Instagram photo stream

Monday, October 29, 2012

Local Food Systems

This is taken from

What are local food systems?

Local food systems are networks of farms, commercial kitchens, grocers, trucks and warehouses that primarily or exclusively serve a single metro area or a single region in a state, often employing tens of thousands of people.
Local food systems are generally made up of small, locally-owned companies, with owners who care about the quality of the foods they’re producing, the people they’re employing and the communities they’re sustaining.
Local food systems produce foods that don’t use chemical byproducts of corn & soybeans, like high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, and other junk that very clearly makes people unhealthy.
Local food systems produce meat that hasn’t been pumped full of growth hormones and fed a diet of corn and raised in a colossal sea of waste, which also very clearly makes people unhealthy.
Local food systems are built on polyculture agriculture (farmers raising multiple crops, instead of one commodity-crop) which is much better for the soil and natural ecosystems.
Local food systems spawn Farmers Markets and community gardens in urban neighborhoods which lead to urban renewal and healthier inner cities.
Local food systems produce food that’s fresher and tastes better when it gets to your plate.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Power of Sauerkraut


Sauerkraut is a German/Austrian word for sour cabbage. A process called fermentation sours the cabbage. Which does not mean canned in vinegar. In fact, this information here does not apply to any canned sauerkraut as the canning process kills valuable nutrients and enzymes, essential to its rejuvenative powers.

The fermentation of cabbage creates lactic acid. Lactic Acid fermentation is incredibly healing to the digestive system.

In our Western Culture, millions and millions of people are suffering from the ill effects of fast and packaged food, causing excess gas, burping, painful indigestion, nausea and burning sensation after eating. They rely on antacids and acid-suppressing medications, which give only temporary relief, meanwhile suppresses much needed digestive acids.

We desperately need our stomach acid; hydrochloric acid, to start breaking down our food so the next stage in digestion can occur; assimilation of nutrients. Hydrochloric Acid (HCL) is also essential in killing unwanted bacteria and parasites in the body. Due to stress, aging and certain illnesses, our HCL count diminishes, which is when we should be giving our bodies a break by eating lighter foods.

However, most people eat the same junk they always eat, calling on the body tooverproduce HCL, causing acid reflux. They then take copious amounts of antacids, claiming they’re just one of those people who “produces too much acid”.

Advertisers further promote this with pizza commercials claiming you can now eat any food your like as long as you take their medication. They even have the gall to show the meds being delivered on top of the pizza box. People don’t naturally produce too much acid; pharmaceuticals just say that so you’ll buy their drugs. The body produces too much acid because it is out of balance and piling on bad fats, excessive sugars and inappropriate proteins and antacids are only further exacerbating it.

Eating lactic acid-fermented cabbage is the number one way to restore your natural digestion so it doesn’t have acid reflux, burping and indigestion. Rich in Vitamin C and digestive enzymes, sauerkraut has a unique harmonizing effect on the stomach; it strengthens the acidity of the gastric juice when hydrochloric acid production lags, and reduces the acidity when production is up! No other food does this. It’s inherently a booster and an inhibitor of HCL.

So when you eat a little sauerkraut before or with every meal, especially later in the day with heavier meals, you’re basically unlocking your secretion glands according to their need. Besides chewing your food well, there’s not a more important step to take in assimilating your food.

You’re not what you eat; you’re what you assimilate. If you have poor stomach acids, you’re not taking the necessary step to assimilate your food. Sauerkraut will also “sweeten” your small and large intestine, as well as provide you with vitamin C.

To promote optimal digestion, include with most meals and if you already have indigestion, drink a few tablespoons of sauerkraut juice (never throw your excess juice away!) and you’ll feel instant relief. You don’t need to eat a lot of sauerkraut, 3-5 tablespoons a day is highly beneficial.

As I mentioned earlier, commercially canned sauerkraut is not the same as homemade. Homemade, unpasteurized sauerkraut is a Power Food. Once you’re tasted homemade kraut, you’ll never want commercial again, it doesn’t taste or act the same. Some commercial kraut isn’t even fermented; it’s just canned in vinegar, and tastes like it too.

