I came across another article detailing some of the worst ingredients that can be found in manufactured food. The food industry today is out of control, a juggernaut that is rolling along leaving people behind who are devastated by food-borne illnesses. Hideous birth defects occur more and more often, and if you don't defend yourself, no one is looking out for you.
I assume in this column that I am preaching to the choir--at least I hope so--but there is always a chance that someone is dropping by randomly, and I have new information to share anyway. So here are a few more reasons to shop organic, and remember, you can do that even at Safeway and Basha's in Tucson; both stores feature prominent organic brands and sections.
I also shop frequently at Trader Joe's, because they have many products that are superior in quality. Two recent examples are Joe's barbecue sauce, which is free from High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and their condensed turkey broth, which makes a big difference if you are cooking a turkey instead of chicken.
One thing not to do--surprise!--is make egg-white omelets. We are told to buy packaged egg whites and cook with them, leaving out the high-cholesterol yolks, but according to what I am reading, egg whites that have been separated from the yolks and made into omelets are absorbed like sugar. Who knew--I didn't! I was as surprised as anyone to learn this. Better to keep your eggs in the fridge and use them as they are, warts and all--or yolks and all, I guess.
I also read to my horror--no kidding here--that arsenic is used as a growth stimulator in chickens, because controlled amounts cause the veins and arteries in the chickens to swell and that, apparently, makes the meat look more appetizing (to their focus groups at least).
Well, I don't want "controlled amounts" of arsenic in my chicken; I don't want any arsenic in my chicken. I will be vigilant from now on, I promise you, and I hope you are promising yourself and your family to do the same. Certified organic chicken is labeled clearly, so you can find it, especially at Sprouts where they pride themselves on clean meat.
If you live in Tucson, you ought to join the Food Conspiracy Co-Op, which is located in the University area of Midtown. They bring us locally-grown, organic produce even though they don't sell meat, not to mention their other products such as organic flour. But you can shop there even if you aren't a member, so at least go, have a healthy lunch and see what delights you can find there, like organic heirloom tomatoes.
Here's something that just might break your heart: have you given up bacon in the hope of avoiding all the salt and nitrates that are used to make it? Well, don't switch to turkey bacon, because according to what I read it is produced the same way. Just turn the package over and see if preservatives are listed (and itemized).
What to do? The article that I read suggested that you buy artisanal bacon from specialty brands that is uncured or prepared in a way that satisfies you personally. I have seen it at Sprouts and some other deli departments--try Albertson's in Tucson--or perhaps you might try Canadian bacon if it is less processed. It's about the flavor, after all.
I am put off by the present bacon craze in trendy chef-land. Some man who looks like a well-oiled prize hog himself makes commercials for his program in which he displays creations that look like Lincoln Logs made of bacon, and I suppose he thinks I want to eat my way into the state of health that he is in...ummmmmm, no. We all know what happened to Paula Deen.
Well, suppose you are an outdoor type who might take on the idea of making your own bacon. Are you the sort of person who knows what the term "cold smoker" means?
Who can we count on for such recipes? Well, who loves you, baby? I pass this recipe along from the great Alton Brown, who knows everything, apparently. Make your own bacon, why not? That's one sure way to know what is in it! And I have to say that the ingredient list below is pretty simple, which makes you wonder why it is such a production in bacon land.
ALTON BROWN'S HOME MADE BACON
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup kosher salt
8 ounces organic molasses
2 quarts water
2 quarts organic apple cider
2 Tablespoons coarse-ground organic black pepper
1 (5 pound) piece raw pork belly from the loin-end
In a large non-reactive pot, bring half the water, 1 cup of sugar, salt, and
molasses to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a large container with the remaining water and the apple cider. Place the container in the refrigerator and cool it to 40 degrees.
Press the black pepper into the pork belly. Once the brine has cooled, place the peppered pork belly into the mixture until it is completely submerged; refrigerate it for three days.
After three days have passed, remove the pork from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Lay it on a rack over a sheet pan and place in front of a fan for 1 hour to form a pellicle. Next, transfer the pork to the protein box of a cold smoker and smoke for 4 to 6 hours. Chill the meat in the freezer for 1 hour to stiffen it for easy slicing into strips of bacon. Slice what you need and keep the remainder in a freezer-safe container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Place strips of bacon onto a sheet pan fitted with a rack and place into a cold oven. Turn the oven to 400 degrees and cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. Remove the bacon from the rack and drain on paper towels.
You can also make a smaller portion of your bacon using a toaster oven, because they come with a small sheet pan and rack. Just place your own portion of bacon on it and run it through the toaster oven.
When Brown specifies a non-reactive pot, consider using stainless steel or an enameled cast-iron pot for this purpose. If you have a ceramic pot such as Corning Ware, it will also do nicely and in any event you are not going to boil the preliminary solution.
This is going to be seriously delicious. Whether you like bacon crispy or soft, it would probably be a good idea to make it at least once just to see what bacon used to taste like back in the days when farmers made their own everything. One of my closest friends, by the name of Elaine Ball, came from a farm in southern Illinois originally, and she told me that the only things her family bought back in the Forties and Fifties when she was growing up were salt, sugar and flour. They made everything else. I'm still impressed thirty years later.