Aaaannd I bought a pressure cooker…

The madness begins.

I’ve been wanting to get a pressure cooker for at least, oh, 5 years or so but have never built up the courage to plonk down the cash for one. Also, I had to convince my partner to be on board with getting another cooking implement. As if we don’t have enough pots and pans already.

The thing the changed her mind? Canning – or more specifically – pressure canning. In our efforts at preserving more and more of our summer harvest and CSA share foods that we cannot possibly eat when the abundance comes in, canning of the low-sugar and low-acid foods was looking to be a better and better solution.

So, on a whim, I dropped by the local shop to see what they had. There was a sale. And the size and heft and build quality of the unit they had in stock left me very impressed. So there goes $300… I bought the Fissler Vitaquick 8L.  I compared it to the Fagor Innova 8 quart, which they also had in stock, but I didn’t like the fact that it had the rotary knob/switch (another thing to go wrong, imo) and the feel/sound of the switch wasn’t very good. The lid also went on with a nasty scratching sound. Those issues could have just been due to the floor model being kicked around though.

Anyways, so far I’ve cooked chickpeas and a curry with the pressure cooker. So far so good. Next comes pork shoulder.

On Fat and Sugar

Jill Eisen for the CBC – Fat and Sugar, Part 1

First, fat was the dietary bad guy. We were warned back in the 1980s to cut back on eggs, meat and full-fat dairy to avoid heart disease. So we started eating more bread, rice and pasta and fat-free snacks. But we got sicker and fatter. Now sugar is the bad guy. Contributor Jill Eisen explores the complex, and sometimes contradictory, science of nutrition — and tries to find clarity amidst the thicket of studies and ambiguous research.

There’s also a great list of research references and a reading list at the link, for more information.

Part 2 airs on June 22, 2016.

Shelburne Farms

Shelburne Farms – A working farm that produces many products (including furniture), strives to be sustainable, and best of all, has an educational mandate.

Shelburne Farms began a rebirth in 1972, when family descendants founded a nonprofit organization of the same name, dedicated to conservation education. For 40 years, the organization has offered educational opportunities for children of all ages to learn about sustainability and their connections to the natural and agricultural world.  As stewards of the property, the nonprofit has placed much of the land under conservation easements, and preserved and rehabilitated the buildings to new uses. In 2001 the property became a National Historic Landmark.

Pork bone broth/stock recipe

Ramen pork broth is famously milky white, and I wanted a way to make the broth without having to go through the trouble of blanching and scrubbing the bones, then keeping the broth at a rolling boil until it was done. I’ve found a way to do it without, yet get the milkyness and extract the full flavour of the bones. Here’s how I do it.

3 lbs pork bones*
10 L water*

  1. Place the bones on a sheet pan, spread out so they’re not all touching. Turn on the oven broiler and put the pan on the rack about 10″ or so below the top heater element. Roast the pork bones in the oven under the broiler until they are nicely browned on all sides. This takes about 30-45 minutes, turning the bones over about halfway through.
  2. Put the bones in a large stock pot and fill it up with water. Bring the pot of water and bones to a boil, then reduce to a simmer or even slightly less. Cover the pot and let it cook for 10-20 hours. I do this over two overnight sessions, leaving the bones and water to cool down in the pot during the day.
  3. Once the broth is finished cooking, there will be a good layer of fat on the top of the golden yellow broth. Skim off the fat into a blender, and place another 2-4 cups of the broth into the blender.
  4. Blend the broth and fat on high or max for one (1) minute. The resulting liquid in the blender will be milky white and bubbly.
  5. Pour the blender mixture back into the stock pot with the rest of the broth and mix it all together.
  6. Strain broth out using a sieve (I don’t bother to use a cheesecloth/fine mesh sieve/tea towel) to remove the larger chunks of meat and bone. Add the broth to soups, drink it plain with a few pinches of salt, or use it to accompany your favourite soup noodles.

Notes:
* This is the ratio I generally use. Feel free to use more or fewer bones to the amount of water.

Pork fat and broth
Pork fat and broth before blending
Pork fat and broth after blending
Pork fat and broth after blending

GMOs are safe, says NAS

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects:

Human Health Effects:
GE crops and foods derived from them are tested in three ways: animal testing, compositional analysis, and aller-genicity testing and prediction. Although the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, the many available animal experimental studies taken together provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating foods derived from GE crops. Data on the nutrient and chemical composition of a GE plant compared to a similar non-GE variety of the crop some-times show statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical composition, but the differences have been considered to fall within the range of naturally occurring variation found in currently available non-GE crops.
Many people are concerned that GE food consumption may lead to higher incidence of specific health problems including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, kidney disease, and disorders such as autism spectrum and allergies. In the absence of long-term, case-controlled studies to examine some hypotheses, the committee examined epidemiological datasets over time from the United States and Canada, where GE food has been consumed since the late 1990s, and similar datasets from the United Kingdom and western Europe, where GE food is not widely consumed. No pattern of differences was found among countries in specific health problems after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s.

