PART 1: THE TRADITIONAL FOODS PANTRY
CHAPTER 1 : Fats & Oils
CHAPTER 2 : Sustainable Meat
CHAPTER 3 : Dairy
CHAPTER 4 : Nuts, Seeds, Beans & Grains
CHAPTER 5 : Natural Sweeteners
PART 2: TRADITIONAL FOODS RECIPES
CHAPTER 6: First Bites
CHAPTER 7: Soup’s On
CHAPTER 8: A Salad, Please!
CHAPTER 9: Nourishing Suppers
From the Sea
From the Garden
From the Pasture
CHAPTER 10: Seasonal Sides
CHAPTER 11: Fermented Fixin’s
CHAPTER 12: Bread & Breakfast
CHAPTER 13: Save Room for Dessert!
CHAPTER 14: Cheers!
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Most people associate the name Beck with music, and not just any music, but trailblazing choices that carve new paths and remember classic beats. I do, too, but I also know my friend Beck, the one who understands food in a way that’s reflective of the authenticity found in his art. I value his perspective and greatly appreciate his support of our work.
A few years ago, Molly told me she was thinking about starting a farm. She had found a property outside of town and was considering taking on a new life. I wasn’t surprised. It seemed like a natural progression from her work with food, a way of getting closer to the source.
Now she has written this book with Sandy, bringing together their experiences and what they’ve learned. Taking on a farm is tough work and the land has its own rules. These days, seeing the workings of nature firsthand is an experience afforded to very few. It’s a perspective far removed from the shopper in the supermarket.
Food traditions are a reminder that there are always things to rediscover. In places like Spain or Japan, traditional foods are preserved and celebrated. You don’t have to look hard to find people enjoying the same cuisine they’ve been eating for centuries. Traveling, it’s apparent that the culture is in the food, the past is alive on the table. Molly and Sandy have been looking back at these traditions, and with this book, offer them back to us so we can appreciate them once again.
THE ONLY DIET THAT WORKED
It’s not working, folks! We’re feeling bad, and we’re looking worse. Angry, diabetic, and depressed, we’re disconnected from our food supply, and it’s badly damaged our instincts. We’re drowning in a sea of packaged products, antacids, and pain relievers, and something must be done.
The good news is there’s a way out. It’s a path that starts with taking responsibility for our own health, implementing sound, sensible nutrition into our lives, and (gasp!) returning to good ol’ butter. My mom (and coauthor) and I have navigated our way back on track, and this book seeks to help you do the same.
I’m guessing that feeding your family is frustrating right now because it just doesn’t make any sense. Simple things such as dairy, meat, and bread may be making you overweight, sick, depressed, and addicted. I (Molly) was there. I suffered under diagnoses such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and GERD (acid reflux), yet despite all efforts, my symptoms remained. I recall questioning, while in my mid-twenties, why I was so incredibly exhausted. Maybe you can relate. My life became increasingly rigid with vegetarianism, wheatgrass shots, and coffee enemas. Why was simple nourishment so unbearably complicated?
A few years later, while in culinary school, I purchased a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon that pushed me toward an entirely different food paradigm. That book is a traditional foods encyclopedia of sorts, stressing the importance of nutrient-dense foods such as grass-fed meats, full-fat (raw) dairy, pastured eggs, and healthy fats. She shared “radical” ideas, including butter actually being incredibly good for you, and coconut oil and lard, too. These bastardized saturated fats were actually considered superfoods to our ancestors, as well as in long-lived traditional cultures around the world. Ms. Fallon’s recipes, which included ingredients such as liver and chicken feet, defied yet intrigued my plant-based past.
Nourishing Traditions is inspired by the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a prominent American dentist from the early 1900s who wondered why he was seeing so many dental problems in his patients—not only cavities and infection, but also what he called “dental deformities,” that is, crowded and crooked teeth, overbites, and underbites. These findings, juxtaposed with the many reports he had heard of so-called “primitive people” from around the globe with beautiful straight white teeth inspired him and his wife to research the phenomenon.
Dr. Price located fourteen non-industrialized groups of people that had uniformly straight teeth, were free from cavities, and who exhibited excellent health overall. He then turned his attention to their diets. What kind of diet, he wanted to know, resulted in such obvious physical health?
His findings, documented in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, revealed that while the diets of these healthy traditional peoples differed in the particulars—the diet of the Eskimos, for instance, relied heavily on fatty meats, organ meats, and fish, while those in the Swiss Alps ate more dairy and grains—the underlying principle remained the same: All the diets were extremely nutrient-dense, with particularly high levels of what he called the “fat-soluble activators,” namely vitamins A, D, and K2. Without these fat-soluble vitamins, the body cannot assimilate the minerals and water-soluble vitamins also in our food. Yet these fat-soluble vitamins are found in the very foods that we are often told not to eat: organ meats, butter, cream, egg yolks, fish eggs, animal fats, shellfish, and fish liver oils. Traditional peoples, on the other hand, held these foods to be sacred and particularly important for pregnant women and growing children.
When members of these “simple” societies left their native places and began eating processed foods, however, Dr. Price found that their health declined and cavities became rampant; children born in the next generation had more narrow faces and crowded teeth. Yet when people returned to their tribe or village and resumed their traditional diet, their health and vitality returned and their physical degeneration was reversed in the next generation. Holy smokes, right?
Dr. Price went on to implement some of the dietary practices he observed abroad in his own patients, using a combination of high-vitamin cod liver oil (rich in vitamins A and D) and an oil extracted from butter produced when cows grazed on lush spring grass (rich in vitamin K2) to treat many diseases, including growth problems, infertility, arthritis, and seizures; he was even able to remineralize teeth and heal cavities with this combination.
When information makes logical sense, it becomes hard to ignore. Eager to find my own truth, I quit dabbling and became fully committed to this age-old food perspective, incorporating Dr. Price’s principles—along with additional principles of healthy traditional diets described by other researchers and including things such as lacto-fermented foods, careful preparation of nuts and grains, use of gelatin-rich bone broths, and soulful farming and soil preservation—into my own meals. And I began, for the very first time, to feel stronger and infinitely more grounded. I literally stopped bumping into things. My energy leveled. And using personal trial and error, I eventually overcame each and every diagnostic medical label. I humbly admit that we are each, forever, a work in progress, and many things take generations to unwind. But folks, my intense acid reflux and PCOS completely reversed. This was done without even one pill from conventional medicine, just food. Pretty powerful stuff.
Now, this next bit might seem a tad passionate because honestly, it was! In May of 2011, inspired by our “new” way of eating and our renewed appreciation for those who grow food, yet simultaneously puzzled by the limited availability of grass-based farmers, my husband, John, and I risked our established careers, moved to the country, and started to farm. It was the best decision we’ve ever made! Apricot Lane Farms (pictured above), a 160-acre (65 ha) gem in scenic Southern California, is farmed organically and biodynamically to produce extremely nutrient-dense and flavorful foods, pastured eggs, and more than seventy-five varieties of fruit trees. We’ll be sharing tidbits from the farm throughout this book.
Prior to my farming days, I was a private chef for some of the biggest names in Hollywood (who, by the way, are beginning to embrace this information). I am not a scientist. Neither is my mother. She and I are simply cooks who have both overcome health issues by returning to Traditional Foods. Certainly, for every opinion, fact, and study, a counter-opinion, fact, and study can be referenced. But perhaps more importantly, what is the quality of the foods being used in these studies in the first place? Are grass-fed meats and pastured eggs, which could dramatically change the results of health studies, being sourced? Probably not. Therefore, while we wait for the smoke to clear, we simply request you open your hearts and ask yourself whether the information in these pages feels logical. And if so, does it make sense to you to give it a try? That’s what we’ve always done.
