Friday, August 31, 2012

The're doing it again: "Raw" Almonds

Many years ago, raw almonds were part of my daily diet. Adele Davis advised 3 raw almonds daily to avoid cancer. (Almonds contain laetril, a cancer-fighting agent.) In the outbreak of salmonella in raw almonds a few years back, thirty-three people became ill, but no one died. (Contrast that to the thousands of deaths caused by prescription drugs each year!)

"Almonds have tremendous health benefits. They are an excellent source of manganese, copper, and vitamin B2 (all of which are important for the body’s energy production). Almonds are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin E, and high in health-promoting monounsaturated fatty acids and many other nutrients.

Raw almonds (with no heat applied) are particularly healthy. According to USDA data, raw almonds have more calcium, iron, potassium, fiber, manganese, and vitamin E. By insisting that raw almonds be “sterilized,” USDA is trying to take an extremely healthy food sound scary—something the public needs to be “protected” from, when actually the public may be more at risk from the chemical used to treat the nuts. Raw, organic almonds are not scary. As we point out in our brief, no salmonella outbreaks have been associated with organic almonds because they follow higher-quality processing controls. Therefore, organic raw almonds should not have been subject to the mandate in the first place." Source
So now all US raw almonds are being sterilized "for our safety" but the problem is HOW, and the effects of different methods, plus lack of labeling to tell us which method was used. Over 68% of US almonds are treated with PPO.

"Imported almonds are not subject to the almond rule (how is that for logic?)—so if consumers want real raw almonds, they will have to buy the imported ones. What a tragedy that our public policy is deliberately hurting the domestic market—especially small organic farmers, who need every sale they can get!

According to the Almond Board, five methods of “pasteurization” are permitted: oil roasting, dry roasting, blanching, steam processing, and the use of propylene oxide (PPO). A sixth method involved irradiating the almonds, and this was used for a number of years, but now the Almond Board states that “Almond pasteurization does not include irradiation.”

What is PPO you ask?
PPO is an extremely volatile liquid used in the production of polyurethane plastics. It was once used as a racing fuel, but was banned by both the National Hot Rod and American Motorcycle Racing Associations for being too dangerous—it’s so volatile that it is used in fuel–air bombs.

The material safety data sheet for PPO warns:
"Causes gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. May cause central nervous system depression, characterized by excitement, followed by headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. Advanced stages may cause collapse, unconsciousness, coma and possible death due to respiratory failure. Aspiration of material into the lungs may cause chemical pneumonitis, which may be fatal…. May cause reproductive and fetal effects. Laboratory experiments have resulted in mutagenic effects. May cause heritable genetic damage."

According to the EPA, acute (short-term) exposure to PPO has caused eye and respiratory tract irritation, and skin irritation and necrosis. It’s also a mild central nervous system depressant and causes inflammatory lesions of the nasal cavity, trachea, and lungs. In animal studies, PPO causes neurological effects and tumors, leading EPA to classify it as a class B2 carcinogen, and California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Massachusetts to list it on their state right-to-know registries as a known carcinogen.

Certainly the first three methods completely cook the nuts, so they are no longer raw. Of the last two, steam causes a marked reduction in nutrient content and partially cooks the nuts, and PPO is, according to the EPA, a “probable human carcinogen.”

So for raw almonds, your choice is to either cook them or make them potentially toxic. Steam treatments are running up to $2.5 million, whereas PPO starts at $500,000. Which do you think most farmers choose?

The “pasteurization” rule was introduced in 2007 in response to a string of salmonella outbreaks linked to large almond processing plants in 2001 and 2004. California’s Almond Board colluded with the USDA to propose mandatory “sterilization” across the industry, and the USDA agreed to implement and enforce the new rule.
Raw organic almonds not treated with PPO may be heat pasteurized with steam. But heat may oxidize the omega 3 fatty acids in almonds, potentially turning them rancid and producing free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the development of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Even worse, there is no labeling requirement to show that almonds have been steamed or treated with PPO, so consumers are misled into thinking they are eating truly natural raw almonds when in fact they are not. Labeling is an absolute necessity for consumers to make an informed choice.