If you’ve only experienced this type of kraut, you’re in for a treat. I include it in most of my recipes. It’s an excellent flavor booster to salads, stir fries, fruits, salsas and sandwiches, try it in everything!

Friday, October 26, 2012


ClassicVodka Martini, change it up with a pickled garnish like tomatillos?!

The vodka martini is the definitive cocktail—shaken, of course, not stirred. I like my martinis shaken hard at least 20 times so that the vodka gets very cold and you have little slivers of ice floating in the drink. This takes the sting out of it, making it go down more smoothly. The glasses should be chilled in advance by filling them with ice and cold water, which you pour out just before straining the vodka mixture into them; as an easier alternative, you can simply leave the glasses in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. The vodka is stored in the freezer. Everything about this drink is frosty, ice­-­cold, and sleek.
As for garnishes, the classic martini takes a cocktail olive, either pitted and plain or pimiento­-­stuffed, depending on your preference. (The pimiento­-­stuffed have a bit sharper flavor.) There are also many types of gourmet olives; you can find them stuffed with chilies, almonds, garlic, and anchovies. Or you might choose cocktail onions or pickled tomatillos (Kult Kitchen's favorite) for your garnish. In any case, you must rinse the olives, onions, or any other pickled garnish well; otherwise, their pickling brine will float unattractively on the surface of the ­martinis.
For a dirty martini, add 1-2 ounces of olive brine.


  • 12 ounces top-quality vodka (or ­gin)
  • 1 1/2–2 ounces dry vermouth (or less if you prefer it “very ­dry”)
  • Olives or lemon peel. 
  • Or add a slice of pickled tomitillo for ­garnish along with splash of  the juice, ummmmmmm ummmmm 


1. Chill 6 martini ­glasses.
2. Fill a shaker full of ice. Add the vodka (or gin) and vermouth. Shake well and strain into the glasses. Serve with olives or a ­twist.

Pickle Juice Hangover Cure

Or expecting to have one in the near future?
 Head to the refrigerator before or after you've had one too many and reap the medicinal properties and benefits of dill pickle. Full of naturally occurring antioxidants, healing salts and minerals, dill pickle juice is a cheap, time tested and true hangover cure and preventative tool.

The medicinal properties of dill pickle juice have long been extolled by scholars and holistic healers alike. Dill pickle juice is full of naturally occurring antioxidants, healing salts and minerals. Whether you've had one too many on St. Patrick's Day, or too rockin' a time at that New Year's Party, dill pickle juice is a cheap, time tested and true hangover cure and preventative tool.

If possible, before you begin drinking, fill a 2 ounce glass with dill pickle juice.

Choose your "chaser(s)". A "chaser" is something that you eat or drink after the pickle juice if you'd like to rid your mouth of the strong flavor, or make the juice "go down" a little more easily. Chasers can be combined or used on their own. Some good chasers are:

-warm water
-ice water
-orange juice
-crackers (plain or salted saltines are preferable)
--ginger ale

Often, using a combination of food/drink chaser is the most effective in making the pickle juice seem less potent, or more palatable to someone who isn't fond of the flavor.

Line up two aspirin, your pickle juice "shot", and your chaser(s).

In quick succession, put the two aspirin in your mouth and swallow them with the shot of pickle juice. If you are using a chaser, eat and/or drink it to wash both the pickle juice and aspirin further down your throat and neutralize the strong flavor that may be left in your mouth. Try to drink at least another 8 ounces of water before you start to drink.

Enjoy your party, dinner or wherever it is you are drinking.

After you have finished drinking, repeat the above steps, before heading to bed for the evening. Bear in mind that pouring the juice out of even a small pickle jar requires a steady hand and good coordination-- if you know, in advance that you may be tipsy (or worse!) after drinking, it is wise to prepare and refrigerate your pickle juice "shot" prior to taking your first sip of alcohol. Having it prepared ahead can save time and energy later when there is little to spare.