The recipes in this book are favorites of our family and are filtered through the lens of the Traditional Foods movement. To ensure your success with these age-old techniques and ways of eating, Part I: The Traditional Foods Pantry (page 17) will carefully cover the basics. Overall, we encourage personal awareness and don’t subscribe to the notion of a universal diet. Yet before you determine you cannot eat a certain food, I encourage you to read through everything and keep an open mind, because quality farming and the way that food is prepared can affect tastes and tolerances. Even a grain of wheat, grown by a different farmer on different soil, can react differently to your body. It’s quite possible, when eating the nutritionally rich version of a food that’s been prepared traditionally, that your body may thrive.* What a gift would that be!
The Traditional Foods lifestyle flourishes when we surrender to the process. You will get no apology that many of these recipes take time. In fact, more time needs to be allocated to the important task of food preparation in the first place! The mind settles while soaking, rinsing, and spreading nuts onto dehydrator trays, or carefully culturing vegetables or dairy. A Nourishing Beef Stock (page 84) simmering happily on the stove offers contentment to anyone within sniffing range. Yet, in an effort to respect the balance of life, several of these recipes are family-friendly and downright speedy! Wisely approach your transition one step at a time, but remember this—somewhere in your historical genes, we believe you already know how to do this.
“Minerals in the soil control the metabolism of plants, animals, and man. All of life will be either healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil.”
—Alexus Carroll, 1912 Nobel Peace Prize winner
A bit of housekeeping to enhance your experience of this book: In order to avoid clutter, we decided to omit writing certain descriptive words into the ingredients lists of the recipes. For example, organic is not placed before, well, everything! But, we certainly recommend it be so. We recommend all meat and eggs be pastured, also known as grass-fed (page 35). All seafood is wild with sustainable certification, such as MSC (Marine Stewardship Council). All butter used in the creation of the recipes was pastured and unsalted. We highly recommend a quality mineral-rich sea salt, rather than refined table salt. All vinegar is unfiltered and unpasteurized. All water is filtered. We recommend dairy be sourced as grass-fed, whole/full fat, and possibly raw, for uncooked applications (page 37). All flour, unless specifically noted, is soaked, sprouted, dehydrated, and then fresh-milled the day of use without ever being frozen. Lastly, we recommend raw honey (page 64) for all uncooked applications. When purchasing raw honey, we suggest sourcing a “pourable” type, which simply makes things easier. Many raw honeys are thick like peanut butter, which is delicious, but sometimes hard to stir into a recipe. Although many pourable honeys are not truly raw, there are definitely some that are both raw and pourable.
We feel grateful to have uncovered tools that heal our own bodies, and we’re thrilled to share these seemingly magical tricks with you. Food holds the power to gradually change the trajectory of our future, and if we’d only listen, the proven successes of our ancestors can serve to inform our progress. Most of this groundbreaking information is not new to our world; we’re simply starting to remember it.
Now, let’s get cooking!
*Although many of the principles of traditional foods are healing for the body, the mission of this particular book is to keep an already healthy body strong. For example, if you are looking to reverse PCOS, you may also need to cut out alcohol and sugar, even natural kinds, plus possibly lower your overall grain intake, or ramp up to quality fats more slowly, which is not reflected in this book. Find a good doctor who understands traditional foods, and then remember these foods were and are a critical element to our personal well-being, and they can be for you!
THE TRADITIONAL FOODS PANTRY
What does traditional foods mean, you ask? The genre of traditional foods is powerfully emerging into the modern food landscape, yet the concepts on which it’s based have strong, historical roots. Traditional foods utilize the culinary and farming techniques that consistently kept primitive cultures, cut off from the processed foods and medicine of modern societies, healthy, happy, and fertile. These techniques included grass-grazing animals; organic vegetable production; soaking grains, nuts, and seeds for improved digestion; drinking whole, raw dairy products; the inclusion of saturated fats and fermented foods; and more. These techniques may be new to you, and if a detailed explanation sounds helpful, know that’s exactly what you’ll find here. The Traditional Foods Pantry section of this cookbook is designed to thoroughly teach everything you need to know to master the recipes in part II. And while it helps to read over this chapter before you begin cooking, if you’re more type B than A, we include page links within each recipe that connect back to each applicable technique, so either way, you’re covered!
FATS & OILS
JOURNEY BACK TO UNREFINED FAT
On a very broad-stroke level, let’s reflect back on our collective diets. One hundred years ago, the term low-fat didn’t exist. The fats used in a typical American home were animal-based, namely lard, butter, and a bit of duck fat. Hold on to those thoughts while we digress …
Currently, two extremes seem to dominate our food culture. Let’s give them team names. Team Non-Fat Yogurt debates every single calorie. Fat is the enemy, while weight and moods of their team members unpredictably waffle or stay steadily low due to an overall lack of consumption. This team is rightfully seeking health, but their definition of what creates it is distorting their results. On the flip side, Team Fast Food has never met a food label that couldn’t be ignored. Though rightfully focused on simple enjoyment and good flavor, the offerings of our modern food supply hijack all health in the process. Dinner often prompts the question where to eat, instead of what. Team Fast Food’s weight is inevitably very high, but surprisingly, a few malnourished skinny folks are on the roster as well. Regardless of how high or low the scale registers, however, the dismal reality is that both Team Non-Fat Yogurt and Team Fast Food are undernourished and ultimately, unsatisfied at the core.
To further our understanding of true nourishment, let’s try an exercise. One afternoon, when the midday munchies attack, eat a juicy apple, a bunch of grapes, a few carrot sticks, and maybe a cucumber—as much as you want. Totally gorge yourself on fruits and vegetables. Afterward, monitor how long you remain satisfied. The next day at snack time, thinly slice one handful of radishes, top each with a sizable lump of grass-fed, full-fat butter, sprinkle on a little sea salt, and enjoy. Again, take note of how long you remain satisfied. Spoiler alert: the butter will likely win by a confident margin. This exercise reveals a very simple truth: fat makes us feel satisfied! And better still, despite what you may have heard, true, unadulterated fats don’t actually make us fat—carbohydrates do.
Let’s try another exercise. For two weeks, focus on raising the level of healthy fats in your diet, such as the ones we discuss in detail later in this section. Sauté all your vegetables in real butter, eat plain whole-milk, full-fat yogurt, and try bacon for breakfast with a side of eggs scrambled in the bacon drippings. But avoid grains and sugar. No bread. No dessert. No bagels. At the end of the week, check your belt notches. Feel a difference? You probably will. Now imagine doing the diet in reverse, forgetting about fat and instead focusing on raising the amount of grains and sugars in your diet. Doughnuts for breakfast, burritos for lunch, cake for dessert—you get the picture. Chances are, at the end of two weeks, you wouldn’t need to check your belt because you’ll already feel like a stuffed tick. Lesson learned: Healthy fats don’t make us fat. Excess grains and sugars do.
But what about fried foods? If fats don’t make us fat, why do we get fat when we eat too much fast food? Because … not all fats are created equal. Fats have something called a smoke point, which is a temperature at which the oil will literally smoke, burn, and turn rancid—and rancid oils are toxic to our bodies. Animal lard, for example, has a high smoke point, making it an ideal fat for the high temperature required for deep frying. Up until the late 1980s, a typical burger joint fried their onion rings and fries in beef lard (tallow). Nowadays, however, refined vegetable oil is used. The key word here is refined. Vegetable oils have a low smoke point, making them a terrible choice for frying. Therefore, low-smoke-point oils such as corn oil must be refined (processed) in order to handle that excess heat. But why go through all that trouble when tallow works perfectly fine without alteration? Because refined vegetable oils are dirt cheap, and therein lies the problem.
