Several people have asked me about what I buy and where I shop for “real food”, so I decided to complie a list of resources and provide some definitions. Much of my nutritional paradigm is informed by the Weston A. Price Foundation, which advocates “traditional” diets and eschews all processed foods. More on what “traditional” diets and “real food” mean after the list.
Suzie’s Farm- farm is in San Diego proper (near Imperial Beach) in the Tijuana River Valley, 1/2 mile from the ocean; appear at most farmers markets; also have their own farm stand and CSA
JR Organics- farm is in San Diego county; appear are at most farmers markets
Sprouts Farmers Market- not an actual farmers market, this is a regional small-store chain in the southwest; has a decent, fairly consistent organic section; a wider array of vegetables than fruits; they do buy from all over the world, so if local is important to you, check the label (peaches and blueberries don’t grow in December in the northern hemisphere, e.g.)
Organic, locally grown vegetables
Seeds, Nuts & Grains
Whole Foods- organic corn tortillas; organic (bulk) oats and other grains/flours; organic bulk beans
Trader Joe’s- has a decent selection of raw nuts (which you can soak/dehydrate yourself!) not necessarily organic or locally sourced. According to Trader Joe’s, if their packaging does not list the country of origin, then it is from the U.S.
Da-Le Ranch- in Lake Elsinore, CA; pastured chicken, beef, pork, eggs, and other small game animals; at most farmers markets in town
Living Earth Ranch- Potrero, CA (SD county)- over 200 acre ranch in San Diego county; pastured chickens (whole); at several farmers markets in town
Kerrygold butter- from Ireland, where all cattle are pastured (by law); most supermarkets, Trader Joe’s, and Costco carry it
Cheeses- Trader Joe’s carries a fine selection of cheese, some raw (aged at least 60 days by law); they seem to have the best prices when compared to other stores
Pastured eggs; seems like there are more and more pastured egg sellers popping up these days; I recently found two new vendors at local farmers markets. Expect to pay around $7/dozen for pastured. If I’m courting a new egg vendor, I always ask them about how they raise the chickens.
Paradise Valley Ranch (aka Avocado Lovers)- at farmers markets; I’ve only seen them carry eggs at North Park farmers market; $7/dozen
Da-Le Ranch- at most farmers markets (except Hillcrest); $7/doz.
Suzie’s Farm- has them at their farm stand, and I think they just started carrying them at farmers markets; $8/dozen
Descanso Valley Ranch- newer pastured egg sellers; Leucadia, Little Italy Mercato farmers markets; they also sell meat birds; eggs $7/doz. or $15/flat which has 30 eggs BEST DEAL!
Your neighbor who raises backyard chickens- if you’re lucky enough to live next to an urban farmer, this is probably your best bet for local, pastured chicken eggs! That is, unless you raise your own!
Pastured, unwashed eggs
What exactly is “real” food and a “traditional” diet?
Meat- pastured animals, meaning they spend most of their lives outside, eating pasture, grazing, mating and giving birth naturally, etc. “Organic” is lacking with regard to meat quality because, e.g. a cow can still be raised in a facotry and simply be fed organic grains
Beef- grass-fed, as cows evolved to eat and digest silage (grass), not grain; cows will sometimes eat seeding grasses, which are grains, but it’s not a major part of their diet
Chicken- pastured, getting to run around, eating grass, bugs, larvae, etc.
Pork- pastured, not confined, eating veggie and fruit scraps; they’re great recyclers, eating just about anything
Bone broth- made from the bones, some meat, cartilage, and connective tissue of pastured animals; has amazing mineral content, and gelatin (which is good for us); the good stuff is slow cooked for up to 3 days
Milk & Dairy
Personally I don’t buy raw dairy because I find it tends to ‘sour’ faster than pasteurized milk. Actually it is still perfectly fine to use ‘sour’ raw milk to make cheese or yogurt. But since I only use milk for coffee, it doesn’t work as well. Unhomogenized is the perfect tradeoff for me.
