Sunday, December 27, 2009

Save The Dates: Kimchi Workshop, 1/24/2010; Kimchi Festival, 3/21/2010

SAVE THE DATES for kimchi-related events at the Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church in West Roxbury, MA.

January 24, 2010, 1PM-3PM: Kimchi Workshop: I will be leading a hands-on workshop covering vegetable fermentation and kimchi. You will leave the workshop with a jar of kimchi that you have made, and you'll be ready to compete in the kimchi festival in March. 15 seats available. $15 fee.

March 21, 2010, 3PM-7PM: Greater Boston Kimchi Festival: I will be judging and helping organize the Greater Boston Kimchi Festival. Start experimenting with your kimchi now, so that you will be ready to enter it in our kimchi contest! There will be prizes in different categories, including "traditional", "innovative", and "audience picks". We will have a kimchi demo, live entertainment, door prizes, and much more. Proceeds to benefit the Theodore Parker Church. Details TBA.

For more information, email

Friday, December 25, 2009

Illinois Soy Prison Update: Chicago Tribune Story

The Chicago Tribune has published an excellent and balanced article about the Illinois soy prison case.

For background: Last month I wrote about the unhealthy amounts of soy that the Illinois Department of Corrections has been feeding to inmates, with disregard for medical conditions and health considerations; and about the injunction that has been filed against the Department, with the help of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

You can find further background here, on Kimberly Hartke's blog.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Max Kane, Raw Milk Activist, Found Guilty

A judge in Wisconsin found that Max Kane would be required to divulge the names of farmers and consumers involved in private transactions.

If not? "You could ultimately go to jail—that certainly is a possibility," the judge said. "A remedial order could be entered that you would go to jail until you answer the questions."

Read more in David Gumpert's blog, The Complete Patient.

For the background behind this case, read my post about it here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Recipe: Pork Chop Sauté With Kombucha Reduction

You can cook with kombucha. It winds up tasting suspiciously like apple cider, even though it contains absolutely no apples! It does lose some of its wonderful healthy properties when you cook it, since the heat kills the friendly bacteria, but if you're making your own kombucha like I am, you probably have some extra kombucha…

  • One-inch-thick pork chops (1 big chop per person)
  • 1 tablespoon cooking fat (lard or ghee or clarified butter)
  • Kombucha: approximately 2 oz. for each pork chop
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • A well-seasoned cast iron skillet large enough to hold all your chops without crowding them. (If you have too many chops, you can cook them in batches.)
  1. Preheat the skillet over medium to medium-high heat.

  2. Dry the pork chops on both sides with paper towels. Salt and pepper them judiciously.

  3. Put your cooking fat in the skillet. Use a fat that won't burn too quickly. Good lard is best. Ghee or clarified butter would work great too. If you have butter, it's pretty easy to clarify it—see here for example.

  4. Once the fat has melted, put the chops in the pan, with a bit of space between them.

  5. After 5 minutes, flip them. After 3 more minutes, cut into one and take a look. If it's still bloody, cook another minute or two and look again. If it's pink but not bloody, it's done—remove them to a plate. Keep in mind that the meat will continue to cook a bit after you remove it from the pan. If you overcook it, it will dry out, and you may be disappointed. (See Note About Undercooked Pork, below.)

  6. (Repeat for additional batches as needed, adding more fat if necessary.)

  7. When you are done cooking the chops, pour out most of the fat (save it to cook vegetables if you like). Pour the kombucha into the pan, over medium-high heat; stir it around with a wooden spoon, scraping up bits that are stuck to the pan; and cook until the sauce reaches the desired thickness, maybe a minute or two. Turn off the heat. Taste the sauce and season it as you like with salt and pepper if needed.

  8. Serve with sauerkraut, seared greens (cooked in lard), Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes (with lots of butter), or whatever you like.

  9. Why not wash it all down with some kombucha! Or hard apple cider.
Note About Undercooked Pork

In some countries, eating undercooked pork can give you a case of trichinosis. In the U.S., trichinosis is very rare (between 1997 and 2001, an average of 12 cases per year were reported). Freezing pork for at least 20 days at 5 degrees Fahrenheit or colder is sufficient to kill the larval worms that cause trichinosis. (reference)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Will Max Kane, Raw Milk Activist, Go To Jail?

Max Kane appears before a judge on Monday to answer charges of contempt of court for not divulging the names of farmers and consumers with whom he was involved in private transactions.

If he loses the case, he could go to jail.

Max originally started drinking raw milk to reverse his "incurable" Crohn's disease. It must have worked pretty well, because he recently biked 3600+ miles across the U.S. to publicize raw milk.

If you would like to support Max, there will be a rally before his hearing. December 21, 9:30AM, at the Viroqua, WI Courthouse.

Speaking at his rally will be a fascinating who's-who of raw milk producers, political thinkers, activists, writers, healers, and film makers including:
For more information about his case and the rally, press clippings, etc., check out Max's blog, his video:

and Kimberly Hartke's posting about him.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raw Milk Hearing in Framingham: Here's What Happened

Will raw milk be allowed or prohibited? This was the question considered at the Board of Health hearing I just attended in Framingham, Massachusetts, a town of 70,000 people approximately 25 miles west of Boston. (See my previous post on the subject for the full background.)

The Outcome

After two and a half hours of public comment, discussion, and deliberation, the three-member Board of Health voted that Doug Stephan would be allowed to sell raw milk from his farm in Framingham, subject to existing state regulations, and subject also to additional regulations imposed by the Town of Framingham; regulations one of which was determined last night (weekly testing in place of the state-mandated monthly testing), and some of which are still to be determined.

This result is a significant, because Stephan's farm will be the raw milk farm nearest to the city of Boston, and is likely to become a source of choice for raw milk.

It is also significant because it marks the first time that a town or city in Massachusetts has implemented its own regulations on top of the state regulations. A precedent has been set.

Raw Milk In Massachusetts

Massachusetts has state requirements concerning the sale of raw milk. The milk must come from a farm with a special state raw-milk license. The milk must be sold on the farm where it was produced. The milk must be tested once a month, and must meet certain requirements. The test results must be posted at the point of sale, along with specific warnings about the nature of raw milk. The bottles must be labeled in a particular way. With the exception of cheese aged for at least 60 days, no processed raw dairy products are allowed to be sold in the state (so no cream, no skim milk, no yogurt, no kefir). These state requirements have been in place for a while. More details are available on the NOFA Massachusetts website.

Massachusetts also grants authority to jurisdictions to further restrict whether, and how, raw milk can be sold. This level of granularity with respect to raw milk regulation is unusual, and is perhaps consistent with Massachusetts' "big government" reputation.

Up until now, towns and cities in Massachusetts have either allowed raw milk sales from all farms compliant with state regulations, or prohibited raw milk sales completely. Tonight was the first time that a local Board of Health has elected to create additional, jurisdiction-specific restrictions. My guess is that most jurisdictions are either too urbanized to have significant dairy farms, or too resource-limited to want to complicate things, instead letting the state licensing bureau take care of the whole matter. Framingham seems to fall in the crack.

I believe that the arrangement in Massachusetts is unnecessarily complicated. Raw milk drinkers in Massachusetts will get their milk one way or another—from sources within the state, or from sources in nearby states, almost all of which allow the sale of raw milk. The more sources there are, the more choice buyers will have, the higher standard they will hold the producers to, and the more likely they will be to report problems. Banning raw milk sales in Framingham, for instance, would have done very little to prevent people from drinking raw milk, but it might have restricted the availability enough to discourage people from reporting problems with their sources.

