Tuesday, October 20, 2015

factual fats

I don’t mean to be mean-spirited*, but it’s Sunday again and I’ve just read the paper and there’s skinny little Miss-New-York-Times-Health spouting about What To Eat to Live Forever. Actually, she’s not a miss and she’s almost surely older than I am, although that’s neither here nor there, proving only that we’re both still alive and with conflicting notions of what one should eat to be healthy and still enjoy it. The photo accompanying her column makes her look more glamorous than mine does me, but I’ll bet it’s at least as old as mine and possibly older. Mine was taken in 2007, so imagine. 

So, this newspaper personality – Ms NYTH – has almost become reconciled to the fact that saturated fat – mostly animal fat – is not going to kill you, probably, but old ideas die hard, and she still hasn’t accepted the fact that good grass-fed animal fats might be GOOD for you and that a preponderance of vegetable oils are probably not. It’s the old Omega3 vs 6 controversy Actually, she doesn’t seem to know the importance of differentiating between industrial meat and grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. She does get her mind around white bread being a refined carbohydrate and probably poison to her body. That’s something I have a hard time with, simply because I love it so much. She picks on potatoes more than white flour, which is okay, too. But as for bread, I like to fool myself that if I slather it with enough very good cultured butter I will have mitigated wheat’s nascent nastiness.  Butter, by the way, is at the top of the list of foods rich in Omega3s.
Although farmers are said not to use glyphosate, Round-Up, on wheat seeds, they do, possibly, use it as a side dressing or aerial spray before harvesting, as a desiccant. If they do, that might go a long way towards explaining our growing allergy to wheat. In my opinion, Snopes lacks authority on this matter.

Ms NYTH quotes a doctor who obviously has not kept up with the latest in nutritional wizardry either, and then she quips, on her own, “Olive oil, like canola, avocado and nut oils, is monounsaturated, and while it has as many calories as meat and dairy fat, it does not raise serum cholesterol or foster fat-clogging deposits in blood vessels.” These are her words. I mean, So What! Has she not studied the studies, seen the headlines, read the many many utterly flabbergasted articles  confessing that butter is good for you, that cholesterol in food does not translate to cholesterol in the blood stream? After all these years?

Then she gets into the glycemic scale, and glycemic load, mostly in an attempt, I think, to excuse pasta as a food. I mean, if white flour is anathema, what is pasta but purely white flour. Unless you eat whole wheat pasta, which defeats the whole idea of pasta. Unless the mere pressing of white flour into a ribbon changes its composition? I’m complicit in that I tend to think that if you make your own bread and start with a tiny bit of yeast, say ¼ teaspoon to a pound of flour, and make it work hard all night in a cool place to rise, in the process fermenting itself a little bit, that you will make a loaf that is not quite as bad for you as a more quickly rising loaf. Which only goes to prove that we all have methods of lying to ourselves.

She likes skim milk, too. I would say that there’s probably nothing much worse for you than skim milk, especially for kids. Good milk is whole milk, especially unpasteurized, unhomogenized whole milk, which I buy at the farmers’ market from Larson’s Farm. Growing brains need good fats, and dairy fat from healthy, grass-fed cows is a good one. I think it hardly needs saying anymore that a whole food, as a rule, is better than one of its parts. Think of broccoli and beta-carotene – people were becoming ill from ingesting lots of beta-carotene tablets – it is the whole food and the synergy of its parts that is the important thing.

But, then again... How many times must something be said? Well, every week, perhaps. Over and over.
The destruction that the war on fat has wreaked on this country, on the whole middle of the continent, on the waters of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico, on our bodies, has been astounding; almost as destructive as the war on drugs. Once in a while we seem to be coming to our senses about both, but I was appalled to look at the front page of the Herald the other day, and find Rutland’s new police chief quoted as saying, "I am not a proponent of legalizing marijuana, and it is my sense it is not taken seriously."

What does that even mean? That we continue to be bullied into not putting certain seeds into the ground? That we continue to rely on drug cartels to supply us with the most innocuous “drug” of all? That we can continue to drink our livers to death but are prohibited from inhaling or ingesting a naturally grown plant that can lessen pain, side-effects of other drugs, nausea, and even epileptic seizures; the oil of which is said to cure all kinds of things, even cancer, but research on which is prohibited? That we continue to fill our prisons with marijuana users?

My, we are enlightened, aren’t we. I’d say over my span of years we’re averaging one step forward and two steps back! Have another piece of bread. Maybe it’ll change your life!

Because one must have something like bread, something crisp and tasty to eat along with all the raw vegetables, mustn’t one? A year or so ago I found a recipe for The Life-changing Loaf of Bread. It was developed by Sarah Britton on her blog My New Roots, or at least that’s where I first found my iteration of it. I see that David Lebovitz recently reposted a similar recipe on his blog that he called Josey Baker’s Adventure Bread. Almost everyone has a version by now.

This recipe is a bunch of varied seeds and nuts held together with psyllium seed husks rather than flour. It is scrumb-tious. I made it every week for a long time, sliced it thinly and froze it. It was easy to take out a slice or two every day and griddle them before slathering them with good butter. Then I started to press it onto a cookie sheet into a thin sheet, which could be broken up into crackers, and thereby no need to toast it. I haven’t made it in a while, but it’s a good habit to keep up.

The Life-Changing Loaf of Bread
This entire loaf has about 90 grams of carbohydrate (minus the optionals) and makes the best toast ever!

