Sep 29

How to Make Bone Broth

brothBone broth is a component of all traditional foods. Bone broth is a home-made broth where the bones with small meat scraps are boiled create a flavor base for soups, cooking grains, or as a nourishing drink. This is NOT the same as the reconstituted bullion cubes you can buy in the store. These are not necessarily made with bones, and often contain unhealthful ingredients such as MSG.

Why bones? Because bones are filled with minerals that are needed in the body, most especially calcium. When soaked in an acidic medium and boiled, bones release calcium and other minerals into the water. Drinking it in this form is easy to absorb. Bones also have cartilage, which dissolves into gelatin when cooked. Gelatin is very helpful in the digestive process in that it draws digestive juices into cooked foods, breaking them down more quickly and effectively.

The leftovers from tonight’s chicken dinner – or whatever meat you happen to be eating this week – can go in the pot for boiling. Whenever I cowpool – cowpooling is buying part of a free-range cow – I make sure I get the bones. The butcher is happy to accommodate. Usually I freeze them in bags for later boiling, I try to include at least one joint bone in each bag, because the cartilage will provide a substantial amount of gelatin. Or you can just save the bones from whatever cut of meat you are having for dinner, freezing them until you have enough to make a big batch of broth. When saving chicken carcasses, be sure to keep the neck, gizzard and heart, but don’t use the liver for broth. If you are lucky enough to be raising your own chickens, by all means, include the feet! Chicken feet have LOTS of gelatin.

If you’re making a large batch, you need a deep stock-pot and enough bones to fill it half-way, and lots of non-fluoridated water. This allows the liquid to circulate freely around the bones. If your bones are raw, you can roast them in the oven first, which adds flavor, but this step is optional. However I often make my weekly batch in a crock pot. The bones from one chicken fit nicely into a crock-pot and makes almost a half gallon of broth.

Start by placing the bones in the pot or crock, and filling with enough clean water to cover your bones. I sometimes add seaweed for additional minerals. Your pot should be about half full of bones. Add 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help leach out the minerals, and let this set for 15 minutes or so. Then add enough water to finish filling the pot and bring to a boil. At this point, if you are using raw bones, foam will rise to the top of the pot and this must be skimmed off or the broth will taste less than ideal, and be quite murkey. This does not happen with cooked bones. Your stock will need to simmer for 12 to 24 hours to dissolve all of the cartilage off the bones. The bigger the bones, the more time. You will need to periodically add water so that the bones stay covered and the liquid circulating. Once the cartilage is all dissolved, remove the bones and any meat and leave nothing but the broth. Pour off a cupful, add some salt for flavor, and voila! Your daily broth.


Sep 20

Nutrition for Osteoarthritis

arthritic hand

photo credit: J. Lengerke MD

Although it is not as inflammatory as rheumatoid arthritis, it is still important to avoid inflammatory foods.

One of the common causes of inflammation is the imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in the Americans diet. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are fats that our bodies need that we do not produce. We have to get them from food. In traditional cultures, the balance between these two fats stays close to a 1:1 ratio.

The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in Western culture is around 10:1, and sometimes higher than that. This is entirely because of what we eat. Each of these essential fatty acids are the starting point for inflammatory responses. These responses are the result of a long cascade of chemical reactions, reactions that use some of the same bio-molecules. The cascades actually compete with each other for use of those molecules. When the ratio of essential fatty acids is 1:1, then these reactions balance each other out, and inflammation is not a problem. But when there is more omega 6 than omega 3, there is no competition for the bio-molecules, and the omega 6 cascade leads to inflammation.

This kind of inflammation is directly linked to arthritis, but also to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and lupus, and indirectly linked to heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The easiest way to fix it, is to change what oils you eat and cook with. While you can supplement with omega 3 rich fish oils, remember, this is not about a deficiency, but an imbalance. If you remove omega-6 oils from your diet, omega-3 will not have to compete. And less omega-3 is needed if you reduce your intake of carbohydrates, especially sugar. Here is a list of omega-6 rich oils* that are common in American cooking, with their omega-6 to omega-3 ratios:

  • Safflower oil          76:1
  • Grape seed oil      72:1
  • Sunflower oil         71:1
  • Corn oil **             57:1
  • Sesame oil           43:1
  • Peanut oil             33:1
  • Wheat germ oil     8:1
  • Soy oil **              75:1
  • Walnut oil             9:1
  • Hemp seed oil     75:1

Replace cooking oils on this list with olive oil, palm oil, lard, beef tallow, butter, and coconut oil, which only have tiny amounts of omega-6. Replace salad oils with plain olive oil with a dash of flax oil.

