Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of Farmageddon!  Contest closes Friday, May 5.

Happy Monday, everyone!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  I’m slowly, but surely, getting my new laptop rebuilt, but have enough of it restored so I’m back to business as usual – blogging, at any rate.  I’ve been forced to restore my files via Carbonite at night, or else my system runs so slowly I can get nothing done.  Oh, well.

The Paleo Iron Chef competition is still going on; the powers that be gave us Saturday off, so we’re on Day 13 and the not-so-secret ingredient is garlic.  I was going to post, and submit, pickled garlic and ramps (ramps are in season!  ramps are in season!), but the weekend just got away from me.  I will post the recipe, it just won’t be today.  Instead, you get Kimchi – which works, technically, since this recipe contains an entire head of garlic.

We’ve been kind of dancing around fermented foods for awhile.  Like a friend of mine who says he eats liver because he knows it’s good for him, but doesn’t enjoy it, I was hesitant to try fermenting.  Yes, I know they are good for me – all those lovely probiotics and all – but I hate sauerkraut.  I mean I really, really hate the stuff.  Beloved keeps telling me that’s because I’ve only ever had the nasty commercial kind you get at the grocery store, which is true, but still.

Sauerkraut.  Blech.

So, after some time of going round and round on the subject, we decided to compromise:  we’d make kimchi.

Kimchi is essentially Korean sauerkraut with a kick.  A traditional fermented condiment dating back at least 3,000 years, there are literally hundreds of variations of kimchi – and you can find a recipe for each and every one on the internet. 😛  So, I took a couple of recipes I found, sort of combined and tweaked them, and this is what I came up with.  And you know what?

It’s delicious.  Spicy and salty and tangy and tart.  And the longer it sits in the fridge it just gets tangier and more tart.

And I no longer fear the sauerkraut.

I think part of my problem was the fact that every time I tried sauerkraut, it was a huge portion of limp, pickled, salty cabbage piled on a plate.  True sauerkraut – indeed, kimchi as well as most fermented foods – is meant to be eaten as a condiment.  Several times a week, we’ll spoon a couple of tablespoons of the kimchi – as much as 1/4 cup, which is the serving size – on our plates with whatever else we’re eating.  I’ve gotten quite fond of mixing it with a compatible dish on my plate – usually vegetables, but often meat – and I’ve found that it really is as good as I’d been told.  It makes my mouth happy, and my digestive system even happier.

I’m really glad I made kimchi first; I just love the spiciness of it.  As soon as this batch is gone – we’re on the second quart of it, and I think we made it about 3 weeks ago – we’ll be fermenting something else.  And I will eat it gladly.

Note:  I’ve modified this recipe since originally posting to include a small amount of whey, which helps facilitate the fermentation process (it’s not necessary, but your kimchi will take longer to reach the “bubbly” stage without it).  You can obtain whey by draining full-fat, unflavored yogurt through some cheesecloth suspended over a clean container, such as a glass jar, for a few hours.


Serves: 32
  • 1 large Chinese or Napa Cabbage
  • 1 gallon water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 1 small head of garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (no sugar added)
  • ⅓ cup chili paste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons whey
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced, including green parts
  • 1 medium daikon radish, peeled and grated
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  1. Slice the cabbage lengthwise in half; cut away the tough stem parts. Chop roughly.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water in a large stock pot; place the cabbage in the water. Place a plate on top, weighted if necessary, to keep the cabbage submerged. Place on the counter for at least 2 hours, or up to 24.
  3. Mix the remaining ingredients in a very large metal or glass mixing bowl.
  4. Drain the cabbage; rinse, and squeeze it dry. Add the cabbage to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  5. Pack the kimchi into two 2-quart, clean glass jars and cover tightly. Allow the jars to stand for one to two days in a cool place, around room temperature, out of the sun.
  6. Check the kimchi each day for 1 to 2 days. When the fermentation process has begun, the kimchi will bubble slightly, and should be refrigerated. If not, let it stand another day. I do not recommend allowing it to sit on the counter for ore than three days – refrigerate the jars; they will still ferment.
  7. Once refrigerated, the kimchi is ready to serve. It will keep for many weeks, and continue to ferment and become more sour. If, at any point, it begins to smell bad, throw it away immediately without tasting.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 14 calories, <1 calories from fat, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 423.7mg sodium, 114.7mg potassium, 3g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 1.5g sugar, <1g protein.


Farmageddon – A Rant and a Giveaway

We began hearing about the raids by the FDA and USDA on small farmers, co-ops and buying clubs that sell fresh, whole foods – particularly raw milk and raw milk cheeses – more than a year ago when Morningland Dairy in Missouri was railroaded by government officials and forced to recall raw milk cheeses they’d sold, and destroy their remaining inventory (over $50,000 worth, if memory serves).   Events seemed to come to a head last year in late summer and fall – Rawesome Foods, a natural foods co-op in Venice California, made national news when it was raided and it’s raw milk and raw milk products were seized and destroyed, followed quickly by Michael Schmidt, the Ontario dairy farmer who also made national news when he was arrested, fined nearly $10,000 and proceeded to go on a hunger strike.  His crime?  Selling raw milk to consenting adults.  Adults who knew full well what the were buying and consuming, and the risks that come with it.