The substitution of refined vegetable oils doesn’t seem to be making our society any healthier. As you can see, the goal of Team Non-Fat Yogurt might be health, but completely removing all fat (and flavor) from the diet isn’t the answer. And while the goal of Team Fast Food might be flavor, we believe flavor can be achieved without sacrificing health.
Fat isn’t to be feared. Fat is to be understood. Responsibility rests on the shoulders of each of us not only to step into the kitchen but also to form a basic understanding of real food, including fats. Because much of this information has been cast aside over the past several generations, let’s examine each of the healthy, unrefined fats used in the Traditional Foods diet (and this cookbook) more closely.
FATS: THE BIG PICTURE
We must first gain a big-picture understanding of fats so that we can learn to properly use them in the kitchen. Two main categories of fats exist: saturated and unsaturated. To understand the difference between these two, think of a sponge. If water were slowly poured into a sponge until it couldn’t possibly bear another drop, the sponge would be saturated. In the case of saturated fat, the fat molecule is the sponge, and it is filled up with hydrogen instead of water. Why does it matter whether a fat molecule is saturated with hydrogen? Because that’s what makes it stable! In other words, saturated fat is like a party where everyone shows up with a date. No one is playing the field, and the party stays pretty tame. Unsaturated fat, on the other hand, is like a party where a couple of extra guys, a.k.a. dried-up sponges/molecules desperate for a bit of hydrogen, arrive solo. Unfortunately, now the numbers are no longer even—too many sponges and too little hydrogen. And when things heat up (literally) and there’s not enough hydrogen to go around, this party’s gonna get messy!
The stability or instability of the molecular structure of these two types of fats is in fact altered when temperatures rise. Stable saturated fats remain undisturbed by high heat, while the unstable molecular structure of unsaturated fat causes it to burn and break down quickly under relatively moderate temperatures. And as we’ve learned, burnt oil is rancid and unsafe for consumption. Although refinement can make rancid oil palatable, no amount of refinement can make it wholesome to consume. As such, unadulterated saturated fats are best for cooking, while unsaturated fats are best for low- to no-heat applications (such as salad dressings). Every fat has its place. We just need to know how to use them properly!
To complicate things a little bit, we must mention that fats and oils all contain both saturated and unsaturated fats in their constitution. Similar to how all human beings have both masculine and feminine properties, each fat is a mixture—yet they take on the characteristics of the dominant percentage. An easy way to determine whether a fat is more saturated or unsaturated is by analyzing its texture when at room temperature. Saturated fat is thick at room temperature, such as represented in lard, tallow, coconut oil, butter, and ghee. All of these fats contain a higher percentage of saturated fat. Unsaturated fat, on the other hand, is liquid at room temperature, as in walnut oil, sesame oil, flax oil, and olive oil.
Unsaturated fats also break down further into subcategories (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), which affect each oil’s composition, but in more subtle ways that are beyond the scope of this book.
UNDERSTANDING SATURATED AND UNSATURATED FATS
Saturated Fat = Stable = Thick at Room Temperature
Unsaturated Fat = Unstable = Liquid at Room Temperature
The smoke point is the temperature at which a fat literally begins to smoke, burn, and turn rancid. Remember, rancid oils are toxic to our bodies. Although saturated fats as a whole have a higher smoke point than do unsaturated fats, individual fats within each category have their own unique smoke point, due to their specific ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat, as described above. For example, not all saturated fats are suitable for high-heat frying, and several unsaturated fats can handle the gentle simmer of a low flame. Below is a handy temperature legend for the fats used in this book, which we encourage you to apply to all cooking, not just the recipes here.
FATS TEMPERATURE LEGEND
Best for High Heat(e.g., frying onion rings): Ghee, Lard, Tallow
Best for Medium Heat(e.g., browning onions): Butter, Coconut Oil
Best for Low Heat (e.g., sweating onions): Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Cold Use Only (e.g. raw onions): Walnut Oil, Sesame Oil, Flax Oil
A BREAKDOWN OF TRADITIONAL FATS
Several of the fats listed below, such as lard and tallow, are not as readily available as they once were. Though this is changing; please see Resources (page 216) for purchasing suggestions. Several mail-order options are quite reasonable and convenient, when local sources don’t yet serve a community’s needs. It won’t be long until this concern is a thing of the past!
BUTTER: THE FRIENDLY FAT
TYPE: Saturated/Solid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Medium Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unsalted, and Pastured/Grass-Fed
DESCRIPTION: Butter is a saturated fat that never should have fallen from grace. Its plastic counterpart, better known as margarine, entered our kitchens after World War II, and though it maintains its space on supermarket shelves, it is simply not real food. That said, not all real butter is created equal. The vitamin and nutritional content of butter made from the milk of cows that grazed on pasture under the open sun is far superior to that in the butter of factory-farmed cows. Instead of allocating funds for vitamins, consider purchasing a quality grass-fed butter, commonly known as pastured butter in the store. And when you find it, try the Fresh Herb–Crusted Sea Bass with Sourdough Bread Crumbs (page 118). Oh my!
To avoid confusion, we want to reiterate that grass-fed and pastured mean the exact same thing! It’s sort of like 8 ounces (225 g) is just another way of saying 1 cup (225 g). So if you see one label or the other, you’re good to go!
GHEE: BUTTER’S KIN
TYPE: Saturated/Solid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: High Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic and Pastured/Grass-Fed
DESCRIPTION: When butter is gently simmered over low heat, the milk solids eventually fall to the bottom, leaving behind a clear yellow, clarified liquid called ghee. Because the milk solids have been removed, ghee has a higher smoke point than butter does and can be used to properly fry foods. The absence of milk solids also means that many lactose-intolerant people can tolerate ghee. As with butter, we prefer to use ghee made from the butter of grass-fed cows. Scallops brown beautifully with ghee, as in the Seared Scallops with Creamy Carrot Purée (page 114).
“The absence of milk solids also means that many lactose-intolerant people can tolerate ghee.”
COCONUT OIL: A TROPICAL TREAT
TYPE: Saturated/Solid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Medium Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unrefined, Virgin, and Centrifuged or Cold-Pressed
DESCRIPTION: Coconut oil contains both antifungal and antimicrobial properties that assist in keeping a family strong and resilient. The oil does have a mild coconut flavor, which can be masked when sautéing by folding in a bit of butter to the dish once removed from the heat. Conversely, its coconut flavor can also help a dish reach new heights, as in the Sprouted Apple Butter Dots (page 199).
PORK LARD: GRANDMA’S SUPERFOOD
TYPE: Saturated/Solid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: High Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic and Pastured/Grass-Fed
DESCRIPTION: Pork lard is rendered and clarified pork fat. Not too long ago, pork lard was considered the key to the tastiest piecrust in town! And for good reason: Fats such as lard buffer the roller-coaster effect that carbohydrates and sugar have on the body, making them a wise choice for baked goods. As with purchasing pork (page 31), we prefer our pork lard to come from animals raised on pasture without the use of hormones and antibiotics. A simple recipe for collecting bacon fat, which is a seasoned version of pork lard, can be found on (page 33). In grandma’s day, bacon drippings were typically saved and strained in order to fry the next day’s eggs, or to build the crust of Sunday’s quiche, or to sauté the dinner vegetables, which is the technique we use in our Brussels Sprouts with Onions and Crispy Bacon (page 166).
