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.

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.

103 Ugly Little Greens with Mia Wasilevich

mia
Listen to “103 Ugly Little Greens with Mia Wasilevich” on Spreaker.

Our guest this week is chef and forager Mia Wasilevich. Mia is the founder of Transitional Gastronomy and teaches culinary workshops, wild-food identification and food styling. She was a featured consultant on “Master Chef” and “Top Chef.” She is also the author of a brand new book, “Ugly Little Greens: Gourmet Dishes Crafted from Foraged Ingredients.” During the show we discuss:

  • How she got started cooking.
  • Mia’s new book Ugly Little Greens.
  • Eating invasives.
  • Working with mustard.
  • Elderflower ghee.
  • Nettle aid.
  • Mallow.
  • Currants.
  • Working with acorns.
  • Lambsquarters.
  • Meal planning.
  • Fish sauce.
  • James Townsend and Two Fat Ladies.
  • Mia’s website Transitional Gastronomy.
  • Cottonwood Urban Farm.

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.

Save

Save

Save

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

balkan-cheese-stories-10
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.

Save

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.