If necessary, upon waking up (or at least 4-6 hours later), repeat all of the above.

Note: 2 ounces is the recommended serving size because the salt and acid content in pickle juice is high. Do not exceed 2 ounces at one time. If you are on a salt-restricted diet, do not use dill pickle juice as ahome remedy without first consulting your doctor or health care professional.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Article From the Bold Italic Blog in San Francisco

I can’t remember my first Bloody Mary, and there are only two likely explanations for that. Option one: At 17, I watched The Royal Tenenbaums on loop, wanted to marry Richie Tenenbaum, tried to create his favorite cocktail, failed, and gave up on love and mixology. Option two: Wanted to marry Richie Tenenbaum, created his favorite cocktail, triumphed, repeated, blacked out. It’s probably option two.

However it may have started, my love for Bloody Marys runs deep. Lucky for me, there’s no better place to lust after Mary than San Francisco. A Bloody booze cruise is easy here, with fancy bistros to dive bars bringing their A-game to the tomato juice and Tabasco unofficial Olympics. Looking for a mouthwatering liquid lunch on the cheap? Found it. Pretentious friends who say nothing is too spicy for them? I got you. No matter your hankering, use this guide to ensure a Bloody Mary is never too far out of reach.

There’s no other bar like The Ramp in the city, and what else are you going to drink while passing a slow, sunny day overlooking the water? The stiff Bloody Marys here prompted a haiku:
Dream of life on boats
Why aren’t there more garnishes?
Tricky walking now

You know it’s serious when a dive bar has a little crate at the end of the bar filled with V8s, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, and seasoning shakers. Bloody Marys here are confusingly cheap, and when you order one, the stools of regulars nod approval. These Bloodys have a little barley bite (hello, splash of Guinness) and come with enough garnishes – baby corn, pickles, pepperchinis, Slim Jims or bacon – to be a light, almost healthy, lunch.

Zuni Café’s Bloody is sexy, of course. Discovering tomato water as the secret for dear Mary’s ideal body balance is worth the price of admission. It starts simply, with salt and pepper, Tabasco and tomato juice, and gets creative with the addition of tomato water, six-year-aged balsamic vinegar, and chopped red onion relish. I’m not usually an onion fan, but when they kept creeping up my straw, I had to embrace the wet crunch.

One of these things is not like the others, and it’s the Betelnut Bloody Mary. Made with whole bird’s eye chilies and chili sauce, the spice in these makes your gums ache, and the unusual Pan-Asian recipe is in a class all its own. I’ve learned to ask for less chili sauce in order to avoid sweating in public and to actually taste the distinction of soy sauce, Thai basil, and garlic, which makes for a uniquely delicious Bloody.

On weekends at Elixir, there are variations of tomato juices, tins of bacon (!), a flock of every possible hot sauce, and a small jungle of stemmed accessories for the DIY Bloody Mary bar. After the vodka is poured, you’re left to your own devices. To replicate Elixir’s non-DIY recipe, shake in Tapatio, cayenne pepper, and a fair dose of Worcestershire and stir with a bacon strip to make a sweet and sour Bloody with the perfect degree of hotness.

I know there are 40 or so beers on tap at Zeitgeist, but I’ve never had one of them. Ordering Bloody Marys here is like muscle memory for my mouth. They’re strong (generous pours) yet full-bodied and hot, but smooth (thank you, pickle juice) going down. This Bloody Mary embodies the feel of Zeitgeist: somewhat agro yet welcoming and strangely harmonious. There’s some kind of extra kick, probably the stir of horseradish, that makes me not just devour but also relish and respect the Bloody here.

Most of us know Clement Street is the spot for cheap produce, but it’s also where to go for a cheap, pungent Bloody Mary. Bartenders here will tell you they’ve been trained specifically to master the 540 Bloody and will recommend Absolut Peppar to substitute well vodka. But lemon juice offers tang and Crystal Hot Sauce brings enough heat to mask any possible off-brand gnarly-ness to secure a $6 steal.

