Summer Abundance

We’ve all been there, right?  Strolling through the farmer’s market grinning like a fool, arms aching from the gajillion pounds of peppers, tomatoes, and corn we’ve just scored for a pittance.  No?  That’s just me?  Well, OK.  That was definitely me a couple weekends ago, at any rate!  I scored a dozen ears of corn, 5 pounds of organic roma tomatoes, and 2 pounds of red bell peppers for a mere $10!

I had big plans for all this stuff, and I knew it all had to be used up before the next weekend because we were heading for Wisconsin Dells for the weekend (and anytime I am out of town for a few days, I like to have the fridge pretty well cleaned out so I don’t come home to an icebox full of ick!).  A daunting task, but I figured we could do it!

Well, the week got busy and we made only a small dent in our massive pile o’ veggies and then, suddenly, it was Friday night and we still had a mountain of tomatoes, peppers, and corn despite our best efforts.  A plan B was definitely called for!

I decided that the peppers and tomatoes would make a very nice marinara sauce if I threw them in the slow cooker with some garlic and Italian seasonings and let them stew for a few hours on high.  Then I could puree the mix and freeze it and have a bunch of pasta sauce ready to go!

One teeny weeny slight snag with this plan: my immersion blender has recently met its demise, and while I have a replacement on order, it hasn’t arrived yet.  The only logical solution was to scamper over to the best kitchen store in the metro and acquire a food mill.  Yes, yes, perfectly logical!  Perfectly!  John took a bit of convincing, but once I mentioned it could live in the canning kettle and would not just sit out when not in use, he was game!  (Someday, I will have a kitchen that fits more than just cups and plates.  Someday.)

So we filled the 6qt. slow cooker almost to the brim with the veggies, added spices and a few tablespoons olive oil, and let it cook for 4 hours on high, stirring a couple times so nothing stuck to the bottom.  Then we ran the sauce through our shiny new food mill (which worked slick as a whistle!!). When we were done, we had a lovely bright sauce cooling on the counter, and a pile of tomato and pepper skins to pick out of the mill.  Easiest. Sauce. Ever.  I sort of can’t believe I have survived without a food mill so long.

So that solved the tomato and pepper problem, but I still had a giant bag of corn staring up at me.  I decided to deal with it Saturday morning.  I thought about making corn chowder to freeze, but that would have required a trip to the grocery store, and I was feeling pretty lazy, so I decided to freeze the corn for future use.

I settled on frozen corn two ways: niblets and mini-cobs.  Niblets are awesome for thawing out as a quick side or adding to soup (either as a vegetable, or as thickener), while mini-cobs are great for griling or soup or any time you want tiny cobs of corn!

Now, before we proceed, let me tell you where I sit on the great “to blanch or not to blanch” fence.  I do not blanch corn before freezing.  You can, if you want.  But if you use the corn within 2-3 months, there’s no advantage to blanching.  If you plan to hold onto the corn for posterity, blanching it will help preserve the color and flavor so it will last for 3-6 months in the freezer.  So there you have it.  I plan to use this corn before thanksgiving, so no blanchy.

I have some sneaky tricks for freezing niblets.  The biggest trick is getting the corn off the cob!  For this, I use a mixing bowl with a non-skid bottom (or put a wet towel down on the table under your bowl…you don’t want any skidding as you’re sawing the corn off the cob with a giant knife!).  Then, flip a ramekin upside down and place it in the bottom of the bowl, like so:

This gives your knife room to maneuver.  Stick your ear of corn nose-down on the ramekin, and saw the corn off the cob. Be careful not to shave cob into the bowl (it’s edible, but a bit chewy!)  Use a large knife (I’m using an 8″ chef knife here…you want to have some substantial length to leverage, it’s just easier).  Soon you’ll have a bowl full of niblets!

Once you get all the corn off your cobs, you’ll want to fish the ramekin out of the bowl, then run your hands through the corn in the bowl to break up all the sheets (they look cool, but the tighter you can pack your bags, the less freezer burn you risk…plus it’s fun, and any silk you may have lazily missed picking off the cobs when you shucked them will stick to your hands!  double win!).

Then pack the niblets into ziptop bags!  I like to measure about 2 cups per bag because that’s about what John and I will eat in one go as a side dish or adding to soup or whatever, but if you know you’ll need at least 4 cups at a whack, measure 4 cups to a bag.  I find each ear of corn yields about 3/4 cup of niblets.  Suck as much air out of the bag as possible, and be sure to label it with the date!  Presto!  Frozen corn!  Use it the same as you would use store-bought frozen corn, but feel all awesome because you made it from scratch!

Mini-cobs are even easier to freeze than niblets!  Just cut each cob into 4 equal chunks (usually I trim the ends because the kernels can be a bit wonky), pack into bags, suck out the air, and label!  (And freeze, of course!)

And there you have it.  So next time you adopt way more corn, peppers, and/or tomatoes than you can quickly use, make marinara and frozen corn!

And, a bonus for making it to the end of this post?  You get to see the wonky siamese twin corn!!


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