See Where is My Milk From? to learn the exact place where dairy products originate; enter the plant code from the carton, e.g. plant 06-93
Pastured (not pasteurized!) eggs mean the hens get to run around on the ground, eating bugs, worms, larvae and grasses (they’re omnivores!) They are usually more nutritious than “vegetarian fed” hens, and usually have a deep yellow or orange yolk
Pastured eggs are usually not washed (meaning they might have some dirt, dried droppings or hay on them). Do not wash eggs until you are ready to use them, as they contain a helpful bloom which protects the eggs from pathogens.
Outside the fridge, unwashed eggs will keep a month.
“Free-range” label is a dodgy marketing term and generally means nothing
“Organic” label is also not trustworthy, because the hens may still be raised in batteries/factory farms, and are just fed organic grains
Coconut oil, olive oil, and fats from pastured animals (tallow, lard); avoid any kind of oils (like canola) which are usually processed with high heat or harsh chemicals
Organic Vegetables and Fruits, grown locally and as seasonally as possible
Fermented foods- DIY! duh!
Seeds, nuts grains, flours that have been soaked, sprouted, or fermented; soaking is a traditional method of preparation, and reduces phytates and enzyme inhibitors, both which block absorption of other minerals, and are thus called “anti-nutrients”
I’ve just skimmed the surface here; there are entire books and blogs dedicated to Real food.
Pastured, unwashed eggs from Da-Le Ranch
Unhomogenized Organic Milk
Organic, locally grown vegetables
Descanso Valley sells pastured poultry and eggs
Claravale Farm sells raw dairy, like this delicious cream which was used to make butter.
Persephone, local backyard hen
Soaking oats and wheat berries
Eat fermented foods often and in condiment-sized portions
Sauerkraut is a fermented cabbage dish. In its simplest form, it is just cabbage and salt. But you can add other vegetables (or fruits) as well as your own seasonings. A traditional German preparation uses caraway seeds and juniper berries.
The dish is traditionally prepared in the autumn and then fermented at “earth temperature” (55°F/13°C) all winter long! If you make enough, you can draw from the mother batch while the rest ferments. If you don’t have a root cellar, or you just don’t want to wait that long, it will ferment in as little as 1 week.
After seeing how simple and delicious homemade sauerkraut is, you’ll never buy supermarket kraut again!
Seasonings and spices
This guy looks nervous…
Use food-grade plastic, glass or ceramic crock as fermenting vessel
5-6 lbs. red or green cabbage (2 medium to large heads)
3 Tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon juniper berries
(Optional) 1 cup sliced fruit or vegetable (try fennel bulb or tart apple)
Prep & Season Veg
Slice cabbage in half lengthwise, so that stem keeps each half together. Shred each half into ¼” ribbons using v-slicer, mandoline, or chef’s knife.
For each half-head, add shreds to a large mixing bowl. Add ¼ of the salt (about 2 teaspoons). Let sit while shredding the next half. Brine will form as salt draws water from cabbage.
Add cabbage to a gallon-sized or larger glass jar or ceramic crock. (Food-grade plastic containers are also acceptable.)
Repeat until all cabbage has been shredded.
Add spices to cabbage. Mix thoroughly with tongs or clean hands.
Pack down contents so that surface is even and flat.
Place a plastic lid (or ceramic plate) that fits inside container. Add a weight such as a glass bottle filled with water.
There should be enough brine to completely cover the contents when weighed down.
Cover container with a dish towel or tea towel to keep out flies and dust. Secure with a rubber band, twist ties or elastic strap. Stash it in a cool, dark place– a cellar, under the stairs, or under the sink in the kitchen.
Check on it every few days. Mold may form on the surface. Remove weight and lid, and wash them with warm soapy water. Scoop out any surface mold, getting as much as you can. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all. Then stir the contents and re-pack the surface. Any residual mold will quickly be killed in the acidic environment of the brine. The contents are safe under the brine.