There is significant disagreement within the state government about the desirability of raw milk. Two state agencies sent letters to the Framingham BOH advising them on the licensing issue. The agency responisble for regulating unpasteurized milk in Massachussets, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, whose mission is "to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts", wrote a letter strongly in support of granting the license, and categorically against municipal bans. The agency responsible for regulating pasteurized milk, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, whose mission is not made quite so clear on their website, wrote a letter saying that they continue to have grave concerns over the sale of raw milk in Massachusetts. These letters were both read into the record.

The Hearing

The Framingham Board of Health consists of Michael Hugo, the Chair; Tammy Harris, the Secretary; and Nelson Goldin. Ethan Mascoop is the part-time, paid Director of the BOH. There was a stenographer, taking notes. And there were approximately 46 members of the public in attendance, including Doug Stephan, the farmer.

Mascoop, the Director, having surveyed raw milk laws in other states, expressed concern that the Mass regulations might not be strict enough, citing issues such as labeling, frequency of testing, inspection criteria, liability insurance, and herd size. He also questioned the tools available for enforcement of the regulations. Hugo noted that these concerns would have to be considered in light of the limited resources of the Framingham BOH, limitations which would argue against implementing Framingham-specific regs that would put a burden of monitoring and enforcement on the local BOH. He also expressed some concern over raw milk drinkers' potential unwillingness to report raw-milk-related illnesses, out of a feeling of loyalty to farmers.

There was discussion on the issue of organic milk, and antibiotics. Most of the raw milk dairies in Massachusetts are not organic, and do use antibiotics on their cows when they are sick. Milk from cows actively taking antibiotics cannot legally be sold. There was discussion about whether the current state regs around testing milk for antibiotics were sufficient. Note that this same issue affects milk for pasteurization as well.

Stephan, the farmer, appeared frustrated and impatient with the process. He remarked that if he had known how difficult it would have been to run the farm, citing the milk issue and an issue related to water rights, he would not have bought the farm, and would instead have allowed the property to be sold to developers, who would have replaced the historic farm with subdivisions. And if he had known how protracted the process with the Framingham BOH was going to be, he would have attempted to bypass them, dealing only with the state, an approach that he believes would have been within his rights.

Karen Clickner, who runs a large holistic health clinic in Brookline, spoke to the health benefits of raw milk in helping to remedy many conditions, including infertility. She answered various questions posed to her by the BOH, including questions about whether she recommends raw milk to infants (yes), severely immunocompromised individuals (no, because it can be difficult to digest), and pregnant women (generally not; the beneficial bacteria can be ingested by other means).

David Gumpert, author of Raw Milk Revolution, spoke at length about the epidemiology of raw milk, including the fact that estimates for the number of raw milk drinkers in the US vary between half a million and ten million, and the fact that statistics around food-related illnesses are notoriously incomplete and inaccurate. Speaking directly to the issue of raw milk in Massachusetts, Gumpert pointed out that in the state of Massachusetts, since 1999 there have been no reported raw-milk-related illnesses, whereas in the past 3 years pasteurized milk has been identified as the cause of 3 deaths and one spontaneous abortion. The BOH questioned Gumpert quite a bit, and Gumpert conceded that statistically speaking, raw milk seemed to represent a greater risk than pasteurized milk.

Richard Lerner, a local veterinarian, spoke against raw milk, making some arguments that we've all heard, and focusing specifically on the perceived laxness and inadequacy of regulation of raw milk by the state.

I had a few things I wanted to say, and I also had a statement from a friend I was prepared to read, but public comment was curtailed before I was able to get to the microphone.

The defining question of the evening, I think, was how to balance risk against freedom. Michael Hugo, the Chair, told us that he eats sushi with his 88-year old dad, and nearly lost a raw-oyster-eating contest to him. Mascoop, the Director, related that new FDA model regs will recommend prohibiting the sale of raw or undercooked foods to children in public eating establishments. Nelson Goldin asked whether we should protect people who don't want protecting. Cigarettes and alcohol were mentioned jokingly. I wish they had been considered more seriously. They certainly represent a greater public health threat than raw milk. It is possible to get a motorcycle permit in Massachusetts by presenting a valid car license and taking a written test; there is no requirement to demonstrate an ability to ride a motorcycle. How about hang-gliding?

The Decision

The ultimate decision was that Stephan would be allowed to sell raw milk from his farm, subject to state regs, and subject to additional requirements, including weekly testing (in place of the monthly testing required by the state), and other requirements to be determined by the BOH, informed by an advisory committee consisting of Mascoop, Stephan, and Richard Lerner the veternarian. Hugo and Goldin voted in favor of this decision; Harris voted against it.

This is a partial victory. Is it better than a Framingham ban? Absolutely. Does it open the door for additional Massachusetts jurisdictions to enact their own local raw milk regulations? Perhaps, but I doubt too many jurisdictions with dairy farms would have the time or inclination to do this.

Do I think the decision is unfair to Stephan? Yes. Given that there have been no raw-milk-related illnesses reported in Massachusetts since 1999, it seems clear to me that the state regs are adequate in practice, and that Stephan is being unnecessarily impeded from doing business. He has demonstrated himself to be a responsible farmer, and he should be allowed to sell his products to people who want to buy them.

I look forward to driving to Framingham to buy his milk.

See Also

See also David Gumpert's post on the hearing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Raw Milk Hearing in Framingham, MA This Wednesday Dec 16

Dear Raw Milk Fans,


There will be a hearing this Wednesday night, December 16, at 7PM, that will determine whether or not Doug Stephan is granted a license to sell raw milk from his farm in Framingham, Massachusetts, a town of 70,000 or so people 20 miles west of Boston.

The meeting will be in the Blumer Room in the Town Hall, 150 Concord St, Framingham, MA. Click here for a map and directions. There's a train that leaves South Station, Boston at 6:15PM and arrives in Framingham at 6:52PM; the town hall is a few minutes' walk from the train station. This sounds like a good option. Bring a book for the train ride. Might I suggest The Raw Milk Revolution, by David E. Gumpert?


Personally, I would be thrilled to have a 30-cow raw milk dairy within 20 minutes of my house in Cambridge. The closest one right now is 40 minutes away (Oake Knoll Ayrshires in Foxoro), and is quite small—10 cows last I herd (sic). Stephan's farm would only be the 26th raw milk dairy in Massachusetts, a bellwether state on many issues.




Click here for the meeting agenda. There will be stuff going on at the meeting besides the raw milk hearing—but I can guarantee that the raw milk part will be the highlight!

Some additional background:

My understanding is that this is the first time anyone in Framingham has applied to the city Board of Health for such a license. As such, precedent will be set. There are three possible outcomes: the board could grant the license; the board could grant the license, but with town-specific requirements that are tougher than the state requirements; or the board could deny the license. This hearing is a very important one in Massachusetts, and could point the way for future such hearings.

Doug will make the case that his dairy farm cannot survive selling milk for pasteurization. In the past year and a half, the price paid to him by dairy corporations has dropped from $28 or $29 for a hundredweight, to $12 or $13 for a hundredweight. It costs him $24 per hundredweight to produce the milk.