Sippin’ on Gin and Juice: Pickled Martinis

Sippin’ on Gin and Juice: Pickled Martinis

Garnish your signature cocktail with a chic new accessory: pickled anything. Your breath will reek, but you’ll look hip and your taste buds will be happy. No one likes a close talker anyway.
Our obsession with all things pickled landed in our cocktails this weekend. Dirty pickle martinis, not new. Picklebacks, also not innovative. Pickle-infused vodka, the Russians got it down. But, DIY pickle garnishesdesigned for on-demand sour martinis was a revolution to our at-home happy hours and 3-hour martini lunches (yes, they’re back). We’ve tweaked our regular recipe to include gin or vodka in the pickling juice, just in case you don’t get enough in your glass.
Choose a lineup of fruit, like these table grapes, or nail your palate with stronger options like pickled garlic, ginger or jalapeño.

Gin & Pickling Juice

If you like your martinis dirty, save this juice post-pickling and use to flavor your cocktails. Below are our favorite spices but we recommend doctoring up the recipe with your own seasonings like: cloves, red pepper flakes, ginger, allspice, cumin seeds …
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups gin (or vodka)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons cardamom
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorn
  • 3 star anise
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • All the produce you want pickled into garnish
  1. Heat first five ingredients in a pan until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Fill tall canning jar with produce and pickling spices.
  3. Add liquid to the jar, seal and store on countertop for seven days.
  4. Refrigerate after opening.
Our favorite garnishes to pickle:
  • beets
  • cherries
  • jalapeños
  • plums
  • mangoes
  • peaches
  • table grapes
  • purple or red onion (not recommended for first dates, anniversaries or intimate dinner parties)
When it's too hard to choose a garnish, serve martinis on individual trays sidecarred with several types of pickles.

Probiotics VS Candida

What is Candida?

Candida is a genus of yeasts. Many species are harmless commensals or endosymbionts of hosts including humans, but other species, or harmless species in the wrong location, can cause disease. Candida albicans can cause infections (candidiasis or thrush) in humans and other animals, especially in immunocompromised patients. In winemaking, some species of Candida can create potential faults in wines.

Many species are found in gut flora, including Candida albicans in mammalian hosts, whereas others live as endosymbionts in insect hosts.

Systemic infections of the bloodstream and major organs, particularly in immunocompromised patients, affect over 90,000 people a year in the U.S., with a 40–50% mortality.

The DNA of several Candida species have been sequenced.
Antibiotics promote yeast infections, including gastrointestinal Candida overgrowth, and penetration of the GI mucosa. Many people are under the impression that only women get genital yeast infections but all people can get yeast infections regardless of gender. Prolonged antibiotic use increases your risk of a yeast infection. Also, men and women with diabetes or impaired immune systems, such as those with HIV, are more susceptible to yeast infections.

Some practitioners of alternative medicine claim that Candida overgrowth can cause many health problems, including fatigue and weight gain, but most medical doctors reject this.

Candida antarctica is a source of industrially important lipases.
Can probiotics kill Candida? The short answer is yes. The unhealthy yeast overgrowth known as Candida or Candidiasis is cause by when the yeast in our body spreads and grows out of control. Everyone has some yeast, usually in the lower intestine, skin, and vagina for women.

   Fighting back with nature, Probiotics

When the good bacteria, such as acidophilus and bifidobacteria in the intestines is weakened and over-powered by bad bacteria, the immune system can no longer control the yeast and so it spreads into other areas of the body. It can then turn into a fungus which attacks and infects body tissues and organs.

Over 33% of Americans suffer from Candida and that number is going up. Most of our western doctors have no clue about this disorder because they weren’t taught about it in medical school so don’t be surprised if you are either prescribed a drug or even misdiagnosed for something else.

You can take matters into your own hands to eliminate and eventually stop Candida from returning. There are over night cures advertised but they do not work. This disorder didn’t happen in one day and won’t go away in one day either.