When the rule was instituted, raw and organic almond farmers were outraged and pushed back. They fought the USDA, and in 2010 a federal appeals court ruled they could challenge USDA’s almond regulation.

Now ANH-USA has submitted an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs (an amicus curiae, Latin for “friend of the court,” is an outsider who provides information to assist the court in making its decision). Our brief will allow ANH-USA to raise issues that may not be brought up by the plaintiffs during regular trial proceedings. It will also let us take a stand against the USDA and call attention to the public policy and public health implications of the almond rule.

Besides the aforementioned problems with the “pasteurization” process, there are serious legal concerns about the rule-making process. USDA did not go through the normal, open public hearing and comment process when issuing the almond rule. The agency contacted only 115 select almond growers and handlers—out of a total of over 6,000—to invite them to comment on the proposed rule, and consumers and retailers were almost universally unaware of the proposed rule. Only eighteen public comments were received from the entire country.

ANH-USA sees the almond rule as a slippery slope, because for the first time USDA is establishing minimum “standards” for how farm products are processed, setting a dangerous precedent for the potential sterilization of other organic agricultural products. Will they try to irradiate spinach, or will they realize the process will actually destroy the delicate product? We argue in our brief that the USDA is not a food safety agency and thus such decisions are not within their mandate.

The lack of labeling is arguably a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which declares unfair or deceptive acts or practices to be unlawful. A “deceptive act” includes a “misleading omission.” Labeling steam-heated almonds as raw is intentionally misleading; and we would argue that not disclosing the fact that almonds are being treated with PPO, when the public, if they knew of the practice, would surely refuse to buy them, is extraordinarily deceptive.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Body's Microbial Garden

I have posted often about the importance of microbes in our soil gardens, and now want to post some thoughts on the microbial gardens in our bodies.

There are estimated to be 100 trillion microbes that call our human body "home", known as the microbiome, and we have waged war on them with antibiotics for more than a century. According to Julie Segre, a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. “It [waging war] does a disservice to all the bacteria that have co-evolved with us and are maintaining the health of our bodies.”

This new approach to health is known as medical ecology. Rather than conducting indiscriminate slaughter, Dr. Segre and like-minded scientists want to be microbial wildlife managers.

No one wants to abandon antibiotics outright. But by nurturing the invisible ecosystem in and on our bodies, doctors may be able to find other ways to fight infectious diseases, and with less harmful side effects. Tending the microbiome may also help in the treatment of disorders that may not seem to have anything to do with bacteria, including obesity and diabetes. Source

Then while I was looking again at many reasons why lacto-ferments are so good for us, I came across this quote from Sally Fallon:

"Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses--not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer and arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. 

Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in vaccinations, drugs or antibiotics but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world."
Source: Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, PhD. © 1999. All Rights Reserved.

I also think the current compulsion to NOT let kids get dirty, and to "sanitize our body's exterior" with chemical hand wipes everywhere we go, has reduced some of our immunity. We naturally have enough lactobacilli on our skin to make a loaf of sourdough bread, yet we don't just wash our skin with soap, we wash it with antibacterial soaps to kill anything that might be on our skin.

I don't think it's quite that simple, but I do believe all these things are factors. We can improve our gut health, which increases the overall health of our bodies, with probiotics like yogurt with active cultures, and lacto-fermented vegetables and fruits. And quit being such germaphobes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New, Improved Egg Separator

One of my friends sent me this short video and it fascinates me! Don't worry that you don't understand the language because it isn't necessary. The pictures tell it all.


Do you wonder what ever made someone try this in the first place? LOL

Friday, August 24, 2012

Canning Bacon

I had no clue bacon could be canned! However, I found the process several places online and decided to try it. It would be nice to have bacon available in an extended power outage instead of it spoiling in the freezer from no power!

