Raw Pork Sandwich Anyone?

Image: Nize from Wikipedia.

Our web and book designer Roman Jaster dropped by the Root Simple compound for an annual look under the hood at our website’s internal workings. After spending most of the meeting calming me down over my existential crisis relating to the troubles of running a blog long past when blogs were still a thing, Roman mentioned an unusual sandwich called Hackepeter that he ate on his last trip back to where he grew up in East Germany.

Image: Boris Kumicak + Kai Namslau from Wikipedia.

Also known as Mett, let it be known that we’re talking about a sandwich made from raw pork. The buffet version is, inexplicably, shaped into a stylized 1970s hedgehog with the addition of chopped onions. Hackenpeter or Mett is a simple dish consisting of just pork, salt, pepper and sometimes caraway seeds, garlic and raw onions in the case of the hedgehog version. Sometimes it’s topped with a raw egg. Germans commonly buy it from a butcher already spiced.

As our web design meeting continued, my aversion to barfing prompted an extended conversation on food safety that, as usual, left the question of the wisdom of culinary thrill seeking unanswered. Sometimes you just have to have to strap on the wingsuit and visit the raw oyster, fugu and Hackenpeter buffet line. In the case of raw pork the safety issues involve salmonella and, more rarely, trichinosis, which is caused by a nematode. Trichinosis is rare in Germany as all pigs are inspected for the disease at slaughter.

As for the etymology of this dish, Mett comes from the Old Saxon word for “food.” German speakers will have to help me figure out why this pork tartare dish is also known as “hackepeter” or “chopped Peter” in English.

While looking up hackepeter recipes I came across the German version of Eric of Garden Fork who has a Hackepeter video for you as well as a nice pyramidal greenhouse thingy. Here’s a recipe in English if you’d like to roll your own batch of Hackenpeter.

Roman had the idea of creating a special Root Simple podcast, in the vein of Serial, where we trace the origin of Hackepeter and eat and drink our way across Germany. Guess that’s what our Patreon is for folks . . .

The Virtues of Gerard’s Herbal

That last bastion of sanity on the internets, Archive.org, hosts a copy of John Gerard’s 16th century bestselling foraging manual, The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes. I’ve embeddified it as an alternative to spending an evening staring at the Netflix browse menu or as an opportunity for workplace dinkering.

Here’s how the University of Virginia describes it,

Gerard was superintendent of the gardens of William Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth. Gerard was one of the most respected plant experts of his time, but, strangely, he was not the primary author of the famous herbal that bears his name. Except for the additions of several plants from his own garden and from North America, Gerard’s herbal is simply an English translation of Dutch scholar Rembert Dodoen’s highly popular herbal of 1554.

I appreciate Gerard’s (Dodoen’s?) Herbal for two reasons, first the beautiful illustrations but principally for one word that Gerard uses. Where a modern plant guide would have a section devoted to the “uses” of a particular plant, Gerard uses the word “virtue” instead. I propose a revival of this word when we speak of plants.

“Use,” like so many other things in our culture, is far too utilitarian. Speaking of the “uses” of plants reminds me of a professor in my music department who, when arriving at a party, asked the department secretary, “who’s the most powerful person in this room?” so that he would not have to “waste” his time with simply enjoying the company of other people.

Speaking of the “virtues” of plants seems much more civilized.

Make Pizza in Your Oven

In addition to sharing a name, Eric of Garden Fork and I seem to exist in some sort of synchronicity vortex. This past Saturday, after I finished teaching a bread class in which I used the same dough to demonstrate how you can make pizza in your oven with a cast iron skillet, I settled down on the couch to catch up with Eric’s YouTube channel. And guess what he was demonstrating?

I first learned about this technique from Josey Baker. Basically, you start the pizza out on the stove top and finish it under your oven’s broiler. I’ve found that it works almost as well as having an outdoor pizza oven and it’s a whole lot easier.

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.