Probiotics can play a major role in balancing and strengthening the good gut bacteria which can fight against Candida, but probiotics alone won’t be enough. There are cleansing programs you can follow and the 3 major steps are as follows:

1. Some diet modification
2. Certain nutrients are need to purge the Candida
3. On-going support of the intestines and immune system so that Candida never returns once you do get rid of it.

Candida exists because of our lifestyle choices and diet. It didn’t exist a century ago because the diet was very different back then. There were’t any high processed foods loaded with sugars, chemicals and trans fats from hydrogenated oils.

There weren’t antibiotics and other drugs taken on a daily basis for digestion symptoms , there were’t any birth control pills either, all of which can cause Candida.

Change your diet

It goes without saying that you should eliminate as much processed foods as possible, including canned and booted drinks because these undergo pasteurization and homogenization.

Things to add to your diet

A good start is the addition of probiotics in the form of yogurt and kefir as these will add to the good gut bacteria needed to keep dangerous bacteria at bay.
digestive enzymes

The importance of probiotics

Science has determined that probiotics are not self-supporting and need the nutrients provided by prebiotics to enable good growth. Besides providing nutrients to probiotic bacteria, prebiotics also increase digestive health in many other ways.

This is a cool cartoon about Probiotics

This is a commercial for a probiotic pills. But the idea is good.

How to make Kefir at Home

Water kefir is a beneficial probiotic beverage that tastes delicious! It’s a fantastic intro to cultured beverages and a great way to get kids (and adults!) off soda. Making water kefir is simple.

Once you have water kefir grains, either from a friend or some you’ve purchased (and rehydrated if necessary) it’s simple to make water kefir over and over. I make a quart or two at a time and always have a constant supply.

In a little bit of water, in a pot on the stove, dissolve 1/4 cup of sugar (I use Sucanat) per quart (32oz) of kefir you want to make. Add the sugar-water to an empty, clean glass quart jar. Fill up the jar with cool, filtered water, leaving about 2″ of headspace at the top of the jar. (Note: You will just want to use a little bit of water to dissolve the sugar, not the full amount. That way, when you add the rest of the water, the whole solution is room temp, not too hot, and won’t kill the cultures)

Stir, check the temp with a clean finger (should be room temp-ish) and then add your kefir grains. Cover with a coffee filter (and rubber band) or towel and put in a location that will be undisturbed and away from direct sunlight for 24-48 hours. (I tend towards 48 hours so that most of the sugar is used up. It’s always been plenty sweet this way.)

After that time, your kefir is ready, but you may wish to flavor it. I use a secondary fermentation method. It’s easy- don’t be intimidated by the terminology. Simply strain out the grains (saving them for another batch which you can start right away or cover your grains with fresh, clean, filtered water and a lid and refrigerate for later use) and pour your finished kefir into a flip-top/Grolsch bottle (or the mason jar if you don’t have anything else) and add some juice. Please use only 100% juice, organic if possible to eliminate pesticide residue, and you’ll add about 1/2 cup or so. We like blueberry-pomegranate or mixed berries, but feel free to experiment!

Let the kefir sit, with a tight-fitting lid, for 24 hours at room temperature. Then it’s ready! Refrigerate if you’d like it cold (we do) and enjoy!

Note: Use caution when opening the Grolsch/flip top bottles as the kefir is usually VERY carbonated and can sort of explode out, causing a mess and wasting your drink. Just open slowly (and don’t overfill to begin with) and have a towel ready in case.

10 Health Benefits of Vingar

Many of us are aware of the many ways that vinegar can clean just about anything, from your windows to the outflow pipes of your air conditioner. However, how many of us realize the health benefits of vinegar?

Fifty years ago, a daily dose of an apple cider vinegar and honey tonic was used to ease arthritis pain. During the last thirty years or so when many "wonder" drugs came on the market, they replaced many of the home made remedies of our grandmothers. As we keep exploring ways for improve health, we are starting to see some medical professionals supporting those old time cures of the past. This is not to say, we should get rid of drugs, but at least, they are qualifying what our grandmothers always knew. And if I have any choices in my life, it will be to go as natural as possible with my health.