Sales of raw milk are regulated by individual states, but the FDA prohibits interstate sales – in fact, it is illegal to buy raw milk in one state and bring it to another state for your personal consumption.

In 2010, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against the FDA.  The case was filed in an Iowa district court and summarily dismissed.  In 2011, FTCLDF argued on behalf of a Wisconsin farm in front of a judge on who proclaimed that

no, [people] do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume foods of their choice

Yes, you read that correctly.  For what it’s worth, Judge Patrick J. Fiedler is no longer a judge; he is now an attorney for a law firm that has defended Monsanto in court.  Nope, no conflict of interest here.

Farmageddon is a small-budget documentary made by Kristin Canty, a woman who began giving her son raw milk in hopes that it would help her son’s health issues.  She claims that not only did it help – she claims it cured them.  And like many who seek whole, fresh foods for their families, Ms. Canty found out in a hurry that seeking and obtaining are often two completely different things.

I’m not going to go into whether or not Ms. Canty’s claims about raw milk are authentic or not and frankly, neither does she; it’s not the point of the film.  The point of the film is that our fundamental rights – to grow, sell, obtain and consume the foods of our choice – are increasingly at risk.  In a country where we adults can purchase and consume items with everything but a skull and crossbones on the labels, the federal government is making it difficult, even impossible, to drink milk straight from the cow even in states where it is legal.

The film talks to many small farmers (yes, including Joel Salatin; I’m beginning to believe you can’t make a documentary about the slow food movement without interviewing the man), and the stories they tell are chilling and frightening – SWAT-like raids where farmers and their children are held for hours while armed FDA agents ransack their home and confiscates their records, equipment, animals and goods.  One scene documents a dairy truck full of raw milk being taken to a co-op for sale being pulled over to the side of the road by, again, armed FDA agents who then force the driver and other vehicle occupants to pour all of it on the ground.  Another farmer tells about how their entire herd of dairy sheep were seized and destroyed, even though government officials admitted the animals were perfectly healthy.

By the end of the film, I was quite incensed.

Famageddon has its problems, of course – Ms. Canty should have found anyone else to narrate the darn thing; her droning monotone is a little hard to take at times.  And, as one review pointed out, it can’t quite decide what it wants to be – is an exposé of the abuse of power by the government?  Is it a consumer advocacy film?  You’re never really certain, although the message of the movie is quite clear:  government agencies are harassing, haranguing and attempting to muscle small family farms out of business on the behalf of large-scale, industrial agriculture.

Despite the film’s flaws, I recommend it heartily to anyone who is concerned about the source of their food and their right to obtain and consume it.  I recommend it even more heartily to those who don’t give a hoot.  At any rate, we have an extra copy on our hands, thanks to a buy-one-get-another-half-price deal.

Today I’m giving that extra copy away.  All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me why you’d like to have it.

I’m going to be perfectly honest here – who is picked will be completely subjective;  the winner will be the person who leaves me the comment I find most compelling.  You have until Friday, May 5 – comments will close at 11:59 p.m. that day, and I’ll announce the winner on the following Tuesday.

Have a lovely weekend, y’all.  Now go eat something you or someone you know has grown or raised.

While you still can.

One of Those Days

Hi, y’all.  I’m late today because, well, I basically killed my laptop last night.  I was ranting and gesticulating rather wildly after watching Farmageddon (which is important, so remember that) when I knocked over a glass on the table next to my laptop and doused it in fruity vodka liquid.

Its death was immediate.

So I’m on my old laptop, which is ancient in computer years and slower than molasses in January, until my new laptop arrives tomorrow (one of the perks of working in the hardware/software business: you can expedite stuff like that).  Of course, my recipe software is not on this laptop, the version of Photoshop is 2 revisions behind, and I can’t get Quickbooks to install on it at all.  Then, to add insult to injury, the memory card in my camera decided to die, as well, so I can’t even pull down the image of the marvelous liver dish I made the other night and post the recipe for it.

I’m just having more fun than the law should allow today.

Anyhoo, it’s Day 11 of the Paleo Iron Chef competition.  The not-so-secret ingredient is Almonds, and as soon as they put up the post for it, I’ll be submitting my Apple Bacon Upside-Down Cake recipe, since one of the main ingredients is almond flour.  (I was going to post a recipe for Zucchini Muffins, but those photos are on the bum memory card, too.)  Am I doing well, you ask?  Not really; the voting is very subjective and entries can be downvoted as well as upvoted.  *shrugs*  I’m going to finish out the competition, since I committed myself to it; besides, it’s accomplishing what I wanted – ideas for recipes and exposure in a venue where I’d had little until now.  It’s all good.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a little unplanned surprise, so I’ll see you then.  Have a lovely day, everyone.