Bacon (raw or partially cooked) can be canned by laying the strips on parchment paper, covering them with a second piece of paper, rolling it tightly and packing it into a jar.  If the bacon is longer than the jar you’re using, you can cut the strips in half to make them shorter, or fold the whole thing over before you roll it.

I used raw bacon and natural unbleached parchment paper, so you can't actually see the bacon through the paper in the photo above. Sorry I didn't take any photos of the process, but there are photos in the links below. Those 3 jars above contain about half a pound in each jar, my trial run. The next batch will be strips cut in half, to fit in wide-mouth pint jars.

Here are some links to check out. The first link below, and the maple syrup link, both have good photos of the process, and I like that they use food grade parchment paper, not brown paper bags others used that may contain chemicals.

Canning Bacon Links

Maple Syrup or Tabasco flavored Bacon

RuralSpin read and tried the various ways online to can bacon, finding fault with most of them. She details what she didn't like, and then she experimented to come up with her own hybrid version. She says, "You can consider other flavorings for your bacon besides just maple syrup or Tabasco sauce, including brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, dried basil, cinnamon, or a mixture. For dried herbs and spices, just sprinkle them liberally over your bacon before rolling." 

One of the best lunches away from home that I've had in years was Shrimp and Cheese Grits. The generous garnish over the whole dish included hickory-smoked bacon laced with maple syrup. I think I could make that bacon with RuralSpin's technique, so I'm trying her method next!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Medical Tests

I'm trying to get some updates on my garden production this year (poor), and food preservation written and posted, but then I have several more medical tests scheduled the 2nd week of September at UVa Medical Center up in Charlottesville. I'll be gone a few days, so there will be another lull in posts. Sorry.

Some of my scheduled tests are just long-overdue but routine updates, like a bone density scan. Others, like an overnight sleep study, are new to me. I didn't know that sleep disorders can raise the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and other medical conditions. However, thinking about oxygen levels in the blood, it makes sense. I also know I snore, which often accompanies or at least indicates there may be a sleep apnea problem. Now that I've seen all the equipment they use, I wonder how anyone can sleep hooked up like that!

Drawing from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute here

"Sticky patches with sensors (electrodes) are placed on the scalp, face, chest, limbs, and a finger. During sleep, these sensors record the brain activity, eye movements, heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, and the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Elastic belts are placed around the chest and belly. They measure chest movements and the strength and duration of inhaled and exhaled breaths.

Wires attached to the sensors transmit the data to a computer in the next room. The wires are very thin and flexible and they are bundled together so they don't restrict movement, disrupt sleep, or cause other discomfort." Source

Sound like fun?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vacuum Sealing Dry Foods in Mason Jars

Set-up to seal jars. Vacuum tube attaches to a port on top of my sealer, just behind the tubing.

I've had a vacuum sealer for several years and I love it! I bought it because I was tired of freezer-burn on the meats in the freezer, and for sealing veggies in bags to freeze... but I haven't been using of all the functions... like vacuum sealing dry goods in mason jars.

Inside of the sealing cap, and 15 bean soup mix.
Vacuum lid attached to seal jar, be sure metal jar lid is centered.

I hadn't thought much about vacuum sealing jars of purchased dried goods or home dehydrated fruits, vegetables, jerky and even mushrooms, because in my pantry they generally stay crisp, partly due to the dry heat from the furnace in winter. However, lately I cooked some stored dried beans that took forever to cook to a soft, edible stage. 

So now I'm wondering if vacuum sealing keeps moisture out, can it also keep the minimal amount of moisture (like in beans) in? It's sure worth a try since I already store most of those items in jars.

FoodSaver makes a Universal lid, but I couldn't get it to work on Rock Candy. Guess I need a wide-mouth lid sealer cap.

