When it comes to spring peas, the simplest preparations are always the best. The youngest ones can be eaten raw, right off the vine (and when I lived at home and had regular access to my parents' vegetable garden, I did a lot of that). The slightly more mature peas should be blanched in salted water and then tossed with butter. Torn mint, if you're feeling fancy.
My issue with fresh peas is that they're both labor intensive and, if you're not growing them yourself, quite pricy. And their season is so fleeting. As a preserver, I'm always looking for ways to extend short seasons and make precious ingredients stretch, so I turned my pickling ray on spring peas.
In my research, I found a recipe for pickled peas on Food 52 that sounded very much what I was looking for. I've made it twice now, once as it was written and another time with a number of tweaks. It's the tweaked version I share with you today.
This technique is new to me this season, but I plan on adding it to my roster of mandatory pickles for 2013. The reason I'm so taken with these pickled peas is that they've lost none of their pea essence, but are also bursting with a vivid tartness. I've used them in a quick pasta dish and have a few left that I want to use to garnish my next batch of asparagus soup (two spring vegetables that go so well together).
Before You Get Started
Make sure you're working with the freshest peas you can get. If you're shopping at the farmers' market, make this pickle the same day you buy so that the peas don't turn into little starch bombs.
When you've got the peas in the pan with the oil, keep them moving.
I like sherry vinegar for this pickle, but a champagne or white wine vinegar would also work nicely. Stay away from darker vinegars for this one, as they'll turn the peas funky colors.
Make sure to give the peas time to rest before serving them. Overnight is best, but three to four hours will do in a pinch.
About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in May 2012.