Here are some articles on the issue:

The outcome of this case will have bearing on all of our ability to get raw milk, and to get the food we want, the way we want it, not just in Massachusetts, but around the US. Now is the time to act.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review: Just Food, by James E. McWilliams

Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong And How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James E. McWilliams, presents some good ideas, but is weakened by arrogance and less-than-thorough analyses. His critique of locavorism is ultimately incomplete and flawed.

If you are interested in what he has to say but don't want to read the whole book, I recommend that you go to your neighborhood bookstore and read the 9-page Conclusion. It is short enough to read standing up.

McWilliams' driving concern throughout the book is the environment. Greenhouse gasses are his main focus. He argues that "food miles" is an overly simplistic, and in fact misguided, gauge of food sustainability. He discusses the concept of life cycle analysis, suggesting that it is important to look at the total carbon impact of your food, rather than focusing simply on the carbon impact of its transportation; he demonstrates that there are often other factors that make a far greater contribution to carbon footprint than transportation. He also points out, rightly I think, that farmers' markets and small farmers in general will face an increasing challenge trying simultaneously to meet the needs of foodies, the mainstream population, restaurateurs, wholesalers, and the low-income population.

His argument is weakened by unfounded assertions and unnecessary contrariness, perhaps products of a conscious attempt to be "provocative" or "controversial". He claims that an ever-growing contingent of "food-milers" think food miles are the only thing that matter, and he casts himself as the defender of the human race against these food-milers; it not clear to me that a lot of people look only at food miles without looking also at issues such as sustainable farming practices and rural economics. He states that "if we can measure the distance food can travel, we can certainly measure the carbon footprint created by the major inputs of production"; this seems far from certain to me, especially on smaller, polyculture farms. He spends a good portion of the first chapter criticizing the "food-milers" for being smug and self-righteous, and obsessing over their one pet metric; he spends much of the rest of the chapter being smug and self-righteous himself, and focusing on his own pet metric (carbon footprint).

He faults locavorism for being unable to meet the needs of the urban population of the US, especially in arid cities (he specifically mentions Tuscon, Phoenix, and Las Vegas). He says: "Locavores will often respond to this line of attack by arguing that people should not be moving to these areas in the first place." He dismisses this argument by claiming that the US government cannot realistically tell "citizens and corporations that they cannot settle in a particular region because the resources do not conform to a locavore vision", and finally concludes that "some places cannot, on environmental grounds, justify a localized food system." He implies that the US government is the only force that determines where people live. I doubt this—I think economics play a significant role. I believe that if the Southwest continues its trend toward running out of water, or if transportation becomes more expensive, water and food prices will likely rise sharply in response, and Phoenix will become a less appealing place to live. The government could (continue to) subsidize the transportation of water to such locations, but this would seem to work against McWilliams' goal of lowered carbon footprint. In short, I don't think his argument holds water.

He also fails to acknowledge the non-carbon-related reasons for supporting local agriculture. Chief among them are, in my view: building resilient local food systems able to withstand sudden events (rises in transportation costs triggered by rising energy prices, natural disasters, wars, economic and infrastructure collapses); and supporting the local economy, both by keeping money in the local community and by providing meaningful jobs. He does not acknowledge the possibility that small agriculture jobs might be meaningful. And he says that buying food directly from farmers does not build any kind of "community" that he is interested in. In these matters I simply disagree with him.

Finally, he "often wonder[s] if consumers could consistently discern the difference in a blind taste test between farmers' market produce and Wal-Mart produce." Because of the wide variety of farmers' market produce, the question as stated is essentially meaningless. It's hard to see the purpose of asking it. Is it intended merely to provoke?

In the next chapter, he makes a point about how "local" is turning into a marketing buzzword, just as has happened, to a large extent, to "organic" (and, I might add, to a variety of other terms like "free-range", "farm fresh", and so on). He argues that organic/conventional is a continuum rather than a dichotomy, that they are not as distinct as most people think in terms of practices, use of chemicals, etc., and that rather than being limited by these two categories, we should consider a range of approaches to farming that use appropriate technologies.

He loses me is in his discussion of genetically modified food. McWilliams doesn't see a big difference between selective plant breeding and genetic modification. Specifically, he states that we have been selectively breeding plants for a long time,
but now, somewhat arbitrarily, many of us are deeply bothered over biotechnology. We shouldn't be. Genetic engineering (GE) is often portrayed as a radical break from "natural" agricultural practice, but as [Pamela] Ronald points out, this is not the case.
He justifies GM food by trying to demonstrate that it is the only way we will be able to address current hunger, and to feed the ever-growing population of the future. He downplays the many possible ecological risks.

As far as I'm concerned, given what we don't know about it, GM food is not an option, period. So ultimately, his claims about the relative efficiency of GM versus conventional crops are irrelevant to me.

Furthermore, in his discussion of GM foods, he again downplays or ignores the issue of local resilience and self-sufficiency. GM seeds generally require money, and even when they are given away, they frequently require specific chemical inputs from specific companies in order to produce. Additionally, they are often sterile in the next generation, making seed-saving impossible, and locking farmers in poor countries into cycles of dependency on American multinational corporations like Monsanto.

His chapters about meat and aquaculture are the strongest chapters of the book. Meat from industrially-raised land animals, he argues, is expensive in terms of land use, carbon footprint, and environmental devastation, and our worldwide consumption of such meat is skyrocketing. Between 1958 and today, for example, per capita meat consumption in China has gone from 8 pounds a year to 119. Another statistic he cites is that a 50% reduction in meat consumption would compensate for 2937.5 miles driven every year by every family (he does not specify geography; the study he cites is British, so perhaps the context is Britain). He concludes that
In the end, the only environmentally viable kinds of meat production are the emerging alternatives to conventional factory production—grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and free-range pork being prime examples. However…it will work only when kept small and integrated into midsized sustainable farms that place the bulk of their emphasis on growing plants to feed people.
(This makes it sound like grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and free-range pork are new ideas, which they are definitely not. Nevertheless, he makes his point.)

His analysis of the history and state of the art in aquaculture is insightful. Fish farms vary greatly: some are very sustainable, and some are awful and polluting. His exploration of the growing possibilities of small scale, fresh water aquaculture and aquaponics is compelling. He makes a good case for his claim that of all the available sources of animal protein, aquaponic fish is the best.

The final chapter deals with subsidies, incentives, and fair trade. While I'm tired of reading about farm and trade subsidies, he presents many of the issues well. He ends, however, with another argument against strict locavorism, which I suppose is understandable, given the full title of the book. He justifies the large-scale import of green beans from sub-Saharan Africa to the UK on three grounds: (1) these beans don't have a large carbon footprint; (2) sub-Saharan Africa needs the money and the jobs, and (3) farming practices there might be more sustainable than in the UK. The first and third points are difficult to address. The second, money-and-jobs argument is short-sighted. The export/import arrangement increases the dependency of sub-Saharan farmers on the price of transportation fuel, and on market conditions in the rest of the world. What if large-scale food trade becomes impractical or inordinately expensive? What if the price of green beans drops suddenly, and these farmers are not able to cover their costs? This is exactly what has happened to coffee farmers. For people to be truly self-sufficient and secure, does it not make sense for them to grow food that they and their neighbors can eat? Self-sufficiency and food security considerations are compelling arguments for global locavorism, in the face of an increasingly complicated and volatile world economy.

