Food Lover: Ernest Miller, the County’s Designated Canning Pro

”Putting up” is on the up-and-up thanks to Ernest Miller, L.A.’s master food preserver

Ernest Miller warns people not to use table salt in their pickling (the iodine suppresses even the good yeasts), and while demonstrating low-temp pasteurization—the kind that maintains the integrity of vegetables—he watches the thermometer with a hawk-like vigilance. Since 2011, when he helped reanimate the volunteer-based L.A. County Master Food Preservers program, a group dedicated to bringing safe food preservation methods to the public, Miller has become the go-to person for learning about home canning. Though there had been spikes in attendance since the program originally started in 1914 (under the auspices of the UC Cooperative Extension), today’s interest in health and heritage brings students to the 12-week certification course that Miller—ever hands-on—oversees. Some students simply have too many tomatoes. Others come from the edible-schoolyard movement; others, from restaurants (Sqirl’s Jessica Koslow, who dabs a potent lacto-fermented hot sauce onto eggs and brioche, is a graduate). Ball jars and pressure cookers are involved, but folks aren’t venturing into a setting that recalls Grandma’s kitchen. From Pacoima’s MEND food bank to South L.A.’s 24th St. Garden to Pasadena’s John Muir High School, Miller is busy teaching how to hold on to the season’s best. “Anyone with a big garden,” he says, “has to preserve.”


Ernest Miller is one of 25 L.A. “Food Lovers” featured in our November, 2014 Food Lovers Guide on newsstands now