I'm also looking at vacuum sealing items that become rancid from exposure to oxygen, like flour and cornmeal, which I usually keep in the freezer. (One of my goals is to reduce dependence on the freezer.) Sugar and salt that are vacuum sealed won't become hard bricks either, and herbs and spices will have a much longer shelf life.

Another benefit of vacuum sealing dry goods in jars is that the lids can be re-used over and over, unlike the lids on home canned foods. For example, if you open a jar of thyme, you can take out what you need, and immediately re-seal the jar. (I just got a big bag of French Thyme from Penzey's, it's far tastier than what I grow in my garden. I'd hate for it to lose all flavor before I use it up, so it will get vacuum sealed in a pint canning jar.)

But what if there's no electricity? It's cheap and easy to make a hand cranked pump to seal jars. The pump is an automotive vacuum pump (I believe it's used to bleed brake lines), and the jar cap is made for use with electric vacuum sealers.

Wendy Dewitt has some great food storage videos on Youtube. Wendy has taught food storage for years; she's a Mormon, and the Mormon church recommends every member stores a year's supply of food. The video I watched was quite long, but she covers a lot of ground in it, including vacuum sealing jars of dried foods, where to store what, and rotation of stored goods. Her other videos are shorter segments, and more manageable if you only have a few minutes at a time to watch them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stocking the Pantry

I've kept a somewhat decently stocked pantry for many years, at first because I grew up in hurricane country, and now because I live miles from any grocery stores. Actually, I live more than 2 hours from stores that carry anything more than minimal fare. So I have come to rely on my 2 freezers for any abundance from my garden, and for grass-fed meats in quantity when available and less expensive.

However, relying on freezers is always iffy. A friend just 200 miles away lost the contents of a huge chest freezer during an 8 day power outage due to a fierce summer storm. I've been fortunate that the only extended power outage I've had here happened in a freezing winter, and I lost nothing from the freezers. But I can't count on always being that lucky. If an extended power outage happened in warm weather, I'm not sure I could make a wood fire (and keep it going for days) to cook everything in my freezers before the contents spoiled. Sure couldn't use the electric stove to cook during a power outage!

To remedy reliance on my freezers, I'm going through them and beginning to can some of the meats I have stored in them. My mother always canned beef, pork and chicken, although they froze the trout they raised because it tasted more like fresh-caught when thawed and broiled later on.

Here's a little bit of the pork shoulder I canned. The liquid is from the pork itself. The venison I canned 2 days ago was already on the pantry shelves before I thought to take any photos.

Lard and Tallow, hot and just out of the canner
Lard and Tallow, after cooling. Jar on the far right is chicken schmaltz, don't know why it didn't solidify.
I'm also rendering and canning all the pork and beef fat, salt pork, bacon, and sausage patties. Rendered pork lard and beef tallow don't really need to be canned if you store it in a cool, dark place, but the heat of this summer has shown me I need to do something else. It keeps better anyway if canned, to keep out the oxygen that causes it to turn rancid.

Canned salt pork chunks. The 2 jars on the left are trotters.
More canned salt pork. The small jars have cured and smoked salt pork with some herbs added. They will be great in a mess of greens or beans.

I already have a small pantry of home canned fruits and veggies, chicken stock, jellies and such, but not much in the way of protein, so the canned meats will be a bonus insurance policy. I know beans are a decent source of protein, but my body doesn't digest then very well, so I look to meat and eggs for protein. I've canned a few soups and stews with bits of chicken or beef, but not a lot. As a treat, I always can any bits of meat left on the bones as pet food when I make stock.

I'll have a separate post on canning bacon. YUM!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lacto Fermented Swiss Chard Ribs

I've been busy canning but decided to lacto-ferment a few things to have some crunch available. The first was Swiss chard ribs, shown above. They were just starting to ferment when I took the photo, and although it's not visible, there is a weighted cap inside the jars to keep the ribs under the brine. My standard brine is 1 tablespoon of non-iodized salt plus 4 tablespoons of whey per quart of spring water.

I also started some fermented summer squash with sliced onions.

