The First Thing

The first product besides grilled steak that I ever made for myself was beer. In the early 90s home made beer was a craze. I purchased a seven gallon plastic fermenting vessel and all of the other equipment for beer making and produced five gallons about once a month. I think I probably did that about seven times, maybe eight from then until now.

It never occurred to me then that what I was making was fundamentally different than what you can buy at the store. Now that I am 100% into not buying processed foods, it occurs to me that beer is one of the most secretive of those foods. They do not have to list the ingredients. So they don’t.

I am certain that if they did we would find all of the scientifically derived chemicals whose purpose is to keep processed foods fresh forever. There are liable to be artificial colors, flavors, and ‘bubble enhancers’. All of these ingredients are possible problems for me and you, but what choice do we have?

Today both the household brewer and local brewery have been supplanted, for the most part, by mega-breweries. What have we lost by this shift from home brews to mega-breweries? Certainly three things, but possibly more. We’ve lost 1) the flavor diversity that herbs give to traditional brews; 2) the nutritional and medicinal benefits that come from using herbs, grasses, and roots; and 3) the nutrition of consuming wild yeasts (suspended in the alcoholic liquid) and their B vitamin by-products, which are destroyed or removed through modern beer pasteurization and filtering.

Harmon, Wardeh (2012-10-01). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods (Idiot’s Guides) (p. 159). DK Publishing. Kindle Edition.

When I make my own beer it is fermented. It will contain the probiotics that produce beer. It will contain zero artificial ingredients and will contain all of the new things created by bacteria and yeast from the raw ingredients that I choose to use. As the brewmaster I will be creating a natural source of vitamins just like my kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut.

Years ago I would use malt syrup concentrates from the brew supply store. NO MORE. Now I am going to make my own wort out of sprouted grains. That way I will be sure that there are no extra ingredients, and my main ingredient will not come from a can. My goal is to produce 100% natural beer.

My first ferment:

Ginger Ale

A peppery, sweet concoction that aids digestion and leaves you feeling satisfied, yet wanting a little more.

4 cups Aromatica grain

2 cups Crystal 120L grain

2 cups Special Roast grain

5 gal. water

Juice of 2 lbs. fresh peeled gingerroot

Juice of 2 lemons

31⁄4 cups light malt syrup extract

1 pkg. American Ale yeast

Harmon, Wardeh (2012-10-01). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods (Idiot’s Guides) (p. 174). DK Publishing. Kindle Edition.


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Is It Safe

Safety is a word that has many interpretations, it conveys a spectrum of the value of risk involved in an activity. For instance a mountaineer dangling in a sleeping bag from the face of a cliff and a child walking in a crosswalk are both safe, but one is relatively safer than the other. Safety is a relative thing. On a scale of one to ten, home fermented foods are a 9 on the scale of safety, where foods are concerned.

I was reading this morning a report of a home-fermenter that was used to selling wholesome and ‘safe’ sauerkraut at the local farmer’s market. She was forced to quit by local and state government because she could not afford to prove that her product was ‘safe’. The legal definition of safe as far as prepare foods that are sold to the public requires proof, not just words.

Here is the article.

I don’t want to discuss the merits of keeping cottage-industry foods out of the reach of a hungry public. I want to discuss whether or not these foods are safe.

We all, over the years, have gotten the impression that we are swimming in a world of dangerous pathogens. We are. Fear has created a booming business in sanitary hand cleaners, they are even at the door of the grocery store so you can wipe off the handle of that nasty shopping cart, that was just touched by the disgusting human right before you. But how safe are you in this dangerous world of germs?

There once was a time when soap did not exist. Not that many years ago people did not even realize bacteria existed. Food borne illness was mysterious, yet people could eat foods prepared like they were trained to fix it and most people did not fall ill. Food was safe, even though we didn’t know exactly how we were keeping it safe.

New efforts to sterilize and sanitize everything are extra expense, but they don’t make any of us any safer. The periodic meat and vegetable recalls and panics are necessary, since modern farming methods are more dangerous from a pathogen standpoint. Dangerous bacteria are flourishing in the unnatural environment of California dairy farms, which are just across the fence from California vegetable farms. It is known to be safer to eat local foods. However, Safety is a relative thing.

