Twelve years ago, a group of women, most of whom were teachers, gathered together to view lovely gardens, drink tea, and celebrate the beginning of summer vacation. Today, most of these women are retired (a few are still teaching) and others (not necessarily teachers) have joined the group, but we still meet during the third week in June to visit three home gardens, sip tea, and enjoy an array of (mostly) authentic English afternoon tea fare.
The collection of tea cups always makes for a colorful picture. Most cups come with a story which the owner is asked to share with tablemates.
Minted fruit salad along with scones and other fruit breads are a traditional part of afternoon tea.
A variety of teas, both herbal and caffeinated, are offered at each garden.
Up to this point, the peas have been outside the main processing building where water and machinery are used to separate the edible pea from all foreign material. In the next stage the peas travel inside and enter what I like to call a "Pea-Pickin' Water Park."
Triple washing cleans the peas and rids them of any remaining residue that may have made it this far.
And then the peas enter a series of
Next they are blanched with multiple sprays of hot water . . .
followed by a cold, cold shower that stops all enzyme action.
The final fun in the 'water park' is the 's-PEA-dway,' where peas race across a grated surface for the final sort for uniform size.
Next, it's on to the freezer. . .
Brrrrrrr . . .
Voila! Frozen peas. From harvest to frozen takes only four hours!
Finally, frozen peas are stored in huge totes until they are bagged for an order for a vendor such as Birds Eye/C&W. (Click to see Part 1 or Part 2)
Once harvested, the peas we saw being harvested in the morning (see Part 1) are trucked from H.T. Rea pea field to Smith Frozen Foods, Inc. in Weston, Oregon. In 1952, twenty food processors existed in the Blue Mountain region including canneries and frozen food processors. Today, Smith Frozen Foods is the only processor left in the Blue Mountain region.
Before being weighed, the peas are dumped into a huge hopper where the process begins to separate the round green peas from any extraneous pods or field residue that may have been collected. Even with the best harvesting techniques, some foreign material makes it through to this first stage of processing and must be removed before the peas are weighed and the farmer gets paid for his peas.
In addition to weight, random samples are taken from every load of peas to test for maturity grade using this machine--a tenderometer. The maturity grade is important to both the processor as well as the grower as a basis for establishing value of the crop and payment by the processor. In short, tender peas pay more to the grower.
Separating good peas from the field detritus is a three-stage process where the peas are rolled, tumbled, and sifted . . .
. . . until only the best whole peas remain to be washed, blanched, and quick frozen. Stay tuned for Part 3 to see that process. Click here to see Part 1.