Cabbage will start to ferment within a few days. It’s up to you how long you want to keep it fermenting. Fermentation time varies with the seasons and the climate.
When asked to host a fermentation demo for Suzie’s Farm‘s 2013 Strawberry Jam here in San Diego, I had to think about all the ways strawberries are preserved. The most obvious is, well, preserves. Since that does not involve fermentation, that was a non-starter.
WINE, ambrosia, food of the gods! I watched Sandor Katz make a wild (did not use a starter) fermented country wine from strawberries at one of his wonderful workshops. So we started our own batch (using wine yeast though!) of 6 gallons this year, which will be ready by next year’s festival in 2014!
The wonderful Curds and Wine store in San Diego generously provided all the equipment and supplies to make the wine. They carry everything you need (including the rack space if you don’t have room in your house– see pic below) to make the good stuff– wine and cheese!
Rack ‘em up! Other wines at “Curds and Wine”, the best cheesemaking, winemaking supply store in San Diego!
Starting from frozen strawberries
Some of the equipment and ingredients
Logan thaws frozen strawberries and dissolves sugar in filtered water.
Defrosting berries with Gary and Logan
Sanitize equipment in no-rinse cleaning solution
Pitching the yeast on top of the strawberry must
Day 7: remove the mesh bag with strawberries
Day 7: Look how decomposed it is!
Day 7: Scoop out solids of pulp
Day 30: take a reading with hydrometer. Looking for 0.99
Bucket on its way down to the farm. Ease on down, ease on down the road!
Suzie’s Farm Strawberry Jam
Demo at Suzie’s Farm Strawberry Jam April 20, 2013
Gary racking the wine, avoiding the lees at the bottom of the bucket.
Topped of with one bottle of riesling
Fill up to neck
Lots of racked wine in Sandor Katz’s fermentorium, Nov. 2011
Sandor Katz makes strawberry wine. 4 days later it’s bubbling! November 2011
When mixture has cooled to 85°F/29°C, “pitch” the yeast by sprinkling on top of mixture. You don’t need to stir it in.
Seal lid tightly and store in a cool (68°F/20°C is ideal) spot for one week.
You will start to see bubbling in the airlock in a day or so.
Day 7: In one week, open the lid, and take a specific gravity reading. Sanitize the hydrometer and sampling siphon in a solution of the no-rinse powder cleanser. Fill the sampling siphon, then carefully place the hydrometer into the siphon. It will float to the level indicating the specific gravity of the solution. Take note of the reading.
With clean hands (rinse in the solution), remove the mesh bag, squeezing as much liquid as you can back into the bucket. There will only be pulp left. Discard and wash mesh bag.
Snap and seal lid onto the bucket tightly.
Day 30: In 3-4 weeks, check the specific gravity again using the hydrometer. Once it reaches 0.99, then all the sugars have been consumed and it is ready to rack (transfe to a carboy).
Sanitize the carboy, auto-siphon, airlock, stopper, and rubber tubing in a solution of no-rinse powder cleaner.
Carefully transfer the wine from the bucket into the carboy. Stop a few inches before you reach the bottom of the bucket to leave the lees (the gunk which has settled to the bottom of the bucket).
Fill carboy up to neck. If not enough wine, top off with a bottle of finished white wine.
Place a stopper with an airlock attached to the full carboy.
Day 120: In 4 months, replace the airlock/stopper with a solid stopper (so the airlock does not dry out or get moldy.
Day 150: Remove the stopper from the carboy.
Prepare Sanitize the bottles, corks, auto-siphon and rubber tubing with a solution of no-rinse powder cleaner.
Transfer the contents of the carboy into bottles. Use a wine corking machine (best to borrow one!) to place corks in the wine bottles.
Once all the bottles are filled, store them at least a month in a cool, dry place (to get past “bottle shock”)
Good Morning, Kimchi! is a 128-page paperback, glossy volume, translated from Korean author Dr. Sook-ja Yoon. Part recipe book, part cultural lesson, it serves a great primer on kimchi, the ancient Korean fermented dish. The translator is Dr. Young-hie Han.