People are covered and infected with ten times more bacteria than there are human cells in them. Hand sanitizer cannot do anything to protect you from them and they don’t need to, either. Only a very small percentage of bacteria are unsafe varieties. Even if you encounter a bad one if you contain enough good bacteria they will help to defend you from the bad, as they all compete for food and space in and on you.

If you make sauerkraut or any other ferment at home you are safe doing so. It is very difficult to make a dangerous ferment. Botulism, for instance, can only become toxic in a closed, oxygen free environment, like in an improperly cooked canned food. Your home ferments are going to contain plenty of acid, which is what keeps the foods from spoiling, it is why people ever bothered to ferment foods. Fermenting is how people kept foods from harvest to harvest, even before they knew they could store foods in salt. Fermenting is as old as drying to preserve foods. You should not fear your own foods. It is very difficult to produce a dangerous vegetable.

So, the answer to my question above is you are very safe in this dangerous world of germs. Most of them are good. If you prepare your fermented foods the way it has been done for ten thousand years of human history, if you use fresh vegetables that are in decent shape, if you use clean dry tools and wash your hands and vegetables, if you are just reasonably careful…you will be perfectly safe. Don’t let the chemical industry scare you out of eating real food. Don’t let the food industry fool you into thinking only factory foods are ‘safe’. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Superfood Laboratory


What is it that turns food into superfood? There is a way to take freshly harvested vegetables out of your garden and process them in such a way as to add a dozen different vitamins and at the same time preserve them throughout the entire winter. You don’t need to eat them right away! Sure canning them is an option, but canning does not get you the extra nutrition that you would if you were to ferment them before you canned them!

That’s right, and kudos to you if you guessed it, fermenting your foods turns them into totally different foods, full of nutrients and probiotics that they did not have before you did so. Fermenting foods is a time-tested way to preserve them, dating back to a time before people even knew how to write down the instructions.

Fermenting utilizes the powers of nature–honed by trial and error for about four billion years–to harness the bacteria living in our every day world to “pre-digest” all types of foods. I keep saying vegetables, but in reality we are eating fermented foods all the time and lots of those foods we don’t think of as fermented. Fermented milk is cheese, yogurt or kefir. Sour cream is fermented. Fermented cabbage is sauerkraut. Fermented cucumbers are pickles. Fermented syrup is beer, wine or liquor. Fermented wine or cider is vinegar. Fermented soft drinks are possible, think root beer or ginger ale–both fermented. Fermented flour makes bread dough. You can even ferment meats to store them. Pickled pigs feet come to mind, as does pastrami or pepperoni.

Learning to ferment is easy, because you learn it one time, and then the process is identical for all of the other ferments. The basic process is this….purchase fresh food for processing, clean and inspect vegetables for signs of damage and clean them up, pack them in glass jars tightly enough that they will not float, fill the jars to above the level of the food with briny salt water, cover the jar to keep insects out and wait. Obviously you do not make liquid ferments this way. For them you typically prepare the raw solution–for instance sweet tea in the case of kombucha– then you add beneficial bacteria, the mother, cover the mixture and wait. To ferment flour you add water, salt and a sourdough starter and wait.

The biggest impediments to getting real fermented foods at your local health food or grocery store are that real ferments don’t keep on the shelf forever and real ferments take time to make. For this reason in the store bought foods you will find vinegar and other preservatives as an ingredient on the label. A jar of pickles can be created by soaking a vegetable in an acidic vinegary solution. This saves the maker time, the time when he would be waiting for natural bacteria to create the acidic environment. He loses the other products of nature though. A pickled cucumber is a different food than a fermented cucumber. The fermented variety is alive and a superfood. The pickled variety is dead and is a chemically treated cucumber. Making a real sourdough bread takes time, while adding sugar and commercial quick acting yeast puffs up the bread before natural bacteria has had time to convert carbohydrates in the flour into superfoods for you. Cabbage is not the same as sauerkraut fermented at home and that is different as well from cabbage soaked in vinegar. Only one of those is a living superfood.