BEEF LARD, a.k.a. TALLOW: THE UNREFINED FRYING OIL
TYPE: Saturated/Solid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: High Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic and Pastured/Grass-fed
DESCRIPTION: Beef lard, also known as tallow, is rendered and clarified beef fat. Tallow has properties most closely related to those of pork lard and serves as an excellent substitute for people who choose not to eat pork products. As with purchasing beef (page 27), we prefer our tallow to come from an animal raised on pasture without the use of hormones and antibiotics. Beef lard fries food beautifully.
“Don’t be fooled by television chefs who use olive oil at high temperatures! The oil is either refined, or it is being used improperly.”
EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: EVOO
TYPE: Unsaturated/Liquid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Medium Heat
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unrefined, Unfiltered, Virgin, and Cold-Pressed
DESCRIPTION: Extra-virgin olive oil is one of the more stable unsaturated fats, which remains liquid at room temperature but seizes up a bit when refrigerated. The important prefix extra-virgin implies that the oil is derived from the first pressing of the olives, resulting in the most nutritious oil with a lovely, delicate flavor. Don’t be fooled by television chefs who use olive oil at high temperatures! The oil is either refined, or it is being used improperly. Get into the habit of using unrefined extra-virgin olive oil without heating by trying our Tangy Jam Dressing (page 112).
WALNUT OIL: A LIGHT AND LOVELY SEASONING
TYPE: Unsaturated/Liquid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Cold Use Only
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unrefined, Unfiltered, Virgin, and Cold-Pressed
DESCRIPTION: Treat yourself to a quality jar of walnut oil! We’ve found a small, local walnut farm that produces a beautiful variety (page 216), but any unrefined walnut oil will add light and lovely dimensions to a dish. Due to its delicate nature, walnut oil should be kept refrigerated. We use it primarily as a seasoning oil to enhance cold dishes, such as our Confetti Slaw (page 149), but it’s also delicious when drizzled over a warm plated dish for a finishing touch.
SESAME OIL: A NUTTY AND FULL FINISHING OIL
Type: Unsaturated/Liquid At Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Cold Use Only
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unrefined, Unfiltered, Virgin, and Cold-Pressed
DESCRIPTION: As with walnut oil, use sesame oil as a salad or finishing oil. It imparts an intensely nutty flavor to a dish and is delicious drizzled over Traditional Hummus (page 74) or when complemented by Asian flavors, as in our Chilled Sweet ’n Sour Asparagus (page 150).
FLAX OIL: THE GOLDEN CHILD
TYPE: Unsaturated/Liquid at Room Temperature
SMOKE POINT: Cold Use Only
LOOK FOR: Organic, Unrefined, Unfiltered, Virgin, and Cold-Pressed
DESCRIPTION: Flax oil is a nutty oil with a slight bitterness that some may find unpleasant. But for those who enjoy the full-bodied flavor, it contains a generous amount of the nutritionally important essential omega-3 fatty acids. Use flax oil in healthy moderation with a variety of other oils. When shopping for flax oil, make sure the store keeps its bottles in refrigeration and note the sell-by date, because flax oil turns rancid easily, making the oil even more bitter and virtually unpalatable. It’s best to buy small bottles of flax oil more frequently to avoid the waste of expiration. Flax oil is featured in our Raw Chopped Salad (page 104).
EMBRACE NEW FATS!
If you’re anything like I was, the only fat on the above list that currently lives in your kitchen is extra-virgin olive oil. If that is the case, try purchasing one new fat with each trip to the grocery store. And if we’ve convinced you to put butter on your grocery list for the very first time, you’re in for a real treat!
HEALTHY ANIMAL = HEALTHY YOU!
John and I have a little black dog named Todd. Every day, sometimes all day, Todd saunters out to a sunny section of our courtyard, plops down, and takes in a big old dose of sunshine. When he’s had his fill, he meanders over under the bougainvillea for a much-needed nap in the shade. This happens every single day. Todd needs his sun. Sheep, on the other hand, who are in the sun all day, really appreciate access to shade. They’ll even create their own, when necessary, by standing in a huddle with their heads underneath their neighbor’s stomach. Sheep are also extremely unhappy in a pasture that doesn’t have a lot of quality grass. Without a bit of patience, they baa-aaa like an orchestra and stomp their feet while standing near the gate. And then there are the chickens, who tuck themselves in at night! Every evening at dusk, they go back to their mobile housing unit for shelter, completely unprompted—we simply close the door. But you better believe they are crowing and clucking loudly in the morning if we’re even a few minutes late to open it back up. As for the cows, if they’re in the pasture with green grass and a pile of dried alfalfa, they ignore the alfalfa and chomp on the fresh grass. Suffice it to say, they’ve all got opinions!
“On a very basic level, the quality of the animal literally becomes the quality of us. We truly are what we eat.”
Just like us, animals need space, sun, shade, clean water, and appropriate food. Their behavior is almost always reflective of their attempt to solve one of those basic needs. When they can’t remedy their own issues and no one does it for them, they begin to get sick, and when they get sick, they often receive antibiotics. But the question is, why do we turn so quickly to antibiotics before we’ve revisited the basics of quality space, sun, water, and food?
Animals who are compassionately raised have muscles and bones that are strong from proper exercise. And just like us, cows fed a proper diet don’t feel bloated and gassy. When chickens forage pastures to eat bugs, clover and grass, the yolks of their eggs turn a magnificent bright orange, whereas factory-farmed yolks are a pale, pastel yellow. The yolk doesn’t lie! And who benefits from this health? We do! We eat the animal. On a very basic level, the quality of the animal literally becomes the quality of us. We truly are what we eat.
With that said, attaining high-quality space, sun, water, and food for animals can be expensive, pushing the cost of quality meat higher. Personally, I budget high food costs as a necessity. “Food Costs” might as well merge with the “Medical” line item in my budget, under preventive care. Yet, sometimes, even necessities get cut. During those tight times, even one step in the right direction helps. We want to help you make that first step. Below are the categories of meat we use for the recipes in this book. Directly below each type of meat is a listing of the buzzwords we care about and look for when purchasing, and below that is an explanation of how we make our selections in each category. If all the buzzwords can be found pertaining to one farmer’s meat, hooray! But if not, try adopting one at a time. Step into it, and soon, you may understand why we suggest seeking out a compassionate, thoughtful farmer and paying a premium for sustainable meats. It costs more because it’s worth more.
LOOK FOR: Local, Grass-Fed or Grass-Finished, and Organic Cows, by nature, eat fresh grass. The cattle supplying most common grocery store beef, however, have been penned into small areas and fed grain, which is only the dried seed of grass, and legumes such as soy. Because mass amounts of grain and soy are not the natural feed for cows, and because their personal space is wholly disregarded, health and digestive issues ensue, prompting the need for antibiotics.
This vicious cycle feels unnatural, no? That’s why we recommend avoiding it completely by purchasing meats from a farmer at a local market, whose eyes you can look into as you shake hands and ask if their cows graze on pasture (meaning grass).
When purchasing beef, look out for the term grass-finished, meaning that a cow has grazed on grass year-round with no grain supplementation. Grass-finished is top-notch, but grass-fed—wherein a cow’s diet is supplemented with grain during the barren winter months—is still very high quality and slightly more realistic in some climates, and it doesn’t seem to affect the cow’s overall health. When we supplement with grocery store beef, we choose local (to avoid purchasing meat that must be shipped across the country), grass-fed (to ensure the cow received time on pasture eating grass) or even better grass-finished (in support of the cow receiving year-round pasture and grass), and organic (to avoid growth hormones and antibiotics).