What I liked
The early sections of the book cover the history, techniques, and equipment used to make kimchi.
The recipe pages are well laid out and easy to understand.
Beautiful photos of the the finished dishes and of the step-by-step procedures.
The “tips” on many of the recipes are very helpful. In fact, many of them could be moved to an earlier part of the book (e.g. “Chinese cabbage and radishes are the most important vegetables in Korea.”) I’m looking at you, Dr. Han!
The recipes are divided into two major sections: Traditional and Fusion. The fusion recipes use non-native vegetables such as green bell peppers, carrots, and cauliflower. These recipes are a nod to other cultures and give great ideas on how to prepare kimchi with more readily available veggies (at least here in the United States).
What I didn’t like
Most of the vegetables mentioned in the book are native to Korea/Asia, and the Traditional recipes are based largely on them. I had never seen or even heard of several of the ingredients (e.g. the “vitamin” leafy vegetable, and the glue plant or glueweed).
In the introduction, the author eludes to an unabridgged version of this book (presumably not translated, as I could not find it on Amazon) which contains 111 recipes! Why hold out on us? I would definitely pay more than $20 on Amazon for the full unabridged version!
Many of the recipes are practically duplicates of each other, varying only slightly in one version being the “watery” version of another (e.g. Young Radish Kimchi, Young Radish Watery Kimchi)
The translations are inconsistent at times.
The descriptions of the various vegetables are helpful (especially because they focus on the native Korean vegetables, which may not be available here), but not every listing has a picture, which would be helpful (.
I would love to see another edition to correct the numerous inconsistencies.
Nitpicks aside, Good Morning, Kimchi! is a solid, reliable volume which deserves some space on your fermentation bookshelf.
When asked to host a fermentation demo for Suzie’s Farm‘s 2013 Strawberry Jam here in San Diego, I had to think about all the ways strawberries are preserved. The most obvious is, well, preserves. Since that does not involve fermentation, that was a non-starter. WINE! I once watched Sandor Katz make a country wine from strawberries at one of his wonderful workshops, so that was the next idea. (We are making 6 gallons for this year’s festival, which will be ready to drink in 2014!)
Now, are we saying pickled green strawberries are this year’s darling ingredient, like Brussels Sprouts were last year? It’s too early to say, but we have seen them making guest appearances on the menus of trendy spots around town such as Nate’s Garden Grill. Of course, we’re leap-frogging the trend as usual by fermenting them rather than quick-pickling (learn the difference!)
Lactic acid fermentation of strawberries is difficult, due to their high sugar content (which tends to ferment into alcohol) and because of their naturally high acidity (pH around 3). But green strawberries seem to have less sugar content than their ripe counterparts. So I found some “quick-pickled” recipes (made with vinegar) to get some inspiration on the spices, but tried brining them instead.
Eventually I did get fermentation activity, and the green berries softened up nicely. They still had a lot of crunch, like a cucumber, with just an essence of berries.
Warning: Images may not be suitable for young children.
Q:Did we really try fermenting chocolate Easter bunnies?A: No. But this guy spent a few hot days in the back of a U.S. Mail truck before reaching his destination. April Fool’s!
Q:Do fermentation and chocolate ever go together?A: YES, actually. When the cocoa beans (the part of the Theobroma cacao plant from which we make chocolate) are first harvested from the pod (about 30-40 in a pod), they are surrounded by a pulp which has a high sugar content. The pods are allowed to ferment in order to separate the seeds from the pulp. In fact, in ancient American cultures, they used to put the pulp, beans and all into a dugout canoe and let it all ferment together, creating an alcoholic, chocolatey drink! Now THERE’s a party!
Check out these informative videos for more information about the history of chocolate and fermentation from the Getty Museum (thanks to Merry R. for sending to us!)
Source: Uncorking the Past: Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages, J. Paul Getty Museum