Vinegar is a weak acid. History goes back to Hippocrates' time when it was used as a medicine and antiseptic. Here are some areas that can help you by using vinegar in your health.

1. Insect bites or stings will be soothed quickly by pouring vinegar on it.

2. Pour vinegar on sunburn

3. If you drink a teaspoon or so of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water to help with digestion, bowel function, cholesterol, and even preventing ulcers. With the latter you might have to help a little with the stress of course.

4. Salicylic acid is what you use on warts. Vinegar is acetic acid and works in the same way, however more gently.

5. Just 5% of vinegar mixed in a solution of your choice, can kill 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, 80% of germs (viruses).

6. A teaspoon or two of vinegar will cure hiccups.

7. Two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and honey mixed with enough hot water to melt the honey has been known to help with headaches and weight loss.

8. Bathing in some apple cider vinegar can help with urinary tract infections. I read someone who didn't have a bath tub, used a used cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and swabbed the urethra and it took care of the problem .

9. Apple cider vinegar has helped skin conditions from eczema to aging brown spots.

10. Apple cider vinegar helps fight against food cravings.

Grandma knew that her old remedies worked even if she couldn't explain to the scientific world. She knew that diluting vinegar in the ear would help infections due to swimmer's ear. Now, the American Academy of Otolaryngology endorses this remedy. There's something to be said about how smart grandma was.

Kombucha Debate: Pasteurized vs. Raw

Kombucha is one of the hottest topics in the beverage market today. And, like so many products that seem to find the consumer spotlight, it’s not without its share of controversy. Claims of health benefits, discussions of ingredients – and especially, the question of “raw” versus pasteurized versions – swirl around this tea-based drink.
It’s not new – and it’s not about mushrooms

Kombucha – a concoction of bacteria and yeast fermented in sweet tea – has been traced back more than two thousand years, to 221 B.C. in China.1 While the drink is called various things including “Manchurian mushroom,” the tea fungus is not actually derived from any mushroom.

For centuries, kombucha was home-brewed and consumed largely in China and Russia. In the home-brewing process, the microbial concoction of bacteria and yeast floats like a “blob” on the surface of the tea base; during fermentation, a second layer of this mixture forms on top of the original one. This second layer was traditionally passed from person to person, much like people share sourdough starter.2

Kombucha had been touted informally as a home remedy for years; consumer drinks hit the U.S. market in earnest around 2000, with multiple companies offering a kombucha product. This is when it got interesting, as different products made different claims.
The big question: To pasteurize, or not to pasteurize?

As the commercial market for kombucha has grown, a distinct dividing line has developed between pasteurized kombucha drinks and non-pasteurized drinks. Proponents of pasteurization say that it produces a much more stable, safe and legal product without affecting kombucha’s positive effects. The non-pasteurized side claims that “raw, natural” kombucha is the only way to go – that pasteurization removes the health benefits. This claim is made despite the fact that many foods we normally consume are pasteurized, including milk, juice and everything that is cooked.

The issue falls into two main areas of debate: probiotics and the fermentation process.

One of the disputes concerning kombucha is over the presence of “probiotics.” Probiotics are microorganisms that already exist in the human digestive system and are prized because they are thought to be “good bugs” that have a healthful benefit when ingested through food or supplements. Made popular by food products such as yogurt, probiotics include specific bacterial strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. Makers of non-pasteurized kombucha drinks claim that some of these organisms exist in kombucha and that pasteurization kills off these helpful bugs.

In fact kombucha is very different than yogurt – it is far more acidic. Probiotics are known to be unable to thrive in this acid environment, as is true of almost all other microbes. In contrast, the kombucha culture is made up of yeast and bacteria that can live in this acidic environment. The yeast and bacteria found in the kombucha fermenting culture are not normally found in the human digestive system. Indeed, there is no research that shows probiotics are present in kombucha at all, let alone that there is a health benefit.