If you take the time to garden because you feel as though the local grocery supplier is providing less nutritious foods than you can make yourself, then you already know that time is the missing ingredient in bought foods. You owe it to yourself to learn how to share your bounty with the bacteria that live on them. You must no longer consider bacteria an adversary in your health journey, but an ally in your quest to extend the bounty of your work in the garden far into the winter. When you know how to ferment you can get more at your local farmer’s market without fearing that it will waste away before you can eat it all. With a small investment in hardware and knowledge you can begin to create nature’s superfoods in your very own home superfood laboratory.

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Toddler Cavities…

…. cavities in baby teeth have become more common over the past 20 years. Today, a whopping 60 percent of 5-year-olds have had at least one cavity; many have had five or even 10.

I am reading today in Slate Magazine that there is a growing problem of children that are suffering from poor dental health and the kids aren’t even old enough for preschool yet. Pediatric dentists are recommending that you not give your children a bottle of juice to eat while in bed. However….

In Europe, concern over childhood obesity led to a ban on sucrose in baby formula. Dozens of countries do not allow the kind of sugar we found in the two Similac brands.

We shared our results with Chicago pediatric dentist Kevin Boyd, who also has a Masters in nutrition and dietetics. Boyd said he has long been concerned about the sweetness of formula and the effect it has on babies.

Source: Why Doesn’t Baby Formula List Sugar Content? | NBC Chicago
Follow us: @nbcchicago on Twitter | nbcchicago on Facebook

Baby formula contains about four teaspoons of sugar per serving. Some contain more, some contain less. Sugar on teeth is eaten by bacteria in the mouth, which creates an acidic environment for the teeth, dissolving the enamel. We all know this, we have all heard that eating candy causes cavities. This is true. The thing that young mothers don’t know is that baby formula is as sweet as candy. Most processed baby foods are going to have sugar in them, just like most processed food has added sugars.

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Killing in the Name

Sometimes I have a great idea for an essay, today is a day like that. Fair warning, it will not be about food, nutrition or losing weight. It is a weighty issue though, and I hope you bear with me to the end…

Today on the long drive to work I tried a new radio station and the very first song I heard was “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine. Here is a video of this song, released in 1991–a very different time, but if you listen to these lyrics, obviously a very much similar time.


If you watched the video then maybe you are thinking ahead that I am going to be exploring the recent police brutality incidents, or that I will be taking the other side of the argument lamenting the killing of our police forces by enraged citizens, but you would be wrong, my argument goes deeper–I hope to convince you that both sides of every issue irritating America are doing what they think is best for America.

Last week I had a lengthy debate online with a couple of men that think the US needs a Trump administration. They were afraid of ISIS, they see a United States threatened by shadowy enemies. They love this country.

I, on the other hand, see a strong-man candidate as its own kind of looming threat to my way of life. I think that to try and kill every enemy of this country would be a modern form of Black Plague, leaving about one third of the world’s people dead, and would make many more enemies in the process. I love my country too.

The hateful language used by the Trump side of the debate toward the Clinton side–“pussy,” “head up their asses”–is trying to persuade us that we aren’t seeing the danger. They are very frightened for the country they love, for the lifestyle they love, for the way things are now. On our side we are frightened for the country we love, we call them “idiots.” We call them “nazis.” What they are is fellow countrymen that fear all of the enemies they see. They fear the homosexual, they fear the man that was born a woman, they fear the Chinese buying up their country, they fear the black kid with a gun, they fear the black kid in a hoodie, they fear Wall Street, they fear Free Trade, they fear the Muslim, they fear the Mexican, they fear Obamacare, they fear Social Security, they fear abortion, they fear gun restrictions, they fear for all of their shitty little possessions that they think someone wants to sneak into their houses to take, they fear for their lives, they fear for your life, and they don’t know why you can’t see how scared you should be too.

Their fear is the fear of a mother whose child is leaving the home for good for the first time. Mothers can see all of the things in the future that almost got them, that happened to their friends, families and in the news. For a mother giving up her prized possessions to the world the world is a very scary place. But it is still just the world. Most people leave home and make their way, and mothers get used to the new reality where each person is in charge of their own decisions and safety.

