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The prepared squirrel gloats

Su Lum

After reading in the paper that the past hurricanes in Florida and heavy rains in California have dried up the present produce market in Aspen, I was especially glad that I had laid in a winter supply of 50 Roma tomatoes in my freezer and only wished I’d frozen more.This was a last-minute tip from Kathy Woods, who runs the Westwood Farms booth, on the penultimate day of the farmers market. I was lamenting the forthcoming end of fresh tomatoes and she advised me to freeze Romas, something I had never heard of. Canned tomatoes, yes, but frozen? I hiked over to the Okagawa booth, bought as many Romas as I could carry, froze them on cookie trays in the freezer and put the bright-red hand grenades into plastic freezer bags.They looked so spectacular that I returned on the last day of the market greedy for more, but tomato season was over and none were to be found. Still, I had 50 frozen Romas and eight or nine quarts of fresh, ripe canned tomatoes (easy to do: Peel, put in sterilized jars, add a little salt and cook for an hour) so I was set in the tomato department.I’ve had several inquiries about the frozen tomatoes, basically asking, “Are they any good?” and the answer is yes. You hold a frozen tomato under hot water, peel the skin off with your fingers, let it sit until partially thawed and slice it. When totally thawed, the sliced tomato is more watery than normal, but you can mop that up with a paper towel and I can attest that it is delicious in a bowl with a little Catalina dressing, and though it may lack the necessary crispness in a salad, it is a real tomato. I had also frozen about a dozen quart plastic bags of halved, peeled peaches in orange juice early in the summer when the peaches were great (not so later on, I don’t know why), which I am already dipping into, and three quarts of fresh, chopped, raw rhubarb from my patch in my back yard, which I haven’t tried and am nervous about, thinking I should have picked the stalks earlier. We shall see.Being a fresh pea lover I have, for several summers, kicked myself for not freezing a supply of shelling peas. By the time the farmers market opens here, shelling pea season is almost over and you have to buy about a bushel of them to yield a quart of peas, and screw winter, you want to eat them right now.This summer, at the cost of about a nickel a pea, severe self-discipline and hours of shelling labor, I froze three quarts of shelling peas, which are now squirreled away in my freezer like nuts for the winter. (If anyone knows how to successfully freeze sugar snap peas without losing their snap, let me know!)I did the same with Olathe corn, another delicacy that doesn’t lend itself to leftovers. “Think ahead,” I admonished myself, and for every dozen ears I brought to the table I bought an equal amount for the freezer. Parboil, scrape from the cob with a sharp (in my case, sharpish) knife, freeze like the tomatoes and peas on cookie sheets, break the mass up into kernels and put in freezer bags. Man, I am set for the winter. The wind may howl and the snow may blow, the local produce sections may wither, but I’ve got a little handful of fresh peas and corn to throw into a boiling pot and a fresh tomato to skin under the tap and a peach crisp baking in the oven, and NEXT year?Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks everything tastes better if it has been basted with your own blood. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.