LOOK FOR: Local, Pastured, Organic, and Soy-Free Back in the day, chickens frolicked the farm foraging for bugs and snails, eating a bit of grass, and maybe getting frisky with a rooster from time to time. That’s natural and just makes sense. The term pastured defines the above description, but 100 percent pastured chicken eggs, unfortunately, are the hardest eggs to source. As always, my first suggestion is to visit a local farmers’ market in search of 100 percent pastured eggs. If unavailable, try asking a friendly face at a local health food store for a listing of trusted local farms, or even hop on the Internet to do a search for pastured eggs in your area.
We recommend eggs as the very first food to source directly from a farm. The quality between eggs from chickens that are pastured versus grocery store eggs is so vastly superior that the effort completely pays off. The nutrition of a single pastured egg offers significantly higher levels of vitamins A, D, and E, as well as higher amounts of omega-3s, an element in which most diets are woefully deficient. This critical, essential fatty acid is a regulator of metabolism and a building block of the body that it cannot manufacture on its own.
When a chicken’s diet relies on wild foraging, the yolks are almost orange. No lie. Once you see and taste the difference, it is very hard to go back! Keep in mind that it is expensive for a farmer to produce truly pastured eggs, which is why they cost more. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that the farmers are not making a killing off their eggs. Mobile coops, (one of ours is pictured on page 29), must be moved every few days, and the chickens must not be overcrowded. It is a labor of love.
When a local farm is unavailable, here are some words to look for on grocery store labels: local (to avoid purchasing eggs that must be shipped across the country), pastured (to ensure the chicken roamed the farm as chickens should) or at least free-range (to ensure the chicken received time, however limited, in sunlight), and organic (to avoid hormones and antibiotics). It’s also preferred that the chickens not be fed soy, so look for the soy-free label as well.
“We recommend eggs as the very first food to source directly from a farm. The quality between eggs from chickens that are pastured versus grocery store eggs is so vastly superior that the effort completely pays off.”
LOOK FOR: Local, Pastured, Organic, and Soy-Free Broiler chickens, or chickens used for their meat, are raised slightly differently than layer hens, chickens used for their eggs, and here’s why: Although 100 percent pastured chickens are the healthiest chickens in terms of exercise, they also don’t have much meat on their bones for roasting because they’ve been running around so much! It is possible to find 100 percent pastured broiler chickens from a local farmer or even some health food stores, and I absolutely recommend using them for our homemade chicken stock (page 82), but for a delicious chicken that still receives moderate exercise, fresh green grass, and fresh air, I suggest finding a farmer who raises broilers in mobile pens, which are small bottomless coops that get moved to fresh green grass daily, but keep the chickens more contained. Although still technically referred to as pastured (how’s that for confusion?), they result in a healthy, meatier bird that we feel represents a reasonable compromise.
“The number one place to begin the search for a compassionate farmer is at a local farmers’ market.”
Most all chickens are fed supplemental grain, especially in the winter when the bug activity is down, but I personally prefer that the feed is soy-free (page 50). A few other poultry buzzwords commonly used in grocery stores are cage-free, which is not regulated and really doesn’t mean much, and free-range, which means the chicken has access to the outdoors, though the actual amount of access is so limited it might make us cringe. And as always, we prefer organic, to avoid hormones and antibiotics.
LOOK FOR: Wild, MSC Certified, and Sustainable The landscape of our vast, amazing oceans can be difficult to grasp. And then, we hear of things like mercury, soy pellets, extinction, and precious dolphins caught in tuna nets. How do we eat seafood without feeling guilty? And yet, seafood provides a supreme powerhouse of nutrition, serving as a staple for many traditional diets.
We choose to eat seafood, but as with our land-based meats, we do not take that decision lightly—and we’ve learned a few tricks along the way to help guide us, such as “the big fish eat the little fish” perspective, which reminds us that if we eat the little fish, we eat a lesser accumulation of mercury. If nothing else, that perspective has caused us to open our minds to lovely fish such as sardines (delicious chopped and tossed in Simply Mayonnaise, page 178) and anchovies (perfect in Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons, page 106). We also choose wild seafood because we have yet to learn of fish-farming practices that feel healthy and sustainable, and in navigating our wild seafood, we turn to an organization called the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC (page 216), a certification and labeling program for sustainable seafood. When MSC certification is unavailable or unknown, Seafood Watch (see Resources, page 216), a program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, offers printable pocket guides and a searchable online database that outline the sustainability of each species. Many of our favorite recipes, such as Fresh Herb–Crusted Sea Bass with Sourdough Bread Crumbs (page 118) must be reevaluated when MSC-certified fish is unavailable.
LOOK FOR: Local, Pastured, Certified Humane, and Organic If you can believe it, pigs are actually very clean creatures. They use mud to cool themselves down, not because living in mud is their top choice. Ideally, pigs prefer wooded areas, where they can roam freely or be moved frequently using portable fences. In the areas of the United States where woodland is unavailable, pigs at least prefer quality space, appropriate shade and sun, clean water, and ample fresh food. These days, however, many factory-farmed pigs live a tightly confined life in temperature-controlled buildings with concrete floors, likely covered in feces. Sad, isn’t it?
Lucky for the pigs, and us, there are small- to medium-size pig farmers across the United States who think pigs need room to roam, too. As always, the number one place to begin the search for a compassionate farmer is at a local farmers’ market, but because quality pastured pork can be slightly more difficult to source than its beef and poultry counterparts, you may also find it more convenient to order online; see Resources (page 216) for a listing of quality pastured pork that can be shipped to your home. When navigating a grocery store, I choose pork products that carry the label Certified Humane (an organization that will change the landscape of factory farming around the world) and organic (to avoid hormones and antibiotics).
Basic Precooked Chicken
Simply cooked chicken, bless its humble self, shows up in so many recipes and in the most delightful ways. There’s chicken soup, chicken salad, chicken pot pie … you get my drift. We’d like to show you a simple, foolproof recipe guaranteed to precook chicken in a moist and tasty fashion every time. It’s called for in some favorite recipes in the book, including our White Bean Chicken Chili (page 96) and The New Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (page 127).
Chicken breasts, split, bone-in, skin on
Place the chicken breasts in a suitably sized stockpot. A 6-quart (5.4 L) pot works well for 4 pieces (2 large breasts, split). Fill the pot with enough purified water to thoroughly cover the meat. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt for each half breast. This ratio applies no matter how much chicken you cook.
Over high heat, bring the water to a full boil. Cover and lower the heat enough to maintain a nice steady simmer without allowing the liquid to boil over, about medium-high heat. If scum appears on top of the liquid, skim it off with a spoon and cover again. Continue cooking until a paring knife slides easily into the thickest part of the breast. This time will vary depending on the size and number of the breasts being cooked. On average, the total cook time will be about 15 minutes after a boil is reached, plus about 5 additional minutes per half breast. (Example: For 4 half breasts, the approximate cook time would be 35 minutes, or 15 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes.) Once the desired tenderness is achieved, turn off the heat and let the chicken rest in the hot broth, covered, for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid and allow the chicken to cool completely submerged in the broth. Removing the meat before it is cooled sacrifices the moist quality of this method.
Once cooled, remove the meat and discard the broth. Place the meat on a large-size platter where the skin and bones can easily be removed with your fingers. At this point you can refrigerate the cooked, de-boned chicken in a sealed container or prep as desired for any recipe.
YIELD: 1 CUP (140 G) CHOPPED CHICKEN PER HALF BREAST
Chilling the cooled, de-boned meat before chopping or shredding allows for a more uniform prep.
