Lum: Summertime — the living is easy
Now that I’ve retired as an ad saleswoman (now called “account manager”) for The Aspen Times, I’ve discovered that the secret to summer in Aspen is home cooking and not leaving the premises unless it is absolutely necessary.
“Absolutely necessary” includes physical-therapy appointments with Katie McManus up at Aspen Valley Hospital, the farmers market every Saturday morning, prescription pickups at Carl’s Pharmacy and the carefully timed replenishment of provisions at the local grocery stores. If I accidentally go to City Market between 4 and 5 p.m., I get what I deserve.
This weekend, I’ve been freezing corn. The trick is to buy a couple of ears of corn at the farmers market, take them home and microwave them one at a time in their husks for four minutes and, if they are tender and delicious, go back and get a dozen more ears.
Microwave the ears for half the time (four minutes for two ears), grab them out with oven mitts, and let them cool. Don’t hold them under cold water, because you don’t want any extra water.
When the cobs are cool, husk them and slice off the kernels with a sharp knife onto a parchment-paper-covered cookie sheet. Flash-freeze them, put them into a plastic freezer bag, and you have corn for the winter. I like the small, tender kernels — it takes about seven cobs to make a quart.
By freezing vegetables such as corn and peas this way, it’s simple to take however much you need out of the freezer bag instead of having one solid block that you’d have to use all at once.
Next week, they should have the long-anticipated vine-ripened tomatoes, time for canning.
At home, my friend Hilary has turned my tiny yard into a jungle of wildflowers, shelling peas, sugar snap peas and fava beans. She might have sneaked a few carrot or chard seeds into the mix, but fresh peas are difficult to come by, and fava beans are impossible to find unless you grow your own, so those are the main crops.
My dachshund Nicky is very partial to sugar snap peas. Freddie, Nicky’s litter mate, has no interest in them at all, but Nicky is obsessed. He likes them raw, and he likes them fresh.
You can get tolerable sugar snaps all winter in the fancy-food sections, but Nick will have none of it — it’s fresh off the vine or nothing. Dachshunds are experts at expressing disdain.
We are just getting our first snap peas of the season. I dropped a few into boiling water for just enough time for them to turn deep green (about 15 seconds). I offered one to Nicky, and he whipped his head away so hard he could have broken his pudgy little neck. “I want raw,” he told me clearly. He’s right — raw snap peas are the best; you eat them pod and all.
We had a sugar snap disaster earlier. Hilary came into the house in tears, saying all of the snaps in the back garden had been snapped (so to speak) in half. This was when they were a yard high, promising an abundant yield. The rows looked as if someone had taken a scythe to them.
At first, Hilary thought she had done it with aggressive watering; then voles were blamed, and traps were set. In the end, we never did know for sure, but cutworms were suspected — little inchwormy-looking caterpillars (according to the photos) that work by night and turn into miller moths. Hilary stalked them after dark to no avail. Whatever it was didn’t touch the fava beans.
This spring, I got an excellent box of peas (not one bad one in the bunch) and froze 4 quarts. Snaps don’t freeze well at all, so we’re OK, and I’m having a great summer as long as I don’t have to drive anywhere.
Su Lum is a longtime local who has an aversion to slugs. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com.