The love your conservative friends have for you and your society is like the mother’s fear that never goes away. Their love is strong, and their fear is strong. Their language reflects their inability to convince you that you should be scared, too. Their frustration that you don’t see the need for bombing our enemies and friends is only understandable if you look past it to find the love for you and for our country that it contains. Your conservative friends are on your side. They are just really, really scared.

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There has been lots of great food and nutrition news to report on since I last wrote, but I have been blocked. Blocked by just not feeling the muse. It has been tough getting together the creative juices that are required to write something interesting for some reason.

In the meantime I have also had a tough time keeping myself away from the processed carbohydrate that I love to hate. I have eaten out a bunch even since I got back from my two weeks living in a hotel. I have had pizza (crust), Coke, ice cream, tortillas, and plenty of worthless calories like those found in Girl Scout cookies and Krispy Kreme donuts.

To say I have been off the reservation is an understatement. Maybe that is why I can’t write about it, because I haven’t been living it. Preaching things I don’t live is pretty easy to do. Perhaps its because I am having a fun summer and haven’t found tons of time to write, but I love to write and when I am on it hasn’t mattered in the past what season it is and stream of consciousness doesn’t take long, and feels like it’s instantaneous.

At any rate, Ill be making the attempt this weekend and next week. Here is the plan. After tonight, zero processed food. If I eat ice cream I will have made it myself. Write every day about something, might not be about nutrition, the world is full of things about which I have an opinion. Make some sourdough bread–thats fun and its been a while since I have.

My plate is full of things I am behind on, and I don’t want to fall any further behind in the things I love doing.

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And Now For Something Different

Did you really think that a thing like Dallas would never happen? The police have been stopping people on the highway and stealing money they have in the car, making them beg the government for it back, dragging people out of their cars and beating them black and blue, shooting running people in the back, killing pets as they walk through the dog’s back yard, or killing sleeping people as they break the bedroom door down in the middle of the night, burning babies up in their cribs with flash grenades–you know, keeping us safe…at the same time, the government is granting us all permission to buy and hide guns all over the place, to protect us from the government. Well, people are going to start fighting back and the fight is not going to be smart or pretty. It isn’t going to make any sense to anyone but the murderer, nobody is going to appreciate the effort. The Dallas killer is an animal. Crazy. Evil. Yes. But the Dallas killer is a symptom, not a disease.

We cannot control the Dallas killers to come. We cannot prevent them from getting weapons. We cannot prevent them from getting ammo. We can prevent us from fueling their rage. The difference between the police and the killers is the rules. The police must follow them. Only by changing the rules to make one side act humanely will we encourage the other side to return to humanity. Even if something like Dallas happens every weekend for the rest of the year, the situation will only diffuse because the police once again begin making their brutality against the rules. A policeman must be a neutral conductor of the written law of the land. A policeman must cease being the writer of law (scaring me is illegal), passer of the sentence (you are guilty of scaring me), hander down of the sentence (you will die for scaring me) and executioner (5 bullets to the chest so you will never scare anyone again) for a initiating offense that was not illegal (carrying a gun I have permission to carry, for instance).

Watch the movie “Unforgiven” by Clint Eastwood.


Do not watch it without thinking about the police officers in the movie. “Little Bill’ the sheriff played by Gene Hackman is called upon to determine crime, criminal identity, sentence, and execute the sentence all in a moment’s time. He disarms English Bob, who protests that taking his last gun will leave him at the mercy of his enemies. Little Bill beats Bob half to death and jails him, to prevent a crime. Little Bill beats the cowboys that commit the prostitute mutilation and fines them horses, to be given to the owner of the brothel. No judge, no jury, no appeals, no victims rights. Little Bill beats Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to death, but Ned committed no crime. He handed the gun to Will Muny to commit the crime, but Ned was killed by the police during an investigation of a few hours. When Will Muny shows up in town to get revenge on the police who among you defended Little Bill in your minds? Who among you thought that it was wrong for Will Muny to kill Little Bill and all of his innocent deputies in that saloon? What is the difference between where we find ourselves today, 130 years later, and the 1870 western town of the fictional “Unforgiven” world? Please tell me how the police all over the country are not 100,000 Little Bills, breeding 1000 more Will Munys every new year we live under a government that allows one branch to pass and execute laws and determine guilt all in the blink of an eye!

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