Oven-Roasted Bacon and Bacon Fat
Nitrates, a common additive in bacon that is used to prevent botulism during the curing process, are controversial because of their negative effect on health. Regardless of your individual stance on this matter, some people are indeed sensitive to them and must find an alternative. The good news is that nitrate-free bacon is available from local, small farmers or online (page 216). Beware of bacon that advertises “no nitrates added,” but lists celery juice or powder in the ingredients, because this is just a natural substitute for powdered nitrates. Even though it is natural, a nitrate is a nitrate to the body, and must be avoided by those who have this sensitivity.
1 pound (454 g) bacon
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Have ready 2 baking trays and 2 cooling racks. Place 1 cooling rack inside each baking tray. Lay the bacon in a single layer on top of the racks; the tray underneath will be used to catch the drippings.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bacon is slightly crispy, but not burnt. Less crispy bacon prevents the oils from charring. Transfer the bacon to a plate.
Allow the trays to cool to the touch, but before the fat/drippings solidify, carefully scrape them into a glass container, straining if desired. Store bacon fat at room temperature and use to sauté vegetables or fry eggs; we also call for it in several recipes in this book. If not used up within a couple of weeks, transfer to the fridge for longer storage (ours never seems to make it there!).
YIELD: 14 TO 16 STRIPS BACON, PLUS 1/2 CUP (120 ML) OR MORE BACON FAT
TO EACH HIS OWN
Food is so personal. When I was nine years old, on a low-key Friday night, my mom, Sandy, ordered a pizza with pepperoni, and when it arrived, I explained that I wouldn’t be eating that pizza because “I am a vegetarian.” To which my brother responded, “Yeah, right.” But I was—for the next eighteen years. The reason? My only recollection is having a super-cool vegetarian friend teach me that an egg was a baby chicken. I ended up eating eggs anyway, and dairy, too, but back then, dairy most likely meant Velveeta, so I use the term loosely. Although I obviously wasn’t living a healthy version of the lifestyle, I believe you can sustain and build health with a vegetarian diet, assuming there’s an understanding of high-quality dairy products.
“I find myself fundamentally allied with a vegetarian position in every way except one: however selectively, I eat meat.”
—Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
But what about a vegan diet, where no animal fats or proteins whatsoever are consumed? Although I realize my position is controversial, I do not believe it is possible to be vegan and build the health of future generations. Short-term cleansing? Yes. Can a strong body be sustained for a lifetime? Possibly, but not several generations of health. I also challenge the wisdom behind requiring a growing fetus or child to be vegan. Over time, the body suffers when vegetable proteins and fats are considered an equal substitute for animal proteins and fats. It is not uncommon for children raised under these paradigms to suffer from early and rampant dental cavities, a symptom of internal weakness.
However, I also support the individual’s right to arrive at his or her own conclusions. Although I now eat animal fats and proteins, I look back on my time as a vegetarian with respect because it ultimately led me to understanding more about the quality farming and animal husbandry I practice today.
Regardless of whether or not we choose to eat animals, we should know the quality of the soil in which our vegetables, grains, and legumes were grown. And folks, it will take the assistance of animals and their manure to maintain it. If we eat animals, we need to understand how that animal was raised and with what diet. We must be careful not to force our personal choices on Mother Nature and her plants and animals.
Animals are naturally carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores, and to change their diet based on personal human beliefs is cruel. Which brings us to dairy cows. My friends—cows are vegans. They can’t subsist on sugar (grain)—they need greens (grass). Let’s take a minute to understand what grass-fed means, along with a few other important farming and milk-processing buzzwords.
As mentioned, cows are naturally grass-eating herbivores, and we must allow our animals the space to roam and forage. Honoring these natural instincts results in nutrient-dense milk products, such as the ones described by Dr. Weston A. Price (page 11–12). This same rule applies to all milked animals, including sheep and goats, who also prefer a side of weeds and brush with their grass. To sustain the energy that cows need to consistently produce milk, however, all dairy cows receive supplemental grain—the key word being supplemental.
There are reputable organizations regulating the certification of grass-based farming, including the American Grassfed Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, at this point, these regulations are still relatively new and evolving. Therefore, it is our opinion that the best grass-fed “certification” is getting to know your farmers and their practices.
“The fat within dairy aids digestion of the vitamins and minerals in the milk, which is why it’s important to choose whole milk over its lower-fat counterparts.”
Under the USDA definition of organic agriculture, farmers with this certification do not use preventive hormones or antibiotics to maintain herd health. Many quality grass-based farmers, however, do not take on the added expense and paperwork to achieve organic certification. In this understandable circumstance, it is simply important to ask your farmers about their perspective on chemical use, in order to ensure their philosophy mirrors your own.
I can remember back when my mom began buying skim milk. My brother and I hated it, and honestly, I think we were on to something. The low-fat and nonfat trend has pervaded every inch of our culture, and it is thankfully beginning to retreat. The fat within dairy aids digestion of the vitamins and minerals in the milk, which is why it’s important to choose whole milk over its lower-fat counterparts. Plus, fat fills us up, rendering between-meal snacking virtually unnecessary. Case in point: In 2005, the Harvard School of Public Health published a study examining weight and milk consumption of more than 12,000 U.S. children aged nine to fourteen years old. Researchers found that “contrary to our hypotheses, dietary calcium and skim and 1 percent milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.”
Pasteurization is the controversial method of heating milk to a minimum of 162°F (72°C) for 15 seconds in the attempt to kill pathogens. Ultra-pasteurization goes even further, and is a process that heats milk almost instantaneously to 280°F (138°C), which seems extreme. In the process of heating milk, many of the milk enzymes (lactase) that actually help the body digest milk sugar (lactose) are destroyed. As a result, it is fairly common for a lactose-intolerant person to be able to digest grass-fed, untreated milk. Regardless of your family’s decision on this matter, pasteurization should not be used as a substitute for poor farming practices. Please read the sidebar “What Happened to My Milk?” (page 38) for further discussion.
Milk straight from the cow, when left undisturbed, naturally separates into milky water topped by fatty cream. Homogenization is a mechanical process of spinning the milk at such a high velocity that it breaks down the fat molecules into smaller particles so that the milk no longer separates. The purpose is largely for aesthetics and functionality, and there is controversy over the impact of the smaller protein molecules on our digestive system. Given that Mom and I don’t mind giving a bottle of milk a shake before pouring a glass, and consider it a safer option, we always choose nonhomogenized.
Raw milk is any milk that has not been treated by pasteurization or homogenization. It comes straight from the cow and is loaded with natural digestive enzymes. When choosing raw, the health of the animal and the careful practices of the farmer are critical. Get to know your farmer! All milk was sold raw in the United States before routine pasteurization began in the 1920s. To utilize the beneficial enzymes, you’ll see that we use quality raw milk products for all dairy recipes that are unheated, such as our Homemade Milk Kefir, Homemade Whole Milk Buttermilk, and Homemade Crème Fraîche (pages 42–45).
Sometimes in the grocery store aisles, navigating milk products feels difficult and complicated. Therefore, to simplify this process, we suggest you locate and purchase milk products from a responsible, grass-based farmer. More often than not, the milk they sell is grass-fed, organic, whole-fat, unpasteurized, nonhomogenized, old-fashioned … raw milk.
“WHAT HAPPENED TO MY MILK?”
by Sandy Schrecengost
As a kid, I never analyzed milk. I just drank it. Big words like pasteurized and homogenized meant nothing to me. I loved milk, fired straight from the cow by my grandpa, or scooped from the milk house cooler in the heat of summer.