Sugar is another cause of inflammation. Sugar affects both the body’s inflammatory responses and its immune response. When we eat sugar, it disrupts the chemistry in our digestive tract, and that prevents proteins from being completely broken down. Instead of being turned into usable amino acids in the intestines, the proteins are only partially broken down into polypeptides. These large chunks of undigested protein enter our blood stream and because the body can’t use them, it reacts as if they were foreign bodies and attacks, both taxing the immune system and causing inflammation. As little as two teaspoons of any kind of sugar can disrupt our chemistry.

Vitamin C is an important part of an osteoarthritis diet because is helps form collagen, the padding between the joints. Don’t consume your vitamin C as fruit juice. The sugar content – natural sugar, ie fructose, is still sugar – is much higher than it would be if you were eating the actual fruit. And the inner sections of citrus fruits contain important vitamin C co-factors that allow the vitamin to do it job. Some other plant foods include:

  • tropical fruits like citrus, papaya, guava, and pineapple
  • strawberries
  • kiwi
  • goji berries
  • cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale
  • bell peppers

Rose hips are a particularly rich source, so consider adding rose hip tea or supplement to your routine.

Most websites that comment on osteoarthritis mention weight-loss. While it is true that less weight on arthritic joints is a good thing, the advice given for loosing this weight is the standard “reduce calories and exercise” blather that never works and has never been shown to work. If you feel strongly about tackling that project, check out Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes for some advice that could actually work.

*While canola oil has low ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, it is a genetically modified food, and as such, I would never recommend it. It is also processed with toxic chemicals such as hexane.

** The vast majority of corn and soy produced in the US is genetically modified



Sep 14

How to Make Fermented Vegetables


Fermenting sauerkraut with garlic, and kohlrabi with ginger

I’ve already written about the benefits of fermented vegetables so lets dive right in about how to make them! There quite a few tools out there on which you can spend money. Some very expensive, such as the Pickl-it, and moving down through other products, such as the Fermenta (I love their business philosophy),
, and loads of others. Searching fermenting on Amazon under Home and Kitchen will give you not only premade products, but do it yourself options as well. None of these products were available when I started and I had to do it the old fashioned way.

Vegetable ferments naturally create gasses during part of the process, and if placed in a tightly sealed jar can make quite a mess. Products that allow venting are convenient and keep out the cat hair. Without a vent, pressure will build up in your jar and then you will get to clean up fermented whatever when you open it. If you like, get one of the many air-locks mentioned here. There is something for every price range. But it’s also fine to leave the jar open, or just vent the lid a few times to allow gasses to escape.*


My mandolin slicer is an Oxo. It was reasonably priced, is easy to clean, and has several slicing options.

Another thing that is very helpful is a mandolin slicer, but you don’t need that in order to try this out. You will need a 1 quart (or half gallon) wide mouth canning jar and a 4 oz jar to use as a weight. Sometimes dense foods like kraut need more weight. Marbles in your 4 oz jar can work well, or you can purchase weights the will fit inside the jars. These come in 12 packs, but they are cheap. And one can often find individual jars at used goods stores. You’ll also need the two part metal lids and ring that are used for canning jars. If you buy the jars new, they come with what needed. Used ones will require the purchase of lids (again, very inexpensive). You’ll also need sea salt and whatever vegetable you’re fermenting

The vegetables I’ve fermented include cabbage, kohlrabi, green beans, snow peas, cucumbers, beets, carrots and parsnips, and green tomatoes. Cabbage is a great place to start, and it’s very available in the fall. I like to add garlic to mine. A small – 6 inch diameter – cabbage will about fit in a quart jar. Just remember, nothing is ever exact with fermenting and don’t sweat it.

Slice your cabbage into 1/8 inch strips and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sea salt and mix well with your hands. I add enough salt so that it tastes salty without being unpleasant. If it’s too salty, you won’t want to eat it. The purpose of the salt is to inhibit putrifying bacteria while the natural lactobacilli on the cabbage gets started. The cabbage will start to ooze fluid and this is the brining liquid. Add the cabbage and liquid to the jar (along with a peeled clove of garlic if you like), and place your clean weights on top. Leave head room – 1-2 inches is good – and make sure your weights are below the lip of the big jar so that you can put a lid on it. Then either put on your venting lid, or leave the jar open for now. Everything should be under brine (that’s salty water) so if you need to adds some, mix 2 tsp of salt per cup of water – not hot! – and top off. If you’re using a jar for a weight, fill it with brine or it will float. Laura at Fermenta has some tips for better kraut and I plan to try this method for my next batch.