Some cauliflower with garlic, black peppercorns and red pepper flakes made 4 weeks ago. I've eaten half of one jar, and gave the other jar away. YUM!

More lacto ferments to come as the garden winds down, especially some sauerkraut if my neighbor has extra cabbage. Lacto-ferments will keep all winter in my root cellar.

If you are not too familiar with lacto-fermenting, here are a few posts I made over the last couple of years:

Pickles, Lacto- Fermentation or Old-Time Fermentation

Eating Lacto-Fermented Vegetables

Fido Jar Fermenting Basics

It's Pickle Time!

Pickled garlic buds and scapes

Broccoli and Friends

Uses for Whey


Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Front Yard Garden Victory!

I recently posted about the gorgeous but doomed to be destroyed front yard vegetable garden of a couple in Quebec here.

I'm happy to report not only a victory for them, but a change in the city's new guidelines for urban gardens!

Over 30,000 gardeners took action over the past three weeks in support of the food garden cause. The first and most important was the Drummondville front yard garden case which attracted over 30,000 petition signatures and significant international media. Earlier this week, the Drummondville Municipal Council announced that henceforth front yard kitchen gardens will be allowed, and have even invited the gardeners, Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp, to help shape the city's new guidelines for urban food gardens. You can see the news story translated here.

It's nice to win one, but a pain in the arse for what we have to do to enable our basic rights.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fined for Hosting a Small Birthday Party?

This is simply outrageous, and unacceptable.

"In April, Fauquier County, Virginia threatened Martha Boneta, owner of a small farm in Paris, VA, with thousands of dollars in fines for a series of alleged violations, including hosting "an event" on her farm without obtaining a special events permit.

The event? A small birthday party for the 10-year old daughter of a close friend, Robin Verity.

Martha was also cited for selling produce directly to consumers from her farm without a license. But Ms. Boneta paid for and received a county-approved business license for a "retail farm shop" in June, 2011. However, just one month later, the county Board of Supervisors approved an amendment that restricted "farm sales", and began issuing citations to farmers in the area.

Farmers in the area believe this is a violation of Virginia's "Right to Farm Act", which bars governments from restricting the rights of farmers from earning a living, so they orchestrated a protest during Martha's Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on August 2nd, 2012. (She lost the Appeal, btw.)

Increasing economic freedom matters to people like Martha. But it also matters to consumers everywhere who should be free to choose the foods they want and buy directly from the farm that produced them." Source

Monday, August 13, 2012

Growing Yuppie Chow

 Photo By ilovebutter
Photo by Phillie Casablanca

Yep, I guess I'm guilty of growing "Yuppie Chow".

Yuppie Chow is that stuff Foodies buy from upscale natural foods stores and farmer's markets, such as heirloom slicing tomatoes, garlic scapes, mesclun salad mixes, baby carrots and tiny squash, haricot verts, bok choy and such -- you know, expensive things, but not the bulk of one's calories. Yuppie Chow.

I'm currently rethinking what I can grow because if there's a food crisis, I don't grow enough to feed myself adequately without outside additions. In an extended crisis there will be NO food on the grocery shelves, and perhaps no gas to get there anyway. I'm open to growing food suggestions if you have any! 

Of course, Yuppie Chow is not all I grow. The heirloom tomatoes, various herbs, asparagus, and bulbing fennel are considered Yuppie Chow, but I also grow enough garlic, shallots, leeks, onions, and long-keeping winter squash to last through winter. The winter squash, of course, provide lots of calories. The other things simply add more flavor than calories. I hate insipid-tasting food.

I don't raise any meat animals or have chickens for eggs, so I'd be low on protein. My few small nut trees wouldn't produce 2 ounces of oils even if I could press them, so I'd be short on the essential fatty acids that come from meats and oils. Tubers don't do well for me here (other than Jerusalem artichokes), too many tunneling rodents that get to them first.