How times have changed. It’s no longer easy—and in some states even illegal—to buy raw milk. Even the term raw is new. Milk just used to be milk; now it’s heated and treated and stuffed with additives and antibiotics. Make no mistake, Molly and I support safe, healthy farming practices. Animals carry pathogens. We get that. Consequently, cows need to get to pasture and their spaces must be clean. Farm sanitation isn’t something to be taken lightly. Yet it turns out some of these genuine attempts to ensure safe milk are complicating that effort and diminishing nutrition in the process.
The downside of such a broad stroke like pasteurization is that while it can be helpful, it can also be harmful. The high-heat processing destroys the healthy enzymes and beneficial bacteria which are present in raw milk and critical for digestion and assimilation of dairy. Pasteurization also significantly alters the very make-up of milk by altering the milk protein, and even diminishing milk’s inherit vitamin content (see www.westonaprice.org). This kind of processing ultimately puts Nature’s wisdom up against man’s ever-changing knowledge.
When farm practices are healthy and the inherent needs of the animal are respected, consuming raw milk holds great advantage over processed milk. A study published in the highly respected journal Lancet showed raw milk reduces tooth decay—even in kids who eat sugar. A study published by Ohio State University showed that raw milk also promotes calcium absorption, which is so important amid the challenges of osteoporosis, and also results in far less allergic skin issues. But a staggering reason to consider raw over pasteurized is asthma. This unfortunate condition is reaching frightening proportions in our own nation’s children. Yet another Lancet study showed that raw milk consumption greatly reduces a child’s chances for developing asthma. Clearly, a seemingly simple question—“What kind of milk to buy?”—is no longer simple. It’s critical.
The process of pasteurization was put in place to provide safe milk. Yet, consider this: If an animal is raised honoring its innate needs and treated with ancient wisdom and respect, the milk produced by that animal is already safe. It has been for centuries. So why mess with the milk? Shouldn’t our focus go back to safe farming instead of indiscriminately overcompensating for unhealthy farm practices?
It seems evident to us that the benefits of raw milk outweigh the risk. The United States is among a small list of countries in the world that aggressively regulate milk. Canada joins us. Yet the majority of the countries in Europe and Asia sell raw milk without governmental regulation. New Zealand, in our humble opinion, seems to handle this issue most logically. This country highly regulates raw milk production to offset pathogen risk, permitting raw milk to be sold directly from the producer/farm only. Rather than throw the amazing health benefits out with the broad stroke of government regulation, New Zealand has found a way to allow its citizens to assume responsibility of choice while maintaining product quality and nutrition—by knowing their farmers!
This book isn’t a poster child for raw milk. We recognize such a choice holds a risk only you can decide to embrace or decline. We sincerely respect that. All food carries risk. Wisdom should be the first tool in your consumer pocket, and we should all have the right to choose either product. Legally. It’s not our intent to dictate what you eat, how you source food, or even how you prepare it. We simply believe raw or pasteurized should be a choice.
To you, safe milk with maximum nutrition might mean pasteurized. To us, it means raw. Yet, in order to reduce the risk of raw milk, we want to know our farmer and his livestock practices firsthand. Because no matter what choice we make, all milk should come from a healthy animal that’s been treated humanely.
Yogurt Cream Cheese and Whey
This recipe begins with yogurt, which we strain and separate into a tangy, versatile cream cheese, used for delights like Cultured Cream Cheese Olive Dip (page 73), and whey, a liquid by-product that holds its own uses and benefits.
Real whey, obtained from yogurt or milk, contains an abundance of naturally occurring probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut and keep unhealthy bacteria in check. It’s funny that some people pay hard-earned money for vitamins filled with freeze-dried probiotics, when eating fermented foods produces the same effect (if not greater), for a fraction of the price! The “live” nature of whey also means that it can be used to activate fermentation in cultured foods, so be sure to keep a jar stored in your refrigerator for that purpose alone. It’s also great for soaking beans and grains (see next chapter).
1 quart (1 L) whole milk yogurt
Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large-size (2-quart [1.8 L] or larger) nonmetal bowl and line the strainer with a thin tea towel. Using a thin cloth is important to allow the liquid to seep through.
Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer. Cover the strainer with a lid or plate and set aside at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. If your house is exceptionally warm (above 80°F [27°C]), place this whole setup in the fridge. Check occasionally to see if the whey has stopped dripping into the bowl; once it has, or the 4 to 6 hours is up, move on to the next step. The yogurt at this point will resemble Greek yogurt (which it is!).
When the drips subside, remove the cover, place a wooden spoon across the mesh strainer, and double-knot the diagonal corners of the tea towel over the top of the spoon handle. Set a tall container, such as a wide-mouth vase or pitcher, next to the strainer. Carefully lift the knotted tea towel and lower it into the tall vessel, allowing the spoon handle to rest on the rim of the vessel. The tea towel should be a few inches (cm) from the bottom of the container, so it doesn’t mingle with any resulting whey. Be careful not to squeeze the towel. It should drip slowly on its own.
YIELD: 2 CUPS (470 ML) WHEY AND 1 1/2 CUPS (345 G) CREAM CHEESE
Clockwise, from top left: Equipment setup; pouring yogurt into the strainer; straining additional whey, final jar of whey
Pour the whey from the bottom of the original bowl into a glass jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the fridge for future use. Place the vessel/spoon/tea towel operation into the fridge as well, and allow it to continue dripping for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. It is finished when the dripping stops and the yogurt “cream cheese” feels firm.
After whey stops dripping, remove the tea towel and place on a cutting board. Add the remaining whey to your jar of whey from the day before. Untie the tea towel from the wooden spoon. Scrape the cream cheese into a glass bowl with a tight-fitting lid and use like any store-bought cream cheese. We think it’s just perfect in our Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting (page 203). Keep in mind that it will have a yogurt sweetness but with a bit of tang.
Kept refrigerated, the cream cheese will last for about 1 month and the whey up to 6 months.
Homemade Milk Kefir
Kefir is a fermented dairy beverage that is slightly thinner than yogurt and a bit zestier. Due to the fermentation it undergoes, kefir is an extremely probiotic-rich food. Think of a glass of kefir as your daily dose of Nature’s antibiotics. Kefir also feeds off the lactose in the milk, which lowers the overall amount of lactose in the beverage and may be tolerated more easily by those who are generally lactose intolerant. If choosing to try this, please use caution and begin slowly. Lactose intolerance is case specific and not to be taken lightly.
The first step of making kefir is sourcing kefir grains (page 216, or a friend with excess if you’re so lucky). The grain pictured on page 43, looks a bit like tiny cauliflower florets and can be reused with each batch. If you choose to use raw milk, we encourage researching a safe source to procure it (page 216). Once these two items are on hand, along with a jar with a plastic lid (as metal is reactive and may cause an off taste), making kefir is a cinch! Enjoy it in fruit smoothies; use it as you would buttermilk; or strain it following the same method as our Yogurt Cream Cheese and Whey (page 40), mix in some herbs and salt, and indulge in some deliciously tangy kefir cheese.
1/2 cup (96 g) hydrated kefir grains
3 cups (705 ml) nonhomogenized whole milk, preferably raw
In a 1-quart (1 L) Mason jar, combine the kefir grains and milk. Put on a plastic lid (no need to seal tightly) and leave at room temperature (72°F [22°C]) for 12 hours.
After 12 hours, remove the lid and use a clean spoon to taste and check the texture. The taste should be sour, yet pleasant, and the texture should have thickened slightly to a very thin yogurt. If the kefir is not ready, replace the lid and set aside for an additional 6 hours. If still not ready, return the lid and set aside for another 6 hours, repeating until the proper consistency is attained.