Some of my ideas presented above were shaped by a conversation that took place at a book club meeting.

A list of our current and past book club selections can be found  here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I Am Teaching A Food Preserving Class, Feb 9 & Feb 16 2010

Coming up:
Click here to register
    Here's the course description:
    Since the start of recorded history, humans have been preserving food. Refrigeration and freezing have become popular recently, but many interesting alternatives exist.

    During class 1, we will explore some or all of the following topics: fermentation of vegetables and fruits (including sauerkraut, pickled root vegetables, kimchi, preserved lemons, etc.); cucumber pickles, relishes, and chutneys; brined meat (corned beef); preserved dairy (yogurt, ricotta cheese); kombucha; salting and drying (dried fruit, dried vegetables, dried meats, potato chips); etc.. Along the way, we will discuss food history; food safety; knife skills; and seasoning.

    During class 2, one week later, we will prepare dishes, using some of the preserved foods from class one as ingredients. Menu items may include corned beef reuben sandwiches (with sauerkraut and/or kimchi); traditional Alsatian choucroute; a variety of canapés using chutneys and kimchi; lactofermented cole slaw; broiled chicken with preserved lemons and herbs; baked ricotta; kombucha-poached scallops; etc.
    Click here to register

      If you would like to hire me to do a sauerkraut or fermentation event for you, please email or call me (four one five, five nine six, seven six one three). I can tailor-make an event to fit your group or occasion.

      These are some of my past public events:

      Wednesday, December 2, 2009

      Meat Of Known Origin (MOKO) In Boston Right Now

      It's easier than it used to be. Here are some thoughts:
      • First of all, from now through December 24, Stillman's is selling MOKO five days a week SEVEN DAYS A WEEK (updated) at the Downtown Crossing Holiday Market. Show up and choose from what they brought, or call them ahead of time at 413-477-0345 if you have a special request!

      • All winter long you can get MOKO from Austin Farms every Monday; for details see JJ Gonson's Cuisine En Locale blog.

      • Any time you want, you can go to Lionette's Market on Tremont Street in Boston.
      And if you want a fabulous MOKO t-shirt, you can even get that, too, from the Boston Localvores website!

      Downtown Crossing Holiday Market

      If you are in Boston this season, you can visit the Downtown Crossing Holiday Market, located (in a big tent!) on Summer Street at Downtown Crossing from now through December 24th. Hours are Monday through Saturday 11AM-7PM and Sunday 12PM-6PM.

      Why visit?

      There are farmers and food producers offering a variety of excellent food and horticultural goods, including great local vegetables and fruits from Keown Orchards, delicious breads from When Pigs Fly, fabulous lillies from Stow Greenhouses, and one-of-a-kind Dessert Hummus from Crazy Camel. There are also booths selling the other sorts of things you might expect at a holiday market, including jewelry, pottery, candles, and the like.

      The vendor I was most excited to see was Stillman's, a leading Massachusetts purveyor of Meat Of Known Origin (MOKO). Stillman's will be at the market five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, until December 24th.

      So it will be easier than ever to get Meat Of Known Origin in Boston this holiday season!

      Note: The Downtown Crossing Holiday Market is being run by the Boston Public Market Association, in coordination with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. I am on the board of the BPMA. I don't benefit personally from any money you might spend at the Holiday Market.

      Imagine if there were an indoor, year-round, seven-days-a-week local food market serving the Boston area, so that farmers and food producers like Stillman's, Keown, and Stow could easily sell their products directly to their customers.

      I think this would be great, for many reasons. Here are a few: Greater availability of real food could increase the health and happiness of folks in the Boston area; it could also attract more good restaurants to the Boston area. A year-round market would make it easier for buyers to find what they needed, and easier for sellers to predict demand.  Cutting out the intermediaries would allow food producers to build relationships with their customers, sell at a better price, and take home more money for themselves. And so on.

      The Boston Public Market Association's goal is to create such a market. If this vision appeals to you, please support us.

      Tuesday, December 1, 2009

      Slow Food BU Sauerkraut Workshop Recap

      Elizabeth Jarrard of Slow Food BU posted this fun, informative, and impressively thorough recap of the sauerkraut workshop I held at BU two weeks ago:

      Awesome photos by Rachel Offerdahl, including my favorite, the "money shot":

      Where To Find Raw Milk In Italy

      This web site:

      shows 1352 locations where you can get raw milk in Italy. The locations are pretty well distributed across every region of the country, including the southern islands of Sicily and Sardinia, with a much higher concentration of raw milk sources in the north.

      (It's certainly available from numerous other sources that do not appear on this site, too—small farms and the like.)

      Thursday, November 26, 2009

      Book Review: The Raw Milk Revolution, by David E. Gumpert

      I just finished reading The Raw Milk Revolution, by David E. Gumpert (full title: The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle Over Food Rights). I recommend it to anyone who is interested in raw milk; in the viability of small-scale farming in the US today; and, most broadly, in the balance between individual rights on the one hand, and the state's role in protecting public health on the other—civil liberties, really.

      Gumpert tells the stories of a few specific clashes of raw milk producers with regulatory agencies, and of a few specific pieces of legislation. By shifting his focus among these cases with excellent dramatic timing, he has given his book a bit of the flavor of an episode of Law and Order, leaving us on the edge of our seats as he switches from one thread to the next. Thus he has succeeded in writing an engaging, almost titillating, book about raw milk practice and policy.

      His bias, which he makes no effort to hide, is in favor of due process and Constitutionally-guaranteed individual liberties, and against overreaching government agencies, unaccountable bureaucrats, and thug-like police and federal agents. Although he believes, for political and philosophical reasons, that people should have access to raw milk, he remains even-handed in his reporting; he is able to explore the actions, motivations, and inconsistencies of both camps, which is why his book is a valuable document, and not a screed.

      He makes many astute observations over the course of the book. The first is one I've made before: that personal accounts of the effects of food on health are often discounted as being anecdotal, but in fact can be more revealing and meaningful than scientific studies. For instance, if someone tells me that they used to have asthma, and that when they started drinking raw milk it went away, and that whenever they stop drinking raw milk it comes back, this might mean more to me than a study of rates of asthma and raw milk consumption over time in a large population, where I gain little or no information about who exactly had asthma and who drank raw milk.

      Another observation he made was of the profoundly different ways that different people look at health, illness, food, treatment, and pharmaceuticals. In the below excerpt, he is interviewing a California regulator, on the condition of anonymity:
      [His question to the regulator:] What about the studies indicating that children who consume raw milk have fewer chronic health problems, such as the recent major European study suggesting that raw milk reduces the incidence of asthma in children? The response: "Isn't it better to go to your doctor and get asthma medicine than to take the risk of drinking raw milk?"
      It is hard to know how to span the gulf between people who seek the keys to health on the one hand, and people who would always rather seek treatment on the other.

      The tension that lies at the root of the raw milk debate, and indeed at the root of many debates these days, is the following: In the absence of conclusive, overwhelming evidence one way or the other, should the default stance of government be to permit, or to prohibit? On this question, I am quite clear where I stand.

      Wednesday, November 25, 2009

      Killing Chickens

      A few months ago, I tried to kill some chickens, but failed.

      How's that? Did the chickens get the better of me? Did they run away? Did I have a last-minute change of heart?

