RIP Chef Ernest Miller and Dr. Tracy McFarland

Ernest Miller
It is with great sadness that I relay the news of the passing of chef Ernest Miller and veterinarian Dr. Tracy Elizabeth McFarland. Both were guests on previous episodes of the Root Simple podcast.

I had the great privilege of taking chef Miller’s Master Food Preserver training. Chef Miller’s knowledge of food preservation and safety was encyclopedic. Whenever I had a question I’d send Ernie an email. He was an accomplished chef, teacher, Navy veteran and a kind and gracious person who volunteered countless hours of his time. There is no replacement for him.

The Celebration of Life for Ernest Miller is on Monday October 1, and will begin at 12:30-4pm at Rose Hills Mortuary Visitation Center located at 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier and will conclude at 5pm-7pm at the LDS Chapel located at 7505 Garvalia Ave in Rosemead. His brother-in-law has set up a memorial fund to pay for funeral expenses.

Dr. McFarland’s was the most talented and dedicated veterinarian I have ever met. Her diagnostic and surgical skill were legendary. The last time I saw her back in April, for an appointment for one of our cats, she talked about the many times she would head back to her cat-only clinic, late at night, to check on patients. Like Ernie, she was one of those people completely dedicated to her craft, which was all about reducing the suffering of our animal companions. When she entered into hospice earlier this month she posted the following message to Facebook:

What a privilege it has been to welcome your cats to our family, I have loved every minute. I wish I could tell you personally how much each one of you mean to me. Some of you may know that I have been very sick lately. I’m at a point in my life now that God is calling me home. I want you to know I am well taken care of, comfortable and surrounded by my family. I wish you all much love, good health, good humor, and the strength to get through this time. My wonderful team will be there for you during this transition and through the times ahead. The Cat Doctor & Friends will continue my dream of providing honest, compassionate care with integrity. With much love and appreciation, your friend and sister Dr. Tracy.

A memorial service for Dr. Tracy will be held this Saturday September 29th at 10am in the worship center at Grace Baptist Church located at 22833 Copper Hill Drive in Santa Clarita. See the Cat Doctor and Friends Facebook page for information on charities you can donate to in honor of Dr. Tracy.

You can listen to Dr. McFarland on episodes 36 and 46 of our podcast. You can hear Ernie discuss pressure canning on episode 14.

How I Learned to Stop Hating and Love the Vegan Cheese

Photo: Pascal Bauder.

Just the mention of “vegan cheese” is likely to set off a contentions internet thread as long as those on such subjects as presidential politics, beekeeping methods or shellac dilution. And for good reason. The vegan cheese you can buy at the health food store takes the flavor profile of already bland and awful American cheese and makes it far worse. A vegan cheese I bought recently tastes like what I imaging it would be like to eat a slice of partially dried wood glue mixed with sand.

This weekend I had the good fortune of attending a vegan cheese class taught by forager and author Pascal Bauder (a guest on episode 89 of the podcast). His vegan cheese method is nothing short of moon shot vegan culinary genius. I’m not going to give away the secret on this blog–you’re going to have to take his class. One hint: it involves a simple fermentation. I know many of you don’t live here, but Pascal’s classes are worth traveling long distances to attend. He’s got another vegan cheese class coming up on August 25th. See his calendar of events.

Pascal is doing a book on fermentation that will include his vegan cheese recipes. Look for that book next year. In the meantime you can enjoy his two previous books, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir and The Wildcrafting Brewer: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients. On that second book–Pascal brought some of his home concocted beer to the class and it was delicious. His brewing method is simple and easily accomplished without any special brewing equipment other than a gallon jug.

A Question About Freezing and Canning Home Grown Vegetables

Image: Wikipedia.

For some mysterious reason, we get canning questions on our our seldom used Google voice number (213 537-2591). A good question came in this week. The caller asked, “I’ve got a home garden and produce trickles in. Can I freeze it and then can it later?” I called back and confirmed that the question related to pressure canning vegetables. Not knowing the answer to this question, I wrote an email to chef Ernie Miller, who I had the great privilege of having as an instructor for my Master Food Preserver certification class. Ernie responded,

The answer to the question is, in general, yes. In fact, certain types of produce lend themselves to this sort of preservation. Frozen berries, for example, are fantastic for jam making. If I need to make some peach jam out of season, I head straight to the frozen fruit section of the grocery store.

Your caller was asking about vegetables, of course, and there would be some nuances. First, they will want to be sure to freeze the vegetables properly, such as blanching certain veggies to set color and stop enzymatic reactions. Following the guidelines from the National Center for Home Food Preservation for freezing is a must. Obviously, some vegetables aren’t going to freeze well, such as celery, radishes, potatoes, etc.

No matter how good the freezing process, there are likely to be textural differences in the defrosted products. Most vegetables aren’t going to be as crisp coming out of freezing as they were going in. Those frozen carrots of yours won’t have the same “snap” as fresh carrots. Of course, the canning process is also going to have a tremendous textural effect as well, so the differences might not be noticeable. There are other options as well. For example, if you are canning carrots in water (which requires pressure canning), you could defrost the carrots, but add calcium chloride (pickle crisp) to firm them up a little in the can.

Probably the best thing for frozen vegetables used for canning would be to use them in “cooked” preparations, such as soups. Although celery is a terrible candidate for freezing because it is texturally destroyed, I don’t see why you couldn’t use previously frozen celery in a pressure canned soup. Frozen corn might be better off as a “creamed corn” in a can than just canned whole kernels.

There are a lot of variables, and it might require some experimentation. But again, “cooked” products will probably be the most successful.

I’ll repeat what Ernie says, when you have a food preservation question the best starting point is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. And if I had a large vegetable garden, (my small vegetable garden is a complete failure this summer) I’d invest in a pressure canner and, perhaps, a chest freezer.

For more information on pressure canning have a listen to our interview with Ernie on episode 14 of our podcast. And check out Ernie’s Facebook page Rancho La Merced Provisions to find out about classes he’s teaching.

118 Eric of Garden Fork on Old Houses, Queen Bees and Ramps

eric2

On this week’s episode of the podcast Eric Rochow of Garden Fork returns to talk about the struggle of owning an old house, raising queen bees and the over harvesting of ramps. During the show Eric mentions:

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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

117 Raw Milk with David Gumpert

On this episode of the podcast (much delated due to home construction projects) we talk to journalist and author David Gumpert about the controversies surrounding raw milk. David was a staff reporter with The Wall Street Journal and a small business editor of the Harvard Business Review. He was also a senior editor of Inc. David is the author of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights and the Raw Milk Answer Book. You can find his blog and sign up for his newsletter at The Complete Patient. One of the things that comes up in the conversation is the dairy episode of the Netflix documentary Rotten. David posted a review of that episode on his blog.

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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.