Using All But the Oink

Our recent road trip to Colorado’s fertile West Slope farming areas yielded more than the initial research for three of my current writing projects, a great hike, and time with friends: we came home with a thirty-pound box of Olathe sweet corn and an equal-weight box of organic peaches. That meant in midst of the rush to get ready for the next adventure, about which more later, we carved out an evening to feed the freezer.

Breadbowl

Fresh sweet corn is ridiculously easy to preserve by freezing, and it still tastes sweet and fresh months later (unlike the waxy, flavorless frozen corn from the supermarket). Here’s my method: After shucking the corn without breaking off the stalks, I get out Richard’s largest stainless steel bread bowl and a sharp paring knife, and start shaving off the kernels. (That’s the bowl with knife for scale above–I didn’t think to shoot a photo of the actual shaving, perhaps because my hands were occupied with corn and knife.) I hold the corn by the stalk, pointed end firmly against the bottom of the bowl, place the paring knife parallel to the cob, and slice downward, separating swaths of kernels from the cob. After each swath, I rotate the corn cob and shave off another swath. It’s pretty easy to develop a feel for how deep to cut: slice too deeply and you feel the knife biting into the fibrous cob; too shallowly and there’s no resistance and you get shallow part-kernels. (But you can always shave that part again and get the rest of the kernels.)

Once I’ve accumulated a bowl full of milky kernels, I spoon them into ziploc freezer bags (label the bags first–it’s easier to write on a bag that’s not full of bumpy kernels) and store them flat in the freezer–they stack best that way. Here’s the scene in the freezer after the 8 quarts of corn went in (those are slender and tender pole beans above them, in ziploc bags re-used from last summer’s chile harvest). It took me about an hour to shave the corn while Richard shucked.

Freezer 

Not wanting to waste anything–I was born into the tradition of using all but the oink–the husks and silk will go into the compost pile, adding their mite to its nutrients for next year’s garden. I had gathered up the cobs and was about to throw them away somewhat regretfully (we gave up our trash service months ago in our continuing effort to abide by the reuse, recycle, reduce principles of lightening our footprint on the planet’s resources) when Richard stopped me. He remembered what we did with last summer’s cobs:

Woodpile 

Yup, that’s shaved corn cobs, drying on our woodpile along with the split stove-lengths of pinon pine and juniper for this winter’s heat. Richard will burn the cobs in the woodstove that heats his shop-cum-sculpture studio. So that’s our box of corn, not a bit of it wasted. And I can’t wait to pull that corn out of the freezer this winter, a savory reminder of summer’s heat!

And the peaches? Well, I had plans to try a new recipe for simmered peach jam. But the peaches are so sweet and juicy and perfectly ripe that we’ve eaten almost all of them, and shared some with friends. So that’ll have to wait for another box of peaches. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for an easy but surprisingly elegant and sophisticated peach dessert.

Peaches

Sweet and Goaty Broiled Peaches
2 whole, ripe peaches
4 T feta cheese
2 T brown sugar
2 T brandy (optional)

Carefully slice the peaches in half along their meridian line (from point to stem end). Gently twist the halves apart and remove the pits. Place in an oven-proof pan cut site up. Mound 1 T of feta cheese in the pit hollow of each peach, and sprinkle with 1/2 T brown sugar and 1/2 T brandy (optional). Broil for just a few minutes, until feta is soft and brown sugar has begun to caramelize. If you want to really gild the lily, serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side….

The next adventure? This weekend, Richard and I head out for a two-week artist/writer residency courtesy of the San Juan Public Lands Center (U.S. Forest Service & BLM) at Aspen Guard Station in the foothills of the Plata Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The cabin we’ll stay in sits at about 9,200 feet elevation in an aspen grove about 8 miles off the paved highway (there’s a gravel road in). It’s got all we need to focus on our work for two weeks: peace and quiet, the sound of aspen leaves rustling in the breeze, sunshine, and a sky-full of stars at night. It doesn’t have phone service, internet access–or electricity for that matter. (It’s got a propane cookstove and propane lights though.) So if I get to town during our two-week stay, I’ll put up a post from our creative adventure. If I don’t make it to town and it’s quiet on this blog front until mid-September, not to worry. Know that I’m happily writing away by hand on a legal pad, surrounded by milk-white aspen trunks, watching their leaves turn gold. No need to feel sorry for me.

Coming up after the residency: I have quite a pile of books to take with me for the lovely quiet evenings of reading I imagine with my only distractions coyote-song and dazzling stars. Almost all are new memoirs by authors who will appear on this blog in the coming months, including Diana Allen Kouris for her Brown’s Park ranching memoir, Riding the Edge of an Era; biologist Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s fascinating look at our relationship to wildness in urban places, Crow Planet; Julie Whitesel Weston’s The Good Times Are All Gone Now, a clear-eyed look  at the wrenching changes in her childhood home of Kellogg, Idaho, a poisoned mining town figuring out how to re-invent itself; and popular myst
ery writer Susan Wittig Albert’s beautiful Together, Alone, A Memoir of Marriage and Place.

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