      None of the above. I showed up at Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds for the 11AM shift on one of their slaughter days, and the birds had all been slaughtered by the time I got there. So instead of killing chickens, I spent a few hours sorting hearts and livers into plastic containers, along with the occasional kidney, while keeping a keen eye out for gall bladders, which, if punctured or crushed, could ruin whatever meat they came into contact with.

      I was reminded of this experience because I just read an article by Jennifer Reese, The Tipsy Baker, entitled What I Learned When I Killed A Chicken (with some great photos, linked here). It describes what happened when she bought some chicks to be layers, and one of them grew up to be a rooster, which she decided to eat. She does not experience any kind of spiritual revelation as a result of killing her own meat. Perhaps I was hoping she would.

      When I eventually succeed in killing a chicken, I'll certainly share my thoughts.

      Thursday, November 19, 2009

      Article: Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World

      I just read a short article entitled Why GM Crops Will Not Feed the World. The author, Bill Freese, points out some of the shortcomings of genetically-modified crops in terms of yield and economics. He doesn't even touch on the health issues, or on some of the long-term environmental issues. Because of this narrow focus, the article has the potential to reach a wide audience. Even folks who don't seem to care about health or the environment, or are unwilling to acknowledge the scope of the disaster that is unfolding, might still be open to hearing about yield and economics.

      My summary:

      Genetically-modified crops provide lower yield, fewer jobs, and huge profits for GM seed companies.

      Some excerpts:

      Hype notwithstanding, there is not a single GM crop on the market engineered for increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or other attractive-sounding traits touted by the industry. Disease-resistant GM crops are practically non-existent. In fact, commercialized GM crops incorporate just two "traits" - herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance...

      Herbicide-tolerant crops (mainly soybeans) are popular with larger growers because they simplify and reduce labor needs for weed control...According to the Argentine Sub-Secretary of Agriculture, this labor-saving effect means that only one new job is created for every 1235 acres of land converted to GM soybeans. This same amount land, devoted to conventional food crops on moderate-size family farms, supports four to five families and employs at least half-a-dozen...

      What about yield? The most widely cultivated biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, suffers from a 5-10% "yield drag" versus conventional varieties, due to both adverse effects of glyphosate on plant health as well as unintended effects of the genetic engineering process used to create the plant.

      For those who want to know about the rest of the problems with GMO:

      This past weekend, at the annual conference of the Weston A. Price Foundation, I met a brilliant, kind, and utterly determined man named Jeffrey Smith. He is an expert on the problems with GMO--he wrote the book on the subject (literally). For a comprehensive, scientific, and astounding survey of the topic, visit his Seeds of Deception website, or check out his books, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating and Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Pictures From Weston A. Price Wise Traditions Conference 2009

      Some sourdough pancakes with your butter? Breakfast, Sally Fallon-style! A bit of an exaggeration—she says she has a mere 4 tablespoons of butter (half a stick) with her oatmeal in the morning.

      Cod liver oil gummy fish. By far the best-tasting cod liver oil I've found (and the worst-tasting gummy fish).

      Scott Gryzbek and his new line of Zukay lactofermented vegetable juices. They are much less salty than typical beet kvass, for example.

      Weston A. Price lunch: Organ meat sausages, local raw milk cheddar, chicken cacciatore of known origin (MOKO), lactofermented carrots, and sourdough garlic bread. Deeelicious. (There was other stuff, too...)

      Thursday, November 12, 2009

      Soy Prison Case

      Rod Blagojevich, now-shamed former governor of Illinois, in one of his first official acts in 2003, directed the Illinois Department of Corrections to replace most of the meat protein in its inmates' diets with soy protein (thus landing a big purchase order in the hands of one of his long-time friends). Inmates in Illinois now get upwards of 100 grams per day; even soy advocates recommend getting no more than about 20 grams of soy protein per day, because of the known deleterious health effects of large amounts of soy. No exceptions are made for inmates with documented soy allergies.

      Since 2003, inmates have experienced a variety of new health problems, including constipation, diarrhea, pains after eating, vomiting, thyroid problems, weight gain, breast development (among men), persistent infertility, and depression. Some of the prisoners who have complained about the new diet were retaliated against by the prison officials.
      In 2008, the Weston A. Price Foundation took up the cause of soy in prison diets. They retained lawyer Gary Cox to help a number of inmates file seeking a permanent injunction against soy in their meals, on 8th ammendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and 14th ammendment (deprivation of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law) grounds.

      Today WAPF held a press luncheon in Chicago to publicize the case.

      From left to right: Sally Fallon (President, WAPF), Jeffrey Smith (author, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods), Gary Cox (the lawyer representing the inmates), and Thomas Salonis (poet and former inmate in the Illinois prison system).

      Reasons we should care:
      • By some measures, up to 1/3 of the Illinois prison population is estimated to be innocent, and up to another 1/3 oversentenced.
      • Even genuine wrong-doers do not deserve the punishment of being forced to eat inadequate food. 
      • This is not limited to Illinois; similar diets are popping up in prisons in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and California.
      And, alarmingly:
      All of the panelists spoke eloquently and movingly about the issue. The Q&A section was impressive as well, particularly for the guest appearance of Mark Clements, a man who spent 28 years in Illinois prison for a crime that he didn't commit.

      more videos on youtube:
      pictures on twitter:
      pictures on flickr:

      I haven't even done justice to the geneitically modified soy angle. More for another time.

      This is the nexus of food, sustainability, and social justice.

      Stay tuned for more from the Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions conference.


      Here are the videos taken at the press conference. Moving testimony was given by a homeless former inmate. You will want to watch these.

      Here are some high res photos taken at the press conference by Ann Marie Michaels, of Cheeseslave.

      Feel free to use these pictures if you want to blog or write a press article about the lawsuit. She has granted permission for you to do so!

      Monday, November 9, 2009

      I'm Doing Two Pickling Workshops Next Week

      1. Tuesday, November 17, 6:30-7:30PM, for Slow Food BU. Very limited capacity.

        Email to register and to get full details.

      2. Thursday, November 19, 5:30-7:00PM, at Project Hope, 550 Dudley St., Roxbury. $7 per person to cover materials. You will make your own sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables to take home. Bring your own knife, cutting board, and mixing bowl if possible.

        This workshop is being produced by Pueblo Community Land Trust. Pueblo is an urban land trust dedicated to, among other things, initiating intentional neighborhood programs with its neighbors in the Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Dorcester neighborhoods of Boston. This is one of the first programs organized by Pueblo. Project Hope is generously donating the space.

        Email to reserve a spot. Advance reservations are limited; many of the spaces are reserved for walk-ins.

      Upcoming Sustainable Food Restaurants in Cambridge

      1. Canteen, 983 Massachusetts Ave., 02139. Halfway between Harvard and Central, where Friendly Eating Place used to be. Their site says: Bringing the ingredients from fine dining to fast food... [The owner's] ideology: that local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients are intrinsically better, and that these ingredients form the most significant part of what makes great food great. Due to open on January 25, 2010 (which is, incidentally, Burns Night).

      2. East By Northeast: 1128 Cambridge St., 02139. Just outside Inman Square, where Benatti was. A Boston Globe article says: The food will be local, sustainable, Chinese-inspired cuisine, according to Tang: small dishes, dumplings, all manner of porky items (Tang will be getting whole pigs from Vermont), and--la! I think I just heard the angels sing--house-made noodles. Due to open in early December.

