Sunday, November 20, 2011

Raw milk recall

I quit drinking milk when I was a small child.  I couldn't stand the taste of it anymore for some reason.  I tried several times to force myself to drink it because I knew I needed the calcium, but I just couldn't stomach it.  So for over 20 years of my life, my dairy consumption has been limited to cheese, ice cream, and other more palatable versions of milk products in limited amounts.  After I had my real food revelation, I began seeing things on the blogs I was reading about raw, organic milk from grass-fed cows.  After doing extensive research on the pros and cons (and risks and benefits) of raw organic versus pasteurized conventional dairy, browsing through the wealth of information on the Real Milk website, and reading about raw milk in the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, I determined that I wanted to try this milk for my family.  The things I read made so much logical sense - a lot of the problems most people have with dairy products are a direct result of the damage done by pasteurization, homogenization, and the unnatural diet, hormones, and antibiotics fed to abnormal, selectively bred, modern-day dairy cows.  Milk was created by God to be consumed in its whole, pure, natural, raw state by healthy cows in healthy conditions fed a healthy diet.  I live in California - we are one of only 10 states in the country where you can go into a health food store and buy raw milk off the shelf.  There are only 2 licensed dairies in the entire state of California who are permitted to sell raw milk - Organic Pastures and Claravale Farm.  Organic Pastures supplies 95% of the demand for raw milk in the state of California, and it is the only brand available for purchase in my geographic region.  About 5 months ago, we bought our first half-gallon jug of Organic Pastures raw whole milk.  It is the sweetest, creamiest, most delicious milk I have ever tasted.  While our diet has changed dramatically over the past few months, and it's hard to pinpoint a single thing that has resulted in the most benefit, my husband and I have both experienced drastic detoxification, dramatically improved digestion, weight loss, and an overall improved sense of energy and well-being, and our consumption of raw dairy has certainly been a contributing factor.

Needless to say, I was deeply saddened this morning (I have been out of the loop for the past few days), when I checked my e-mail and received a message containing the news that Organic Pastures raw milk has been recalled until further notice.  Anne Marie at the Cheeseslave blog has put together an excellent post about what happened here.  In short, 5 children over an 8-week period earlier this year have been infected with E. coli O157:H7, and a common link has been that these 5 children have consumed Organic Pastures dairy products.  I quote from Organic Pastures' website:

"OPDC milk products are highly pathogen resistant. In more than 120 million servings, and more than eight years of intensive testing, not one single pathogen has been found or detected in our raw milk samples."

And to quote from Anne Marie's article on this issue at Cheeseslave:

"According to the California Department of Public Health, all products collected from the ill patients have been negative for E. Coli 0157:H7. The CDFA tests all Organic Pastures’ products every month for pathogens. Organic Pastures also uses a third- party for pathogen testing multiple times per week. All these tests have been negative."

My sympathies are with the families of these 5 children; however, clearly there has been no proof that these children were sickened by Organic Pastures dairy products.  There is a huge bias against raw milk in this country.  Sadly, what you don't hear about are all of the long-term health issues that are caused by our consumption of dirty, pasteurized milk (which, for the record, has had it's own share of recalls and E. coli contaminations despite all of the pasteurization).  I am fully aware of the risks involved with drinking raw milk and am also fully aware of what to look for in a dairy where I choose to buy that raw milk to ensure that I do not get sick.  I completely agree that conventional milk from dirty commercial indoor dairies absolutely must be pasteurized.  I believe that clean organic milk from the grass-fed cows at Organic Pastures is perfectly safe for me and my family to drink raw, and I should have the right to obtain it.

Even though my blog is obscure and in its infancy, I wanted to post about this issue and let you know what you can do to help.  This morning, I sent an e-mail to Steve Lyle at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, voicing my complaints and requesting that the government health bureaucracies respect my right to choose food that I feel is healthy for me and my family.  If you feel the same about this issue, I would urge you to contact him below:

Steve Lyle
Office of Public Affairs
(916) 654-0462

According to this article, it looks like Organic Pastures won't be back up and running possibly until after December 1.  This is truly a sad day for our family as we have no other option unless we drive 50 miles to purchase Claravale Farm milk between now and then.  The moment Organic Pastures milk becomes available again, I will be the first in line to stock up our fridge with this wholesome, nourishing food, and vote my dollars towards something I wholeheartedly believe in.

Real green bean casserole

Sometimes I get discouraged at what I perceive to be a lack of progress on my part, but when I reflect upon where I used to be, I realize how far I've come.  I find it very amusing to sit here and think back to last Thanksgiving.