Some kombucha manufacturers claim that their products contain Lactobacillus or Saccharomyces boulardii, but this is unlikely considering that neither can live for long in such an acidic environment. Manufacturers of probiotic supplements are well aware that it is difficult to get probiotic microorganisms through the acidic conditions of the stomach, so just ingesting them is no guarantee they will reach the gut. The benefits of probiotics have so far been associated with specific illnesses such as acute diarrhea and other intestinal disorders. Furthermore, there is no consensus on the number of probiotic microorganisms that are required, but it is certainly at least several billion3.

A second factor in the pasteurization debate revolves around the fermentation process itself. While of course fermenting is what creates kombucha drinks, the process can have negative affects if not controlled. And this is where the two sides of the issue diverge. Pasteurization stops fermentation at a precise point in the process, while “raw” kombucha that is not pasteurized continues to ferment in the container.

Kombucha is full of many things our body needs, but the first step in the fermentation process is making alcohol from sugar. This is true of all kombucha products, and is identical to the process of making beer and wine. The kombucha fermentation process produces alcohol as long as sugar is present, and all kombucha products use sugar (beer and wine fermentations use up all the sugar). Fermentation will continue in kombucha when refrigerated and sitting on a store shelf, just more slowly. The recent problem of elevated alcohol in raw kombucha products resulted in a nationwide recall (some products contained over 3% alcohol), illustrates why halting the fermentation process is necessary in kombucha. Although many people are not concerned with alcohol levels over the legal limit of 0.5%, children and pregnant women shouldn’t be drinking alcohol. Furthermore, recovering alcoholics and those sensitive or allergic to alcohol need to know the actual alcohol content of products they are considering purchasing.

Ongoing fermentation is a problem for reasons of quality and taste. Many kombucha products are made with essentially the same cultures that have been passed from person to person for the last two decades, which contain wild and unwanted yeasts and bacteria. As beer and wine makers are well aware, these spoilage organisms can produce undesirable ‘off flavors.’ Continued fermentation will make these off flavors along with the alcohol. A major university study examined the fermentation process and timeline, and the resulting effects on the finished product. It concluded that controlling the fermentation process was the only way to obtain the desired quality in the finished beverage.4 While pasteurization is not the sole method for stopping fermentation, chemical treatments would not be palatable to most consumers and would not be allowed under organic rules. Sterile filtration is another option, but this method is known to strip flavor and color from the product.
General health benefits

There’s little doubt that many people find kombucha to be a good thing for them to drink; anecdotal evidence relates a laundry list of benefits. But the science behind some claims is lacking and can be confusing. One biologist who has studied kombucha extensively summed it up well: “Most of the statements made about the health benefits of kombucha are hearsay and for the most part unsupportable by research. Many myths have been spread by uncritical repetition of information, much of it found on the Internet, with little or no reference to original research or sources of the information.”5

But there is a preponderance of opinion that kombucha does good things, and that has made it worthy of study by scientific researchers. A common experience reported by many kombucha drinkers is an increase in energy and improved digestion. Kombucha contains many acids that are formed during the fermentation of sugar to alcohol, and subsequently the conversion of alcohol to acetic acid by Acetobacter and Gluconobacter bacteria. These acids are a part of our normal energy producing metabolism and they feed directly into that pathway. It is not unreasonable to think that a feeling of an energy ‘lift’ comes from these acids rapidly feeding into this normal process. These acids are unaffected by the pasteurization process.

Research in rats has shown that long-term consumption of kombucha can increase life span, appetite and weight. More recently, research from India on rats and in laboratory experiments has indicated consumption of kombucha has the ability to protect the liver and have antioxidant and antibacterial effects. Though promising, these studies are preliminary and have not been done in humans, but rather in rats and test tubes.6-8

This is an area that has been particularly confusing. Few actual studies have been conducted on this topic, and the results can best be summarized by saying that kombucha may aid in detoxification but there is no evidence that it actually does. Detoxification refers to numerous methods the body has to rid itself of unwanted chemicals, ranging from naturally occurring toxins in food to synthetic chemicals such as drugs. Detoxification is responsible for drugs wearing off after a few hours – everything from alcohol to aspirin.