      Tuesday, October 27, 2009

      Wise Traditions 2009 Conference

      The annual get-together of Weston A. Price fans, a few weeks from now, outside Chicago, IL.

      Approximately 1000 folks registered so far. The cap is 1300.

      I am greatly looking forward to it. Aside from anything else, it's going to win the prize for "Best Conference Food Ever". Click here for the menu.

      More details on the blog of the WAPF publicist:

      Or ask me and I'll tell you what I know.

      Raw Milk Buying Club in Cambridge MA

      I came across this group a little while ago:

      I joined their mailing list, to learn how it worked. Here's the deal:
      • Members place orders on a shared spreadsheet.
      • Every other week, someone (it rotates) drives to Oake Knoll Ayrshires at Lawton's Family Farm in Foxboro, MA to pick up milk (and sometimes a few other things). Then other members drive to the picker-upper's house to get their stuff.
      • There are no surcharges or fees.
      • Money transfer is done via PayPal.
      It sounds like it's working out well. If I didn't already have a great source of raw milk, I would be doing it.

      If someone reading this blog joins, I'd love to hear about it. (Post a comment or email.)

      Friday, October 23, 2009

      T.W. Food World of Sausage

      Having recently been involved in a flurry of sausage-related activities (making, sourcing, and of course eating), I was excited that T.W. Food, my favorite "special" Boston-area restaurant, was hosting a one-night World of Sausage dinner.

      My mom and I attended for an early dinner. The menu gave us only two decisions to make: meat or non-meat, and drinks pairing or no drinks pairing. We both got the meat menu, and we split a drinks pairing.

      The (somewhat) short version of the story:
      • Eight different sausages made their way across the table and into our stomachs (counting the dessert ice cream "sausage").
      • The amuse-bouche, perhaps not surprisingly, was sausage (Italian garlic sausage), together with some nice lactofermented vegetables (leek, yellow bean, green pepper, kohlrabi).
      • All of the food was great. My mom's favorite was a frothy borscht that surrounded a Polish smoked bacon sausage (think kielbasa). She was ready to order a whole bowl of the borscht. The dish that stayed with me the most was the choucroute royale. The champagne-cured sauerkraut was pale pink; chopped fine; had just the right combination of sourness, sweetness and saltiness; and sat on a discreet layer of somewhat-mashed potatoes. Three different sausages accompanied it beautifully. To be fair, the scallop and lobster sausage sure was good…and so was the bierwurst with perfect spätzle…and…
      • The drinks pairings complemented the food excellently. Bierwurst and spätzle got a pilsner beer, Polish smoked sausage with red beet-caraway soup got a California Pinot Noir, scallop and lobster sausage in squash sauce got a Willamette Valley Chardonnay, choucroute got an Alsatian Pinot Blanc, the cheese course of Repenaer aged gouda and Bavaria Blu got a dark Belgian ale, and the ice cream "sausage" got a delicious Petite Syrah dessert wine. Note the complete and delightful disregard for typical wine and beer sequencing.
      Reasons I love T.W. Food (in no particular order):
      • The food is imaginative, painstakingly and conscientiously prepared, and consistently top-of-the-line. And the menu changes all the time, and you can always sneak a peek at it on the web.
      • The servings and wine pairings are just right—neither meager nor excessive. (Keep in mind that I like to eat and drink, so in the grand scheme of things, the servings are probably quite generous.)
      • It is fantastic to be able to have an appropriate, excellent, and different wine (or beer) with every course. Sometimes the pairings are surprising, other times (like tonight) they are more or less straight-ahead, but always they are thoughtful and good.
      • T.W. Food is not inexpensive, but their prix fixe meals are a stand-out value among Boston restaurants.
      • All of the prix fixe menus include a meat-free option. And the meat-free offerings are every bit as good as the meaty ones. When I've dined with friends who have chosen the meat-free option, I have often found myself stealing things off their plates. So there is truly something for everyone (almost…maybe not for vegans).
      • The restaurant is classy but unpretentious. The service is great but not fussy. The place has a good feeling to it.

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      I Am Quoted in NOW Toronto Magazine

      NOW is a full-color, magazine-format Toronto weekly with a circulation of 395,000 and an impressive website. The closest thing that Boston has is the Phoenix, although it is black-and-white tabloid format, and its circulation is smaller (253,000).

      Elizabeth Bromstein wrote an article about fermented foods in the column of NOW entitled Potion in a Pickle.

      She quotes me in the article.

      Click here to read it. (Scroll to the bottom to see my quote.)

      Monday, October 12, 2009

      New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (And School)

      Last Sunday I attended the 6-hour Cheesemaking 101 class at New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in Ashfield, MA.

      It was an entirely positive experience. As one would hope, I learned about making cheese, and enjoyed immersing myself in the cheesemaking culture, as it were. Beyond that, I saw a great case study of a thriving business based on one person's passion for a distinctly non-mainstream activity. The proprietress, Ricki Carroll, literally "wrote the book" on home cheesemaking. She has been running New England Cheesemaking for 30 years, is a recognized authority in her field, and can decide when and how often to give her classes, which always have waiting lists. And the more classes she gives, the more cheesemaking supplies she sells. Not bad!

      Much of what I learned during the day can be found in her book, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in making anything beyond the occasional ricotta.

      I won't try to reproduce her book here.

      A few interesting tips I picked up:
      • If you rub an ice cube around the bottom of a pan before cooking milk in it, and you then avoid touching the bottom of the pan (with your fingers, a spoon, a thermometer, or whatever), it is claimed that milk won't burn to the bottom of the pan. Something about Brownian motion, surface tension, and the like. I am curious if this trick could be applied in other cooking contexts to good effect. I'll have to run some experiments. (My general strategy for not scorching pans has been not to use thin, cheap pans that heat unevenly. I have found that Calphalon Tri-Ply pans heat very nicely, and don't break the bank.)

      • When milk does get cooked onto pots and pans (or anything else, I suppose), wash with cold water first. The cold water works much better for getting milk goo off. Then wash with hot water.

      • If you are going to heat milk on a stove, it is worth getting a thermometer that clamps onto the side of your pan, so that you aren't constantly holding your thermometer (and your hand) over a pot of hot liquid.

      • There are (at least) two gauges of cheesecloth: one is called simply "cheesecloth", and another is "butter muslin". The latter is finer, and is better suited to straining yogurt, for instance (or, as you might guess, to making butter).

      • For yogurt: Heating your milk to 185°F or even 200°F before cooling and innoculating results in a significantly thicker yogurt than heating to 180°F, which is what I had been doing. This I have verified experimentally!

      • More yogurt: When you have just finished making a new batch of yogurt, consider setting some aside as a starter right then, rather than using the "dregs" of the current batch to start your next batch. Your starter can be kept in its own jar, undisturbed, until you need it, rather than being exposed to a parade of spoons and air and whatnot. Better yet, freeze your starter yogurt in ice-cube trays and put the yogurt cubes into a freezer bag, and they'll be good for months. (Be sure to label the bag.)

      • If you have wondered why Scandinavian gjetost-style cheeses are so markedly different from other cheeses, here's the reason: they are made from whey (the liquid that's left over when you're done making other cheeses), reduced until it becomes thick. So it would be accurate to say that gjetost is the complement of typical cheeses, in the set-theoretic sense (except for the fact that some milk and cream are typically added back into the gjetost to enrich it).