Gut microbiome science (or non-science)

Anna Maria Barry-Jester – Is Gut Science Biased?:

The vast majority of data on microbiomes across science is still mostly coming from people in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and having too narrow a sample of the population means we could be looking at the proverbial trees when what we need to understand is the whole forest.

Much of what we know about gut microbiomes is biased towards what can be easily measured – the guts of people in the western world. I’d take articles touting the benefits of this or that diet on gut microbiome with a grain of salt.

Glyphosate does not cause cancer (so far as we know)

Derek Lowe – Glyphosate and Cancer:

I went into one of those in detail here, and after looking into the case that it makes, I am willing to dismiss out of hand anything else Seneff has to say on the subject. It’s that bad. You will hear that “MIT researchers” have “proven” that glyphosate does X and Y and Z, and that this work is “published in peer-reviewed journals”, but nothing like that is true. Seneff has done no actual studies on glyphosate; she doesn’t work in a lab. Those papers are rehashes of stuff from the literature, piles of speculation and dot-connecting, and they’re invariably published in low-quality pay-to-play journals that do little or no actual refereeing of their contents. And their content is yet another problem – as shown in that link above, the paper that goes on and on about glyphosate’s effect on gut bacteria does not manage to cite any of the papers that have studied. . .glyphosate effects on bacteria. It not only doesn’t cite them, it seems to pretend that this research does not even exist, probably because all these papers contradict the fundamental ideas that Seneff’s tower of speculation is built on. She’s going around now saying that half of all children are going to be autistic (because of glyphosate), and that it’s also a root cause of not only cancer, but Alzheimer’s and a whole list of other diseases. If your knowledge of glyphosate’s toxicology comes only from reading the Seneff papers, I feel pity for you, because you have a lot of work ahead of you if you want to actually understand anything about it.

Scathing.

In considering the risk of cancer due to glyphosate, he compares it to the recent articles on bacon/cured meats and risks of cancer:

…that’s basically what happened recently with the IARC and its announcement on bacon being a cause of cancer. Under real-world conditions, eating a normal amount of bacon raise your risk of colorectal cancer by an amount too small to consider. But it does appear to be raising it by a reproducible, measurable amount, and therefore bacon (and other processed meats) are in the IARC’s category 1

And the conclusion:

So that’s the state of the art: there is, from what I can see, nothing very clearly linking glyphosate to human cancer. There’s certainly room for more evidence to come in, though, and it looks like we’re going to need it, because this is a topic that’s never going to go away until we have more data.

Bees and colony collapse disorder

Elina L. Niño – Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees:

Scientists now agree that CCD was likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, but nothing specific has been confirmed or proven. CCD is no longer causing large-scale colony death in North America, but beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.
I repeat, nothing specific has been confirmed or proven.

Many people who are not beekeepers or growers want to know how they can help. One easy step is to grow forage plants, especially varieties that bloom at different times during the year. For suggestions, see our Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Plant List.

Second, reduce your pesticide use for gardening and landscaping, and follow guidelines to reduce bee exposure. Finally, you can support local by buying their honey.

Ultimately, however, making our society more pollinator-friendly will likely require some drastic and long-term changes in our environmental and agricultural practices.

Good points. We definitely need to plant more forage plants in our yard.

Gluten free diets aren’t quite what most people think they are

Norelle R. Reilly recently published an article in the Journal of Pediatrics – The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction and Fad:

Gluten-free packaged foods frequently contain a greater density of fat and sugar than their gluten-containing counterparts. Increased fat and calorie intake have been identified in individuals after a GFD. Obesity, overweight, and new-onset insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome have been identified after initiation of a GFD. A GFD also may lead to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron, given a lack of nutrient fortification of many gluten-free products.

Uh-oh. Not good for those people who are gluten-free for non-celiac reasons.

There is emerging evidence that those consuming gluten-free products without sufficient diversity may be at greater risk of exposure to certain toxins than those on an unrestricted diet. Arsenic is frequently present in inorganic form in rice, a concern for those on a GFD given that rice is a common ingredient in gluten-free processed foods.

A constant worry for us, since much of our diet is rice-based. Maybe 80% or so.

There also are noteworthy non-nutritional implications of a GFD. Worldwide, those purchasing gluten-free products will encounter far greater food costs than gluten containing competitors. Social isolation and inconvenience have been reported by children with CD requiring a GFD, and some with CD report a deterioration in their quality of life while on a GFD, linked in many cases to the diet itself.

We are lucky to be able to afford the time and expense of making much of our food from scratch in order to keep it as safe as we can from allergens. But it’s another worry for us in the future as our son grows up.