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

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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.

What You Need to Bake Bread

As the co-founder of a club for bread nerds, I field a fair number of urgent, sometimes panicked baking queries. While in the past I’ve posted basic bread recipes and lists of equipment, I’ve since taken to simply referring people to Josey’s Baker’s excellent book, Josey Baker Bread.

In the hopes of one final post on the subject let me suggest the following bread related resources and tools:

Bake With Baker

Again, get yourself a copy of Baker’s book. It’s a class in baking organized into recipes in ascending order of difficulty. Work your way thought the book and by the end you’ll be a baking god and the life of every party. Baker is a fan of whole grains and sourdough and if that isn’t enough he has the only decent gluten free bread recipe I’ve ever tasted. At the end of the book you’ll find cookie and scone recipes that will make you the most popular person at the next potluck you attend. If you’re a Los Angeles local, you can also take a whole grain baking class taught by Root Simple pal Roe Sie at his shop, the King’s Roost.

Scale It

A digital scale. The inaccuracies of measuring flour by volume is a path to frustration and misery. The model pictured above has a pull out display which makes it easier to view under a large bowl of flour.

Legal Pot

A 5 quart dutch oven. I like the model pictured above for the reasons I outlined in a previous blog post.

Problems!
When you encounter problems—and I guarantee you will–I really like this handy visual guide on a Serious Eats blog post. And a note on baking disasters. I recently heard an experienced craftsperson explain that, despite his accomplishments, he never feels like he’s ever reached some kind of final, blissful state of mastery. During a class I took with Josey Baker’s mentor Dave Miller (I know, those last names!), Miller detailed some of the baking disasters he’s been through including the mysterious failure of a sourdough starter that shut down his bakery for several weeks. With this caveat on baking problems, let me assure you that if you go though Baker’s book carefully, you’ll have more wins than losses.

Mill Your Own Damn Flour

Should you want to go deeper down the baking rabbit hole, there’s a nice, inexpensive new mill designed by the legendary German engineer Wolfgang Mock. I have the Mock Mill 100 and will post a review sometime in the future. I’ll just say now that it works great and is a lot cheaper than other mills on the market. But you don’t need a mill to get started.

With those resources you’re pretty much good to go.

I’ve had to take a long break from baking due to the family emergencies of the last year. I’m planning on getting back into baking soon and when I do I’m going to go step by step through Baker’s book starting at the beginning.