I usually celebrate Thanksgiving day with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law prepares the turkey, and the rest of us help with sides.  My signature contribution is green bean casserole.  Here is the recipe I have used every time I've made green bean casserole up until this point.  It will probably be very familiar to most of us:

  • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell's® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 cups cooked cut green beans
  • 2 2/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

  • Canned soups, including my beloved Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, contain a lot of sodium and almost always have MSG (look for the term "monosodium glutamate").  MSG is a neurotoxin and is found in an alarming number of processed foods.  MSG has a long list of potential harmful side effects.  Some people have noticeable reactions to it in small doses, which include headaches and dizziness - for most of the rest of us, we are being slowly poisoned over time without realizing it.

    When I would make green bean casserole, I would usually add insult to injury and use canned green beans because frozen made it too crisp for my taste.  Commercially canned vegetables contain almost no viable nutrients and usually have added preservatives and salt, not to mention that I never had a clue where those vegetables came from or how they were grown.  Additionally, did you know that a lot of canned food comes in cans with BPA plastic coating on the inside?  For most of us, our primary exposure to ingestion of this endocrine-disrupting poison is not from shower curtains and water bottles, but it is actually from leaching into canned food.  I try to keep our intake of canned foods to a minimum for these reasons.

    I looked up the ingredients for French's fried onions: Palm Oil, Wheat Flour, Onions, Soy Flour, Salt and Dextrose.  Honestly, they were not as bad as I thought they'd be, but still a couple of questionable ingredients.  That soy is probably genetically modified, and what on earth is dextrose?  I try to avoid eating chemical compounds and ingredients that I can't picture growing on a vine, hanging on a tree, or sprouting out of the ground.  And again, where did those onions come from, and how were they grown?

    After having my real-food revelation back in May, I determined to myself long ago that this Thanksgiving would be different.  Tonight I did a practice run and prepared a real green bean casserole.  Pictures and recipe are as follows.

    Would you believe that I have never bought truly fresh green beans?  I have only ever used canned or frozen in all of my cooking.  I bought a whole bunch of fresh green beans at the farmer's market this weekend to use in the green bean casserole.  I would suggest buying about 1 pound of fresh green beans.  This translates into approximately 8 cups of raw green beans.  You could certainly do frozen green beans as well - my guess would be that a 16 ounce bag would work out perfectly.

    If you are going with fresh green beans, you will want to snap off both ends of each bean and then further snap them into smaller 1-2 inch long pieces.  This part was fun for me having never done it before.  You will want to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you are doing this part.

    Next, wash and rinse the beans, then add to your boiling water.

    I boiled the beans for about 10 minutes.  I taste-tested them several times until they were slightly more crisp than my ideal for the finished casserole to allow for additional cooking once in the oven.  Once cooked, drain and set aside.

    Cream of Mushroom Soup

    Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking, one of my favorite blogs, has an awesome recipe for a cream of mushroom soup substitute.  I use this recipe a lot to convert some of my favorite recipes from my former food life into healthier versions.

    Chop up a dozen or so mushrooms into small pieces.

    In a small or medium sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add a quarter cup white, unbleached flour and one teaspoon or so of freshly ground celtic sea salt.  Stir to form a roux.  Add mushrooms and saute for a minute or so until softened.  Add 2 cups of milk.

    Stir and simmer until thickened.  Add a bit more flour if necessary to thicken.  Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  This is the equivalent of 2 cans of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup - just enough for our recipe here.

    In 9 x 13 casserole dish,  combine green beans and cream of mushroom soup substitute.  Mix and add additional milk if necessary for desired consistency.  Bake covered in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (do not add the fried onions yet at this point).

    Fried Onions
    I bought 1 large white onion (also from the farmer's market), peeled it, and cut it in half.  Then I cut each half into narrow shoe-string strips.

    Toss onions with about 1/2 to 1 cup of unbleached white flour in a large bowl (do multiple batches to ensure the onions get thoroughly coated if necessary). 

    In a cast-iron skillet, melt a few tablespoons of refined coconut oil, grass-fed butter, pastured lard, or pastured tallow (did you know vegetable oil is bad for you, and that olive oil should not be used under high heat, such as for frying?  This is a post for another day).  Add onions to skillet and fry in a single layer. 

    Avoid the temptation to stir - wait until they appear golden, then flip and brown until golden on the other side.

    Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.  I had to fry the onions in about 4 or 5 batches to ensure that they fried appropriately in a single layer.

    Final Bake
    After initially baking covered for about 20 minutes, remove casserole, sprinkle fried onions on top, then return to oven at 350 degrees uncovered for about 5 minutes, until onions are crisp and golden on top.  Remove from oven and enjoy!

    Happy Thanksgiving