      Friday, October 2, 2009

      Making Yogurt (video)

      (If you can't see the video above, click here; if that doesn't work, then click here.)

      Thursday, October 1, 2009

      Sauerkraut Demo, This Saturday 12:30PM-1PM, Rain Or Shine


      I'll be doing a demonstration of how to make sauerkraut this Saturday from 12:30PM-1PM on Dewey Square, diagonally across from South Station in Boston. Admission is free! Come check it out!

      Rain or shine!

      I'll be using cabbage from Keown Farms, one of the vendors from the Boston Public Market Sponsored by Rodale at Dewey Square.

      My demo will be part of a big fair running from 12PM-6PM on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. For more details, click here.

      Monday, September 28, 2009

      Pho of Known Origin

      At the beginning of this calendar year, I made a commitment to try to eat only Meat of Known Origin. I've done pretty well with this, although I have occasionally strayed, especially when traveling.

      One of the things I've missed the most this year, and that I've broken my vows for once or twice, has been the Vietnamese noodle soup called phở. It most typically consists of a delicious, strongly-flavored beef broth; rice noodles; various and sundry pieces of cow, including tripe, tendon, brisket, rare fillet, sometimes meatballs, and so on; and garnishes such as lime, thinly-sliced onion, Thai basil, bean sprouts, and jalapeño slices. (I usually skip the bean sprouts, because they cool off the soup too quickly.) Making phở is somewhat involved. And your phở can only be as good as the beef stock you start with. If your "stock" comes from a can or a cardboard box, it's not going to be worth the trouble.

      I had come across this phở recipe on Epicurious a while ago, and had made a note to myself to try it. Finding myself with a good supply of beef stock of my own making, and a pound of good steak, both of known origin, I decided that the time had come.

      Below is the recipe, as modified to start from beef stock rather than bones, to make 3 servings instead of 6, to suit the ingredients I had on hand, and so on.

      It turned out delicious. The broth had a great flavor, nice and beefy because of the concentrated stock I used, perhaps a little heavier on the anise and clove than what I've had at restaurants but by no means over-spiced. The bok choy and mushrooms were great additions, even if they weren't traditional. A thoroughly satisfying meal!

      (Having said all of that, if anyone out there in blog-land knows of Vietnamese restaurants using sustainably-sourced meat, please comment!)

      Recipe: Phở of Known Origin

      • 3 quarts beef stock of known origin
      • 1 3-inch piece ginger, cut in half lengthwise and lightly bruised with the flat side of a knife, lightly charred (see Note, below)
      • 1 yellow onion, peeled and charred (see Note, below)
      • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
      • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
      • 5 whole star anise, lightly toasted in a dry pan
      • 3 whole cloves, lightly toasted in a dry pan
      • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
      • 2 dried hot peppers 
      • 1/2 pound steak, cut into moderately thin strips
      • hen-of-the-woods mushrooms (optional), cut to approximately match the meat

      • 1/2 pound dried 1/16-inch-wide rice sticks, very slightly undercooked, drained
      • 1/2 pound steak, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin across the grain, squirted with a little lime juice
      • 15 leaves of baby bok choy

      • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin
      • 1 scallion, cut into thin rings
      • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
      • 1/2 pound bean sprouts
      • a few sprigs Asian basil
      • some shiso leaves, chiffonade cut (optional)
      • jalapeños, sliced
      • 1/2 lime, cut into thin wedges
      • Freshly ground black pepper
      1. Heat the stock. Add the charred ginger and onions, fish sauce and sugar. Add the star anise, cloves, and hot peppers. Let infuse until the broth is fragrant, at least 30 minutes. Taste the broth. If it is not spicy enough, crush the hot peppers against the side of the saucepan so that they release more spice. Add salt. When the flavor is good, strain and return to heat and cover. (The broth will taste salty but will be balanced once the noodles and accompaniments are added.)

      2. Make sure the noodles and garnishes are ready before proceeding.

      3. Add the first 1/2 pound of steak and the mushrooms to the stock. Cook for a few minutes. Strain out the meat and mushrooms with a slotted spoon when the meat is almost done.

      4. To serve, place the cooked noodles in preheated bowls. (If the noodles are not hot, dip them briefly in boiling water to prevent them from cooling down the soup.) Place the bok choy, some cooked beef, and some raw beef on the noodles. Ladle hot soup into each bowl. Garnish with yellow onions, scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately, inviting guests to garnish the bowls with bean sprouts, herbs, chilies, lime juice and black pepper. (Alternatively, serve raw beef on the side with lime wedges, and allow guests to squirt it with lime, dunk it in the soup, and cook it as desired, or eat it raw!) Provide guests with soup spoons, chop sticks, chili sauce, and plum sauce.

      Note: How to Char Ginger and Onions

      To char ginger, hold the piece with tongs directly over an open flame. While turning, char until the edges are slightly blackened and the ginger is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Char the onions in the same way. Peel and discard the blackened skins of the ginger and onions.

      Friday, September 25, 2009

      Reflections On My First Pickling and Preserving Class

      Going into my first cooking class as an instructor, I was nervous. The curriculum and some of the recipes were untested. I didn't know exactly how many people would be in the class, where they would be coming from, or how much experience they would have. I also didn't know whether or not I would have any assistants, or even what I would do if I had them!

      As it turned out, there were 13 enrolled students; 1 school intern; 1 photographer; and 5 (!) assistants. Everyone in the class was a pleasure to work with, and had great kitchen skills. And the assistants were able and tireless; they increased everyone's enjoyment of the class (mine not least of all!).

      We started with a discussion of food preserving. I talked about why it is important for us to be able to preserve food. Then I discussed food safety, and the various factors we can control to prevent food spoilage. This led to a discussion of some of the different methods of food preservation, including freezing, refrigerating, lactofermentation, vinegaring, canning, and drying, with a separate discussion of preserving dairy. Lactofermentation is my favorite preserving method, because it is easy, healthy, safe, and tasty. For more discussion of lactofermentation, check my previous blog post here.

      I shared a few thoughts about kitchen organization, including one of my favorite techniques, which is labeling and dating everything that goes into the fridge! My refrigerator houses many mason jars containing homemade things. If I didn't label and date them, I would lose control of my fridge pretty quickly. I date things I buy, too, so that I know when I opened them, and when it might be time to get rid of them.

      After that, I did a brief knife technique demo, illustrating the benefits of having a large knife, especially when working with large vegetables like cabbage. I also demonstrated methods for cutting up green peppers, onions, and apples.

      After the discussion and demonstration, we moved into the kitchen to work with food. Everyone made some sauerkraut (of course!), then various people made yogurt, kimchi, pickles, other lactofermented vegetables (including parsnips), lactofermented lemons and plums, kombucha, and corned beef; we also made (non-fermented) applesauce and canned it, using the method from the Ball Blue Book. At the end of class, everyone took home their sauerkraut and other lactoferments, to babysit them during the week.

      In the second class, a week later, everyone brought back their various krauts, and we admired their diversity and rainbow colors. After a brief strategy session, we divided into teams, and made dishes using all of our preserved foods from the week before. These dishes included yogurt-cucumber salad; lactofermented coleslaw; mayonnaise and Russian dressing; different kinds of canapés and sandwiches involving raw and cooked corned beef, sauerkraut, kimchi, coleslaw, pickles, etc.; kombucha and salty-sweet preserved fruit and drinks; broiled chicken with preserved lemon; choucroute garnie, "the king of sauerkraut dishes"; and a delicious baked ricotta dish with pine nuts, honey, and dried fruit.

