note: Use less of stronger herbs such as rosemary, sage, or tarragon.) Lemon-Herb Seasoning Butter: Stir together 1/2 cup softened butter, 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives, 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, and 2 tsp. grated lemon rind until well blended. Cover and refrigerate to use within a few days. For longer storage, form into a log or press into ice cube trays, and wrap tightly with plastic wrap; freeze up to 1 month.

Test Kitchens Recipe Box: Cookin' Up Field Peas
We've compiled our favorite field pea recipes for you to try. Fresh or frozen field peas can easily be substituted in recipes calling for rinsed and drained canned peas. Simply use 2 cups cooked and drained peas for 1 (15-oz.) can. For good measure, we've also included recipes for chowchow and cornbread--accompaniments you're sure to crave when a pot of peas is simmering on the stovetop.

Freezing Fresh Vegetables
Freezing is a simple way to preserve vegetables at home. Here are some tips.

  1. Select vegetables at their peak of texture and flavor.
  2. Blanching (cooking briefly in boiling water) is essential. This process inactivates enzymes in vegetables, helping to retain color, texture, flavor, and nutrients. Blanching times will differ by vegetable. The easiest way to blanch vegetables is to place them in a wire or metal colander or blanching basket. Lower colander or basket into boiling water, making sure vegetables are completely immersed. Carefully remove colander or basket from boiling water after blanching is complete.
  3. Use good-quality freezer containers or bags for maximum quality. A good seal is essential to keep air out and moisture in. We prefer zip-top plastic freezer bags.
  4. A general rule of thumb is to use frozen vegetables within 6 to 12 months.

General Freezing Instructions:

  1. Wash vegetables, and if necessary, cut into uniform pieces.
  2. Blanch in boiling water, following blanching times closely (see recommended blanching times below). Use 1 gal. of water for each lb. of vegetables (2 gal. per lb. of leafy greens). Bring water to a vigorous boil; add vegetables. Cover, but do not reduce heat; begin timing immediately.
  3. Drain or remove vegetables from boiling water, and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. Let vegetables stand in ice water the same length of time they were blanched.
  4. Drain thoroughly, and pack into freezer containers or bags. If using rigid containers, leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Freeze.

Blanching Times
The Cooperative Extension service at Clemson University recommends the following blanching times.

  • 1 1/2 minutes: green peas
  • 2 minutes: field peas, sliced or chopped carrots, greens (except collard greens)
  • 3 minutes: green beans, snap beans, wax beans, broccoli and cauliflower florets, collard greens, sliced summer squash
  • 4 minutes: sliced eggplant, whole kernel corn (for whole kernel corn, cut kernels off cob after blanching and cooling)
  • 5 minutes: small whole carrots

The following times vary based on size.

  • 2 to 4 minutes: asparagus, lima, butter, and pinto beans
  • 3 to 4 minutes: okra
  • 3 to 5 minutes: Brussels sprouts, new potatoes
  • 7 to 11 minutes: corn on the cob

"From Our Kitchen" is from the July 2006 issue of Southern Living.