Place it on your counter for 3-5 days in the summer and 2 weeks in the winter, and then refrigerate or place in a root cellar with regular lid. The gassing off is all done at that point. Use the same methods for any hard root vegetable. You’ll get the benefits of eating it as soon as it starts to smell vinegary, no it’s not making vinegar, but lactic acid ferments have the same sour odor. But tough veggies take time to become tender and have fully developed flavors, so feel free to leave it for a few months. I’ve easily eaten 10 month old kraut, but beets never last that long in my house. For whole veggies such as cucumbers, snow peas, beans, or green tomatoes, you’ll need enough brine to cover the lumpy veggies in the jar. I pack the seasonings in the bottom of the jar, add enough of my veggies so that there is room for the weights, then the brine and that’s it!

The nice thing about fermenting veggies is that its easy to tell if its bad. If it doesn’t pass the smell of taste test, don’t eat it. And yes it’s fine to compost. Finding mold on the top, or some discoloration of the top layer of vegetables doesn’t mean the ferment is bad. This happens to me all the time at my house in CT. Just remove the mold and any discoloration and remember your taste and smell test!

You can ferment your veggies with just salt, or you can add any of the following spices. Don’t be limited by this list! Fermentation is an art and you should feel free to experiment.

  • mustard seeds
  • dill
  • dill seed
  • garlic
  • coriander
  • pepper corns
  • hot peppers

*If you do much of this, you’ll find there is a LOT of discussion about using air locks. Just remember that this is a very traditional method of preservation, and that our ancestors certainly didn’t use airlocks. Yet somehow they survived.


Sep 06

Explaining Type II Diabetes

Maasai warriorsWhen you eat food, it get broken down into its basic parts. These include:

  • fats
  • proteins
  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • sugars (also called carbohydrates)

All these things have different ways they get handled in the body, but it’s the sugars we’re going to talk about here. While both types of diabetes are diseases that affect how your body handles sugar, they work differently. Both affect your ability to absorb and use sugars. In order to make use of sugars – remember these are carbohydrates – your blood transports the sugars to your cells. In order for the sugar to get into the cells, where it can be used for energy, the blood needs a key to open the cell doors. That key is the hormone insulin.

In type II diabetes, there is so much sugar already in the cells that the door is locked, and the lock jammed full of goo. Think of it as an overcrowded subway car. There is no more room for sugar in the cell, so the sugar tries the next cell, and that one is jammed too. If eating habits that include a high level of sugars goes on for years, the number of doors in the cells goes down, and eventually, sugar cannot enter the cells at all. This leaves enough sugar floating around in the blood stream that the body starts to display unhealthy symptoms such as frequent urination and increased thirst. This is the body’s attempt to get rid of the excess. You may also feel fatigue, or have headaches, or blurred vision.

Insulin has other functions besides moving sugar into cells. These include

  • making a type of fat
  • storing fat
  • helps your brain make chemicals the keep you happy
so if you have a lot of unused insulin in your blood, you will tend to get fatter and less happy.

The common treatment for type II diabetes is to recommend a low fat diet. Fats do not affect insulin production, or how the cells absorb sugar. However, if one is eating low fat, one tends to fill in with carbohydrates in order to feel full. The American Diabetes Association diet recommends low fat dairy and lean meats. They also recommend fruits, grains, and beans, all of which have a very high carbohydrate – that’s sugar – content. This makes the blood sugar go up. And then insulin levels go up, and then to solve this one injects even more insulin.

Wouldn’t it make sense to just reduce the sugars in the diet? In fact, the body has no need for sugars/carbohydrates. While we do use them, the body can live without them. Consider the Inuits of Northern Canada and Greenland who ate nothing but fatty meat until white people showed up and introduced them to flour and sugar. And consider the African Masi tribe, the men of which live on meat and blood from their cattle. Neither of these groups have any type II diabetes.

Of course you should never try to reduce your sugar intake without medical supervision when on diabetes drugs, because this can be dangerous! Here are some good books on the subject that you can read to learn more, and share with your doctor.

The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy and Feeling Younger by Diana Schwarzbein, MD. Dr Schwarzbein began treating Type II diabetics and found that the one who “cheated” with steak and other fatty meats were doing better with their blood sugar. She went on to successfully treat many type II diabetics using diet.

Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. This is the best explanation I’ve read so far about how insulin works. He talks about type II diabetes and heart disease at the end of the book.

My Big Fat Diet by Mary BisselL


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