To keep it relatively simple and understandable, the detoxification powers of kombucha tend to come down to two chemicals: glucuronic and acetic acids. There are several methods the body uses to rid itself of foreign chemicals. The major detox pathway used by the body utilizes glucuronic acid, which is manufactured from sugar in the liver. This chemical is attached to certain toxins so they can be excreted in the urine. Some researchers have identified glucuronic acid in kombucha and others have not. Regardless of whether glucuronic acid is present in kombucha, there is no evidence that it increases the rate of removal of toxins from the body. And because the liver makes glucuronic acid as needed, there is no reason to assume it must be ingested.

In contrast, there is no doubt that kombucha contains acetic acid; acetic acid is the most common acid found in kombucha. And acetic acid is used by the body to rid itself of another major class of toxins, separately from glucuronic acid. Keeping it in real-speak, it contributes to forming something called acetylCoA. This substance is used for a process called acetylation, which removes these toxins from the body. But again, there is no research indicating consuming kombucha increases the excretion of toxins, and no reason to assume consumption of acetic acid would be necessary. Acetic acid is found naturally in the body and is used for many other normal biochemical processes.9

Some studies have suggested an antibacterial effect of kombucha. Acetic acid is known to be antibacterial, and at least one study suggests there are other possible antibacterial components as well. One study examined the assumption that acetic acid alone is responsible for kombucha’s detoxification properties. Researchers found that kombucha “exert(ed) microbial activities” against bugs in the E. coli, Salmonella, Bacillus and Shigella families, among others, and concluded that these findings “suggest the presence of antimicrobial compounds other than acetic acid” in kombucha.10

Tea itself has been found to inhibit the cause of most stomach ulcers, a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori.11 Because this bacteria lives in the stomach lining of many people, and the treatment involves taking three different antibiotics, drinking kombucha may be helpful in suppressing or killing these bacteria, possibly aided by the acetic acid that is found in kombucha.

Like so many segments of the beverage industry, kombucha drink makers are battling for market share. What makes this particular competition so fascinating is the divide along the issue of pasteurization. Given that fermentation is the basis for this drink, controlling that process appears to be a key to several factors. A failure to pasteurize can lead to increasing levels of alcohol, and questions of quality, consistency and taste.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pickle Back

"Rare is the guy who will do a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice without making a face." 

A little history with your buzz...Once again we round the corner toward that hallowed of holy days, St. Patrick's Day, when the green beer flows and the fiddle music rings through the parade-choked streets. We love a good St. Paddy's Day parade -- who doesn't? But you know what we don't love, or at least what we stopped loving after the first five or so years? The green beer. It's just not doing it for us anymore. We like beer-colored beer, thanks.

However, we'll always love a warming shot of Jameson Irish whiskey, especially on a chilly March evening. We've heard from a handful of sources, but most notably the folks at the Breslin Bar at the Ace Hotel in New York City, that a pickle juice chaser is a perfect foil for the not-so-subtle punch of flavor that is a shot of Jameson. We tried it, and the hype is legit. The pickle juice cuts the whiskey nicely, without totally overpowering it. You almost feel cleansed afterward.

Pickle brine is also (apparently -- we're not sure about the science behind this) a helpful hangover antidote, but chances are you'd have to drink an entire jar's worth to make it stand up to all the booze you'll be consuming on St. Paddy's Day.

Hair-on-your-chest factor: 98/100 Rare is the guy who will do a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice without making a face. This is one of those simple preparations -- two shots, no nonsense -- that makes you look around after you slam the second shot glass down on the bar and think to yourself, "Well, I'm still here." And you may never forget what that barroom looked like, as long as you live.

1 shot of Jameson Irish whiskey (but any whisky will do; Irish is a nice touch for St. Patrick's Day)
1 shot of pickle juice (that's right, the juice from a jar of pickles; we like Kult Kitchen dill pickles)

Pour each into a separate shot glass. Drink the Jameson first, followed by the pickle juice. Smile, your a champion.