Why I Eat The Way I Do, Part 3

It’s Day 10 of the Paleo Iron Chef competition, which marks the halfway point.  The not-so-secret ingredient today is Ground Beef.  I decided right away that my entry would be Steak Tartare.

It seems fitting that ground beef, and my raw preparation of it, is the ingredient today.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, you probably have heard that the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, in six years has been reported here in the United States.  The USDA has been quick to point out that the animal in question was a dairy cow and that mad cow cannot be transmitted to human beings via dairy products.

They’re also trying to tell us this case is an anomaly – the cow tested positive for “atypical BSE.”  In other words, the cow just came down with it out of nowhere; it was a “random mutation.”  Typical BSE is caused by feeding cattle the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal, which is illegal.  It is, of course, perfectly legal to feed cattle corn, soy, bakery wastes in the form of stale donuts and pastries, stale candy (still in the wrapper, if I understand correctly) and other things that are not part of a cow’s natural diet.  It’s also interesting to note that while it is illegal to feed cows to cows, it is perfectly legal to feed cows to chickens and pigs, then feed those chickens and pigs to cows.

But this isolated case wasn’t caused by the cow’s feed, the USDA tells us.  Just so you understand.

I also find it amusing (and irritating)(and alarming) that while the USDA is telling the media, and the media is telling the public, this is an isolated incident, they seem to be downplaying the fact the infected animal was caught by a random test.  For all we know, all of the other cows in the herd – whose location has not been disclosed – could be infected, especially since we’ve been told the cow was asymptomatic.

I find all of this extremely disconcerting.  Apparently all the laws and regulations in the world can’t keep these animals from becoming ill – illness that happens when a creature, be it human or bovine or canine, consumes a diet that is unnatural to it.  Cows aren’t supposed to eat corn or soy or stale donuts; they are supposed to eat grass.  Let them do it – preferably outdoors, in a field.

In the meantime, I’m going to go and hug my freezer full of grass-fed beef, delivered to me by a man I know by name, whose farm I have visited, and butchered by people more than willing to let me watch the process.

Do you know who your farmer is?

Sweet Tater Tater Tots

It’s Day 9 of the Paleo Iron Chef competition.  Today’s not-so-secret ingredient is Sweet Potatoes.

Oh, be still my heart.

Sweet potatoes are my favorite tubers and, as you know if you’ve been reading here any time at all, Japanese sweets are my favorite of my favorite.  Japanese sweet potatoes are characterized by purple skin, yellow flesh, a very starchy texture and a rich, yet exceptionally sweet, taste.

Gawd help me, I love ’em.

At any rate, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of making homemade tater tots for quite some time.  There are actually a ton of recipes for them on the internet – mostly for white potatoes, although there are some using sweet potatoes, and most of those recipes call for significant amounts of wheat flour as a binder.  I already knew I was going to use the Japanese sweets (since they’re the kind I buy these days), and since they have a pretty starchy texture when they’re cooked, figured I wouldn’t have to use much in the way of a binder.  In hindsight, I probably could have left out the small amount of tapioca starch I used.  I don’t know how using a regular sweet potato would work, so if that’s all you have, you may want to keep the starch and even increase the amount if you need to.

Oh, and these?  Were marvelous – I haven’t enjoyed tater tots as much as I did these since I was a kid.

Notes:  I used one large potato that weighed just over a pound for 3 servings (no, the servings are not huge, but these are tater tots, after all).  I used a measuring spoon to scoop the potato mixture – each tot was a heaping tablespoon.

Sweet Tater Tater Tots
Sweet Tater Tater Tots
Serves: 3
  • 1 large Japanese sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 – 3 cups lard or tallow
  1. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil; add the potato and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the potato and add to a large bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander and allow to drain for 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer half the potato to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into small, rough pieces (about eight 1-second pulses). The mixture will be sticky; scrape into a large mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potato. Add to the first batch in the mixing bowl.
  3. Gently stir the onion, salt, pepper, garlic powder and tapioca starch into the potato until well combined. With lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into 21 cylinders about 3/4″ wide and 1″ long. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet or dish until ready to fry.
  4. In a medium-sized, heavy skillet heat the lard to 350 F. Add half the tater tots to the hot fat and fry until golden brown and crisp, turning as needed. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; repeat with the remaining tater tots. Season immediately with salt and serve hot.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 208 calories, 17.1g total fat, 16.2mg cholesterol, 495mg sodium, 168.2mg potassium, 12.5g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, 2.1g sugar, <1g protein