096 Photographer Babs Perkins: The Land, People and Cheese of the Balkans

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Listen to “096 Photographer Babs Perkins: The Land, People and Cheese of the Balkans” on Spreaker.

First of all, a big thanks to Eric Rochow of Garden Fork. He wanted to do something for Kelly and me, so he set up an interview, guest hosted and edited this episode of the podcast. Please consider subscribing to Eric’s Garden Fork podcast and YouTube channel. Also take a moment to leave a review of the Garden Fork podcast in iTunes and share his podcast and YouTube channel in social media. And Eric has a great suggestion: if you want to do something for Kelly consider donating blood. Thank you Eric Rochow!

Eric’s interview is with photographer and writer Babs Perkins, who documents disappearing foods in the Balkans with a emphasis on cheese making. In the conversation Babs and Eric discuss the politics of cheese in the EU, the challenges of doing a documentary project in the Balkans and the cross cultural values of sharing food. As you listen to the podcast I’d suggest you take a look at Perkins’ stunning photos on her website:

Cheese Stories: Bosnia

Cheese Stories: Serbia

The incredible natural beauty of Bosnia

And those strange concrete monuments put up by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito.

@babsperkins on Instagram

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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Jas. Townsend’s 18th Century Cooking

The recovery journey for open heart surgery involves three things: pain killers, a recliner and a flat screen television. Thanks to our new TV’s ability to access the internet, we’ve fallen into a deep and unlikely YouTube hole: Jas. Townsend and Son’s 18th century cooking videos.

Jas. Townsend and Son is the most unlikely business I can imagine. They manufacture and sell 18th century clothing, cookware, camp equipment and housewares though a brick and mortar shop in Pierceton, Indiana. Founder James John Townsend is one of the most prolific and accomplished YouTubers I’ve encountered. His cooking videos feature professional lighting and sound (rare in the YouTube universe) and look like something PBS would (should?) make. And Townsend has produced over 500 videos giving Kelly and I a chance to spend many evenings catching up on the finer points of pemmican, hardtack and pickled smelt.

Neither of us are historical reenactors, though Kelly sometimes accuses me of trying to relive the 1990s. But you need not be into historical reenactment to appreciate Townsend’s well researched videos. You can tell he’s having a good time making them too.

Kelly wanted me to highlight the portable soup video I embedded above. And note that it’s just one of four videos on portable soup! There’s also a fascinating series on 18th century breads.  If Townsend’s video output isn’t enough for you he’s got a website containing the recipes and videos called Savoring the Past. Does Townsend sleep? I’m glad he doesn’t because we’ve both been enjoying his creative output.

And, lastly, a note on Kelly. She thanks you all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. Getting over a surgery like this is no picnic. It’s more akin to eating hardtack and suet by the side of a meager fire (thank you Townsend and Son for the metaphor). It will be awhile before Kelly can blog again but she wants me to tell you how much she appreciates your support.

I picked a peck of pickled peaches

IMG_7181Each year I thin our peach tree to assure that, in a month, the squirrel population will access only the largest and most succulent peaches. The other reason to thin a peach tree is that if you don’t it will collapse of its own weight, like those industrial broiler chickens that can’t stand up if you let them live past the eating stage.

But what to do with all those immature peaches? Yes, you can pickle them. This I learned from Kevin West’s bible of food preservation, Saving the Season. In the introduction to his pickled green almond recipe (p. 103) West notes that immature stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines can be pickled in the same way as green almonds (almonds are a stone fruit too).

If you don't thin this branch it will break off.

If you don’t thin this branch it will break off.

I’d share Kevin’s recipe with you but he’s a fellow author and you really should own his book, Saving the Season. It’s the classiest food preservation book out there. Plus Kevin could have me killed and pickled (just kidding). What I can tell you is that this is a quick, vinegar powered refrigerator pickle. Any similar vinegar pickle recipe will work. West’s recipe calls for white wine vinegar. I ran out and substituted the vinegar you clean floors with. Nevertheless, they came out fine and resemble large olives.

Should you want to try pickling green almonds, by the way, you can sometimes find them in Middle Eastern grocery stores and some farmers markets (our local Armenian supermarket Super King sometimes has them if you can survive the infamous parking lot).

067 Wild Drinks and Cocktails With Emily Han

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Our topic this week is wildcrafted drinks and cocktails with writer, recipe developer, educator, and herbalist Emily Han. She is the author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails and the Communications Director for LearningHerbs.com. Emily’s website is EmilyHan.com. During the show we discuss the difference between “wildcrafting” and “foraging” and how you can use easily foraged herbs, fruits, pine needles and flowers to make shrubs, switchels, tonics and infusions. Emily also shares her easy distillation method and advice on what to do with all those prickly pear fruits!

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Why it’s Better to Pressure Can Tomatoes

Image: University of Wisconsin Extension Service

Image: University of Wisconsin Extension Service

As most avid canners know, 4.6 is the pH dividing line between acid foods that can be safely water bath canned and less acidic foods that need to be canned in a pressure canner. Most fruits have a lower, i.e. more acidic pH and can be water bath canned.

Tomatoes, on the other hand, are often near the 4.6 pH level and USDA tested recipes will call for adding either bottled lemon juice or citric acid (I prefer citric acid as the taste is more neutral).

I used to think that this issue was because different tomato varieties vary in their acid content. It turns out that it’s more about when tomatoes are harvested, not to mention what the weather was like during the growing season. Add this variability to other factors, such as how many cans you put in your canner, the material your pot is made out of and the type of heat source and you end up with a tricky question for the food scientists who test home canning recipes. All of these factors are why the recommended hot water bath canning time for raw packed tomatoes is 85 minutes.

I’ve hot water bath canned tomatoes and got great results (especially with San Marzano tomatoes). But 85 minutes is a long time. You can cut the processing down considerably and get better results by pressure canning tomatoes. Here’s a raw pack recipe that includes both hot water and pressure canning instructions. Note that you still need to acidify.

Thanks to Linda Harris, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, Food Safety and Microbiology who gave a lecture at the Master Food Preserver conference where I gleaned these factoids.