Depending on the vitality of the grains and the temperature of the room, fermentation times can vary. It may take up to 24 to 36 hours. If you want to speed the process with future batches, begin with more grains and/or less milk, and set the jar in a warmer location. If the kefir ferments too quickly, resulting in a taste that is too sour, cut back on the amount of kefir grains and/or place the jar in a cooler location. As with most things, it takes some practice, but it’s worth it!
Once ready, place a strainer on top of a large-size, nonmetal bowl and pour the kefir and kefir grains into the strainer. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the grains, allowing the liquid kefir to strain into the bowl and the kefir grains to remain in the strainer. Once all the liquid kefir has been strained, return the grains to the jar, along with fresh milk. Pour the liquid kefir in the bowl into a clean Mason jar, seal, and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use.
JUST SAY NO TO ULTRAPASTEURIZED
If you cannot source raw milk in your area or are more comfortable with grocery store alternatives, be sure to buy pasteurized and not ultrapasteurized milk, as the latter is heated to such a high temperature that it is essentially dead and cannot be used to culture kefir, buttermilk, cream, or the like. Keep in mind, even organic milk from the grocery store is often ultrapasteurized.
• If you want to take a break from the kefir process for any reason, simply place a freshly prepared jar of kefir grains and milk in the refrigerator. The grains will last for two weeks in the fridge and two months or more in the freezer. When you want to resume, simply defrost (if necessary), strain the kefir grains as described above, and discard the milk. Rinse the grains to remove the soured milk, and then proceed as above. Note that the first few cycles of kefir may not develop to your taste (a necessary evil of vacationing!). If this happens, discard the milk and start again. Eventually, the grains will produce as expected.
• Kefir also can be made using powdered packets (page 216). The benefit of fresh kefir grains over powdered is their ability to continue culturing for years, because they typically contain more diverse strains of probiotics than the powdered version. Powdered packets are beneficial for people who frequently travel because after three or four batches of kefir, a new packet must be used. When ordering packets of kefir, follow the simple instructions that come with the box.
• Plastic Mason jar lids are often found along with canning materials at your local hardware store, or may be ordered online. They’re perfect for storing kefir and other ferments.
YIELD: 3 CUPS (704 ML)
Homemade Whole Milk Buttermilk
Store-bought buttermilk is often low in quality and supplemented with milk powder, which is a perfect reason to try making it at home! The process could not be simpler. First, order a few buttermilk cultures (page 216), then culture away. This culture-rich liquid is a versatile ingredient capable of bringing added moisture to baked goods, a nice tang to a batch of pancakes, or a delightful texture to creamy salad dressings.
1 quart (1 L) nonhomogenized whole milk, preferably raw
1 packet powdered buttermilk culture
In a small-size pot over medium-low heat, warm the milk to 85° to 90°F (29° to 32°C). If you don’t have a thermometer handy, simply place a drop of milk on the inside of your wrist, right below your palm. The milk should not feel cool or hot. When appropriately heated, remove the pan from the heat.
Stir the buttermilk culture into the milk until fully dissolved and pour into a 1-quart (1 L) Mason jar. Put on the lid and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened. Once thickened, refrigerate and use as needed. Buttermilk will last for at least 1 week in the fridge.
YIELD: 1 QUART (1 L)
Homemade Crème Fraîche
Crème fraîche is a luxurious, European-style sour cream that is really easy to make at home, where the cook controls the quality of the ingredients. It’s a bit thicker and slightly less sour than American sour cream, making it a perfect dessert topping. The texture and flavor also work perfectly in our Millet Salmon Cakes with Creamy Dipping Sauce (page 116). Raw cream works great in this recipe; however, we encourage researching a safe source to procure it (page 216).
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream, preferably raw
1 tablespoon (15 ml) buttermilk (page 44)
In a pint-size (470 ml) Mason jar, combine the cream and buttermilk and stir well. Place the lid on the jar and leave at room temperature (the warmer the better) for 24 hours, or until thickened. Stir the cream and refrigerate; it will continue to thicken as it chills. Crème fraîche will last for several weeks in the refrigerator, and can also be whisked into whipped cream the same way as regular heavy cream.
YIELD: 1 1/2 CUPS (355 ML)
Foolproof Cheese Sauce
The preceding dairy recipes in this chapter do not heat the milk to high temperatures; therefore, if you have chosen to source raw milk for your family, they are excellent applications for it. However, when a recipe calls for heating the milk, as does the creamy cheese sauce below, some of the benefits of raw milk are actually lost in the cooking process, so it’s equally nutritious to use grass-fed, nonhomogenized, organic milk and cream (but never ultra-pasteurized!). Be sure to try this recipe with our Baked Potatoes with the Works (page 124), which is a family favorite.
3 tablespoons (42 g) butter
2 tablespoons (16 g) arrowroot powder
2 cups (470 ml) whole milk
1 cup (235 ml) cream
2 cups (240 g) grated white Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked white pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until foaming. Add the arrowroot and whisk well until combined. Slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly, until lightly simmering, about 5 minutes. The mixture should thicken slightly due to the arrowroot.
Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, whisking constantly, until fully melted. Stir in the sea salt, pepper, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes. Serve warm.
YIELD: 1 3/4 CUPS (411 ML)
NUTS, SEEDS, BEANS&GRAINS
WHY ALL THE SPECIAL TREATMENT?
One of the major differences between the diet of traditional cultures and the modern diets of today is the treatment of grains, legumes/beans, nuts, and seeds. In traditional cultures, if these foods were included in the diet at all, they were carefully soaked, sprouted, or soured/fermented, such as in our Rustic Sourdough Bread (page 186) or Chester Cookies (page 196). Today, these methods have largely fallen by the wayside, and unfortunately so.
“Examples of an acidic medium for soaking, which we refer to in our recipes as an ‘activator,’ are kombucha, whey, and lemon juice.”
The primary reason behind all the special treatment of yesteryear is, in fact, rooted in science. Although our ancestors may not have used the terms enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, these anti-nutrients, found in grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, prevent us from digesting these foods properly or getting the most out of them nutritionally—unless their effects are mitigated by soaking (with an acidic medium), sprouting, or souring/fermenting. Such treatment methods break down those nasty anti-nutrients, thereby making the foods easier to digest and more nourishing.
PHYTIC ACID AND ENZYME INHIBITORS, DEFINED
• Enzyme inhibitors are molecules that bind to the healthy digestive and metabolic enzymes in our body, rendering them useless and inhibiting our digestive power.
• Phytic acid is a plant’s principal storage of phosphorus—which would be great, if we could digest it. We can’t, though, and even more troublesome, phytic acid renders micronutrients, including zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium, useless.
If one or more of the treatment methods mentioned above is not followed, the two irritants can cause digestive issues (due to improper digestion/absorption). Over the years, I have known folks who could not tolerate any nuts in their diet, until they began soaking them. Pretty powerful! But be aware that the effectiveness of this technique can be inadequate when dealing with extreme allergies to nuts, so use caution and personal discretion. Likewise, many people who are irritated by grains have no trouble digesting authentic sourdough bread, because the grains/flours have been “predigested,” if you will, by fermentation.
The technique recipes that follow outline just what you need to do to get started, and can be used for just about any nut, seed, or grain. Examples of an acidic medium for soaking, which we refer to in our recipes as an “activator,” are kombucha, whey, and lemon juice. Although all of these techniques take time, it’s mostly hands-off and the end result should make a world of difference in how you feel. I’m guessing traditional cultures didn’t know a thing about anti-nutrients in the technical sense, but instinct led them to these answers—and it is to the benefit of our universal health to keep these practices alive today.