      I will definitely be teaching the class again. Watch this space for dates and times. And if you have suggestions, requests, comments, or questions regarding the class, please add them in the "comments" section of this blog post, below.

      Tuesday, September 22, 2009

      I'm Doing Free Sauerkraut Demos, Oct 3, 12:30PM-1:00PM

      What: Sauerkraut-making demo!
      When: October 3, at 12:30PM, 12:45PM, and 1:00PM
      Where: Dewey Square, diagonally across the street from South Station, in Boston, MA.

      On the afternoon of October 3, I will be doing a sauerkraut-making demo at Dewey Square as part of the Try Something New festival on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

      Dewey Square is the site of the biweekly farmer's market (Tuesdays and Thursdays) run by the Boston Public Market Assocation, on whose board I serve.

      The Greenway is a mile-long park stretching through downtown Boston, encompassing gardens, plazas, and promenades. It is located where the elevated portion of I-93 used to be, before the Big Dig. It is lovely.

      Come out to support me, enjoy the festival, get to know the Greenway, and learn how to make sauerkraut!

      Wednesday, September 16, 2009

      New Book From Frances Moore Lappé: Liberation Ecology (limited release)

      Frances Moore Lappé's 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, was an opening shot in the modern food sustainability movement. Since then, she has written 15 more books. She is a bona fide social critic and justice crusader, an intellectual and an activist.

      She is doing a limited release of her new book, Liberation Ecology, for public comment. She will rewrite the book next summer, based on the feedback she receives, and do a full launch when she's done.

      The parts that I've read so far are, not surprisingly, up to the high standard she has set in her previous books.

      If you are interested in participating, click here.

      Friday, September 11, 2009

      How To Make Sauerkraut (video)

      An instructional video of me making sauerkraut (expertly filmed and edited by how2heroes!)

      (Click here if the video does not appear below.)

      Wednesday, September 9, 2009

      SIGG Bottles Contained BPA Until Aug 2008

      This just in (well, a couple of weeks ago): SIGG bottles made before August 2008 contained bisphenol-A (BPA), a compound suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s. (Source.)

      Here's the whole story:

      You can't make drinking bottles out of untreated aluminum, because it is reactive and toxic, so the shiny, trendy, multi-colored SIGG bottles have always required a liner of some sort. SIGG was never straightforward about the make-up of the liner, saying merely that it was "proprietary" and "non-leaching".

      It turns out that until recently the liner contained BPA, which is a plastic of the sort that everyone was trying to avoid by buying metal drinking bottles.

      In August 2008 SIGG quietly changed the formula for their liner so that it would not contain BPA. There was no press release. (Imagine: "SIGG: Now with non-toxic liner!")

      SIGG's business had benefited massively from a buying public who made a conscious decision to avoid plastic water bottles (whether one-time or reusable, like Nalgene) in favor of (what appeared to be) healthier, more environmentally friendly metal bottles. Folks weren't aware of the fact that SIGG bottles used BPA, because this information was not available.

      SIGG made a decision in June 2006 to reformulate their liner so that it would be BPA-free, did the necessary R&D, and in August 2008 stopped selling bottles using the old, BPA-containing lining.

      SIGG, to their credit (although under duress, faced with the threat of consumer outrage), has just announced an exchange program through which old bottles can be exchanged for new, BPA-free bottles at no charge.

      What are we to think? Should we pile all our old SIGG bottles in the town square, and light them on fire? (Wait, we can't do that because of the pesky BPA lining!)

      In their shoes, would you have:
      1. Gotten on the ball and started work on a new liner before 2006? 
      2. Announced what they were doing, and why, when they started work on their new liner?
      The business impact of their decision remains to be seen. It is clear, though, that they will lose the faith of a lot of their customers.

      Personally, will I buy bottles from SIGG in the future?

      No. I prefer Klean Kanteen bottles anyway. Stainless steel is non-reactive and doesn't require a lining. End of story. Makes much more sense to me than making a bottle out of something reactive and toxic like aluminum, and then going to great lengths to figure out how to line it so that it won't be toxic.

      Monday, September 7, 2009

      Sauerkraut Is A Powerful Natural Aphrodisiac

      For reason number 538 to eat sauerkraut, click here.

      Tuesday, September 1, 2009

      Cans Across America Canvolution Cantacular Hits Somerville

      Cans Across America touched ground in Union Square, Somerville last Sunday, like a tornado of tastiness.

      We spent the day canning, fermenting, then some more canning, then some pressure canning, then…you get the picture!

      The fabulous event was masterminded by Linsey Herman. For the story, check her blog.

      Tuesday, August 25, 2009

      Listen To My Radio Interview

      2009-09-01: UPDATED with a new link that should work better, although it shows obnoxious ads.

      click here to download

      This past Friday, I was interviewed by the incomparable DJ Adira on WMPG, Portland Maine, 90.9 FM. In between musical selections, which ranged from belly dance to kirtan hip-hop to klezmer to tango to bluegrass AC/DC covers (whah?), we talked about:
      Visit this page to listen to the interview. It takes place over the course of 90 minutes. Another huge thank-you to DJ Adira for having me on her show.

      Monday, August 24, 2009

      Boycott Whole Foods? I Think Not.

      John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, Inc., wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal that has caused a great kerfuffle. In this editorial, he presented his thoughts about how to improve health care in the United States. I would encourage anyone who's interested to read his editorial.

      I agreed with most of what he said in the editorial, I disagreed with some, was neutral on some, and I will not be boycotting Whole Foods.

      Why not?
      1. Anyone who pays attention already knew that John Mackey was a libertarian, a proponent of a limited role for government. Heck, I don't even really pay attention, and I still knew this. So the opinions he expressed should not have shocked anyone.

      2. You want to boycott Whole Foods. Where else do you shop? Do you know the political views of the CEOs of all the corporations you give your money to? Are they more to your taste than Mackey's? Mackey is not the only shareholder of Whole Foods; do you know the political views of all the other shareholders? Have you done a thorough survey? If you're in a boycotting mood, it's possible that there are other companies or products more deserving of boycotts, for one reason or another. (I personally boycott Coors, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, fast food, and diamonds. Probably some other things, too.)

      3. I believe that Whole Foods, on the whole, has had a net positive effect on our food system. Sure, it's not all good. But it's also not all bad. I think they have raised more people's awareness of food in general, and "organic" food in particular, than any other single organization in the US. Whole Foods is a first step towards "real food" for many people.

      4. I already buy all the produce I can from farmers' markets; all the meat I can from traceable sources (viz. Meat Of Known Origin); and as much dairy as I can from small farmers, as much of it raw as possible. Righteous, yes? But what if some of my farmers have political views that I disagree with? Oh my goodness! Have I asked all my farmers about their political views? Of course not. Shall I ask them about their religious beliefs, too?

      5. During the summer, I hardly shop at supermarkets. There are better places to buy food. I plan to continue avoiding supermarkets into the winter. I am on the board of The Boston Public Market Association. Our goal is to create an indoor, year-round food market serving greater Boston. If you want real food, spend your time and energy (and money) helping us, rather than boycotting supermarkets! Give us money—your gift is tax deductible. Find us on Facebook and on twitter.
      That's all.