  • 1 cup / 5 ounces sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup / 3 ounces flax seeds
  • ½ cup / 2.3 ounces hazelnuts or almonds
  • 1 ½ cups / 5 ounces rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 4 tablespoons psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
  • 2 hands full of raisins * (these burn if they’re on the surface, so don’t use them in crackers)
  • coconut *
  • sesame seeds*
  • 1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
  • 3 Tbsp. 2 ounces  melted coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 ½ cups
1. In a mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Combine maple syrup (or stevia), oil and warm water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Spoon into a thin bread pan, either silicon or lined with parchment, tamp down, smooth out the top. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing.
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast.
To make crackers, follow the recipe then line a flat cookie sheet with parchment, upturn the bowl of ingredients upon it, smooth out in a rough rectangle, cover with another sheet of parchment paper and roll it out into a thin sheet with a rolling pin.  Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. For thinner crackers you can divide the ingredients in half and roll and pat them out on two baking sheets. Bake them for slightly less time once they’re flipped.
Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven, flip the whole cracker over (if it breaks a bit, don’t worry!) and peel the baking paper off of the back. Return to oven to bake for another 20 minutes, until fully dry, crisp, and golden around the edges.
Let cool and break into pieces that suit you. They can be stored in an airtight container or frozen.
*Really. Well, I don't think I've ever written a more mean-spirited column. Only including it here because it was published, and this is a record of publishment. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

intuition jellish

Two things collided in my senses – one, my friend Julie calling excitedly about the wealth of walnut+-sized crabapples weighing down her tree. I had stolen those crab-apples two years ago when she had been gone, the first year she’d owned the property, and made jelly out of them. Full of pectin they were, and jelled solidly, so solid that I had to melt it and add a bit more liquid  before jarring it. The flavor was not entirely full but still really good. I cannot remember if I added sugar to them, but I think a minute amount.

Last year there were no apples. Bad year. Bad, bad year.

The second thing that happened was that just about the time I got Julie’s message I was worshiping at the throne of some Anaheim peppers that I’d bought at the Market from Alchemy Garden. They were sweet and bursting with juicy flavor and hot without being at all scorching. My Oh My, I thought, Julie’s crabapples and Lindsay and Scott’s peppers are a match made in heaven. No. THEY might have been made in some kind of fruity heaven but it was up to me to make the match: The apple-sweet pectin and minced peppers, a bit of garlic, some onion, perhaps tarragon for dragon’s breath? Divine jelly.

On second thought... in addition... and, too,  a small parcel of tiny sweet red peppers – almost a peppadew (was there just a tinge of sweet heat?) – sat in my fridge needing to be used in a constructive way. Waiting to be needed, in other words.

So there I went, travelled to the crabapple tree, bowed down, asked... She said yes and I partook of 2 or 3 pounds of her less-than-golfball-sized fruit. I sorted them at home in the kitchen sink and cleaned them and ignored spots that did not seem made by critters – few were – and put them into my slow-cooker and let them come to juice. I drained them – hung them in cheesecloth and let the juices drip into the bowl beneath. On Saturday I bought two pounds of Anaheim chilis along with a few hotter peppers and in due time cored them and ground them together with two cloves of garlic and a small shallot. I say ground them, and I did mean to get my grandmother’s old meat-grinder out and clamp it to a table and actually grind them – I craved
that authentic texture – but it turns out it was getting late in the evening and I was tired so my super-conscious evidently, like a bossy husband, decided not to remind my sub-conscious mind of my intention... and they got all chopped up in the food processor. 

By that time I was thinking of sugar, and of looking up a proper recipe for proper Pepper Jelly, and so I did, and it called for cider vinegar and 5 cups of sugar to 4 cups of peppers. Although my aim was jell, it was not a boatload of sugar. Perhaps it would turn out to be a relish.

I decided I needed a little more apple juice and so I went up to other friends’ summer house and picked the last of their apples from their ancient and heritage trees. That proved to be maybe half a dozen big ones, and went home and cleaned them up and put them in the slow cooker for a few hours. 

By the time I poured those into cheesecloth to drip their juice into a bowl to add to the already crabapple juice I had decided that when I added those three mixtures together (the peppers and the two juices), on the morrow, and cooked them down, the apple juice would be purer pectin and probably they would be sweet without added sugar and jelled without added pectin, which was another thing I was worrying: Adding pectin. And by the time I had done this, it was late and I went to my rest. 

On Sunday, the bespoke morrow (and, incidentally, the day I write this), I did not rest more, but first – after thought – boiled down the two juices to half their beginning volume – instead of cooking the life out of the pepper mash at the same time – but at the last minute remembered those tiny red bell peppers and I slit them and found so few seeds that I didn’t bother with them and just tossed them – stems and all into the juice.
I think just now, as they are cooking away, that I will save them in a separate jar, their tiny sweetness just cured in the hot. They will be good with cream cheese.

In a few hours, when the juices are reduced, I will add the pepper mash and cook that together with the juices and then decide whether it needs more pectin to be proper jell, and/or more sugar. I doubt both, but perhaps a bit of that cider vinegar.

We shall see.

Later, and quite a bit, it is still liquidy and I am going to put a stem of tarragon to it and then a cover on it and put it on the porch overnight. Tomorrow I will put it, whatever its consistency, into jars and that will be that.

​​Monday noon report: This is really peppery and appley  quite piquant, if not really hot, and a great pleasure to eat on tortilla chips with Greek Yogurt, which I've been doing all morning. It'll be great on any roasted meat, fish, or fowl, as well as slathered over a block of cream cheese. Hmm, I'm even thinking about it topping triple chocolate ice cream.

The little sweet red peppers? They should have been stemmed. 

It's not quite jelled yet but I'm thinking it is jelled quite enough. It's jarred and going in the fridge.
And although I have made this sound like a long and drawn-out process, that long process has only been a series of moments not all counting for much time each in itself.

It will snow soon enough. Do yourself a favor and follow a jellish whim. It can’t hurt.

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