I'm looking to grow things that can flesh out my pantry in an extended crisis, both perennials, and annuals where I can save seeds for the next year. Currently, I only plant a few things where I save seed, like tomatoes and beans. I need to learn how to save seed from things like summer squash and cole crops because in an extended crisis, there may be no available seeds.

My fruit trees are small and won't bear for a few more years so I only have some perishable berries for fruits right now.

I'm thinking to try growing oyster mushrooms because they contain around 15% protein, as well as adding complex flavors to cooked foods, but I guess that might be considered more Yuppie Chow...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Missing Word in our Society

HOW did we lose or misplace a word in our lives and in our vocabulary? Importantly, what have we really misplaced/lost?

The word (and the concept of) "Integrity" has ceased to exist in many places in our world, notably in politics, government agencies, and corporations. If you follow the scandals in the Catholic church (but also found in other denominations) it has ceased to exist in religion as well.

Cheating in school is acceptable to the students, and cheating on tax returns is acceptable to many people, perhaps due to an unfair tax system, but they cheat nonetheless. Getting too much change at the grocery store is often not returned even though the minimum-wage clerk has to pay any shortage at closing, and no one ever complains when a product rings up as less than the shelf-posted price.

We make written contracts because a man's word or handshake no longer has value. Marriages dissolve over unkept promises of fidelity. I'm not even gonna touch on crimes of theft, rape and murder, much less child-abuse and selling children and women into sexual slavery.

What has happened to us? Don't we even look in the mirror anymore?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The War on American Soil

Yes, there really IS a war on American soil, and it's about our Rights to real food... and being force-fed adulterated and nutritionally unhealthy foods instead. This war on our right to control what we eat could grow into a major conflict, and the Feds have already brandished guns on food raids.

I ended up being admitted to my local hospital 2 weeks ago, with what they thought were cardiac problems. Immediately they put me on a "heart-healthy, low-sodium diet", and if I had been there long enough I might have starved. It wasn't the lack of salt on the foods, but that most of the foods were inferior to the point of absurdity. In fact, one meal had canned green beans (commercially canned) that were so full of sodium I couldn't eat them. So much for a low-sodium diet. The only exception was a cup of fresh sliced apples with a few grapes for contrast. The other cooked fruit dishes (and juice cups) were so high in sugar (or some kind of sweetener) I gagged. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic, and skyrocketing diabetes.

The "butter" for my hospital wonderbread toast was Promise®, which is 60% GMO vegetable oils, water, whey from milk, with some chemicals and chemical vitamins added. How healthy is that? They gave me a list of foods to avoid, like processed cheese and hot dogs. Hell, I already avoid all those foods, and most intelligent people know they are not "real food".

I've been thinking about the control the government is trying to take on all of our foods. What started as a "war on drugs" 40 years ago has mushroomed into the government believing it has the authority to control everything we put into our bodies. (They only control alcoholic beverages and cigarettes to collect tax on it, not how much anyone consumes.) The war on drugs isn't being won either, and they are putting more pressure on controlling foods and supplements. Their propaganda machine (the CDC, Center for Disease Control, government owned and operated) has been working overtime, to the extent that almost everyone "buys" it, even doctors. "If the CDC says it's so, then it must be."

I do understand the need for some controls for food safety, like imported supplements of unknown safety, and particularly those foods that come from factory farms like milk, beef, pork, eggs and chicken. Some of those facilities are so foul that I won't eat anything from there no matter how safe they try to make it.

No milk comes from a factory farm that isn't pasteurized by law (cooked to destroy all pathogens but the cooking also destroys healthy nutrients like essential fatty-acids, enzymes and vitamins). The CDC says raw milk is unhealthy, but their own data from 1993-2006 shows on average 76,000,000 food-borne illnesses per year and only 116 of those were from raw milk.

A presidential election is coming in the fall, and I'll bet my last fiat dollar that food rights are never mentioned. I'll also bet that sooner or later, mothers are going to wise-up about nutrition and wage war on the government control of real food.