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Archive for September 5th, 2021

Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire

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Daniel Bogusaw reports in The Intercept:

In the early hours of August 11, the Senate voted to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that would mark the nation’s most significant investment in the fight against climate change ever undertaken in the United States. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., cast the tie-breaking vote.

The resolution’s approval kicked off a legislative process likely to last months, all of it hinging on Manchin’s continued support. Not long after casting his vote, he issued a public statement warning the bill’s backers not to take him for granted.

“Adding trillions of dollars more to nearly $29 trillion of national debt, without any consideration of the negative effects on our children and grandchildren, is one of those decisions that has become far too easy in Washington,” Manchin said. The month prior, he had specified that some of the climate-related provisions were “very, very disturbing.”

“If you’re sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that’s going to clean up the global climate, it won’t clean it up all,” Manchin told CNN after a private meeting with President Joe Biden and his fellow Senate Democrats. “If anything, it would be worse.”

Manchin’s claim that climate pollution would be worsened by the elimination of fossil fuels — or by the resolution’s actual, more incremental climate provisions — is highly dubious, if not outright false. What would unquestionably be impacted, however, is Manchin’s own personal wealth.

Though Manchin’s motivations are often ascribed to the conservative, coal-friendly politics of West Virginia, it is also the case that the state’s senior senator is heavily invested in the industry — and owes much of his considerable fortune to it.

For decades, Manchin has profited from a series of coal companies that he founded during the 1980s. His son, Joe Manchin IV, has since assumed leadership roles in the firms, and the senator says his ownership is held in a blind trust. Yet between the time he joined the Senate and today, Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms, according to financial disclosures. He also holds stock options in Enersystems Inc., the larger of the two firms, valued between $1 and $5 million.

Those two companies are Enersystems Inc. and Farmington Resources Inc., the latter of which was created by the rapid merging of two other firms, Manchin’s Transcon and Farmington Energy in 2005. Enersystems purchases low-quality waste coal from mines and resells it to power plants as fuel, while Farmington Resources provides “support activities for mining” and holds coal reserves in the Fairmont area. Over the decades, whether feeding tens of thousands of tons of dirty waste coal into the power plants in northern West Virginia or subjecting workers to unsafe conditions, Manchin’s family coal business has almost entirely avoided public scrutiny.

Manchin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In 1987, the man who is now the senior senator from West Virginia chose his hometown as the fulcrum for his enterprise. He and his brothers centered their business dealings near Farmington, where their grandfather served as mayor, and established headquarters for Enersystems and Farmington Resources in the nearby city of Fairmont, on the banks of the Monongahela River. Manchin’s brokerage firm has failed to attract the same attention as the scalped mountains and blackened tap water in the southeast region of the state, where mountaintop removal mining has radically altered the once pristine landscape. But in the northern political enclave of Marion County, Manchin’s businesses are fueling environmental degradation and impacting public health with severe consequences.

Farmington is surrounded by some of West Virginia’s oldest mines, dirtiest power plants, and sprawling coal ash dumping grounds. Through these operations Manchin receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue every year.

For the first time, a Type Investigations and Intercept analysis of public records reveals the impact of Manchin’s coal firms. For decades, they have relied on mines and refuse piles cited for dozens of Mine Safety and Health Agency violations, multiple deaths, and wastewater discharging that has poisoned tributaries feeding into the Monongahela River, as hundreds of thousands of tons of carcinogenic coal ash are dumped across Marion County.

While Manchin does not own the mines, refuse piles, and power plants that have polluted Marion County, he continues to reap their financial rewards. In tracing the life cycle of Manchin’s coal, from its origin at refuse sites, to the looming plants it powers, down into the water and soil of northern West Virginia, the steep and complex cost of Manchin’s empire begins to take shape.

Deadly Work

Outside Fairmont in Barrackville, West Virginia, the Barrackville mine lies buried in the ridge rising over an outcropping of abandoned buildings in what was once the town’s bustling mining camp. In 1925, 33 miners lost their lives to a gas explosion in a mine that once supplied coal to the forges of Bethlehem Steel. As of 2019, when the latest comprehensive data was released by the Energy Information Administration, the refuse piles of low-quality coal those miners left behind serve as the second-largest coal source for Manchin’s Enersystems. (The firm moves less coal than the giants of the industry but still sold well over half a million tons from the site between 2008 and 2019.) The dangers of the Barrackville mine didn’t end with the 1925 explosion. Since 2000, the Barrackville site has been cited for five accidents and one death, when a heavy machinery operator was crushed by a bulldozer.

Over the past two decades, the Barrackville refuse pile was cited and fined for more than 30 safety violations by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. The charges include unsafe equipment, unsafe material storage, dangerous lack of lighting, unsafe brakes, failure to adequately inspect electrical equipment, failure to maintain automatic warning devices, unsafe vehicle storage, failure to complete daily safety inspections, failure to mark hazardous chemicals, failure to maintain miner training records, and failure to adequately train miners.

North of Barrackville, on the banks of the Monongahela River, is Enersystems’ largest supplier of waste coal as of 2019, the Humphrey No.7 mine, where over 40 safety violations have been recorded with the MSHA since 2000. These include  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 4:29 pm

Soup with Lacinato kale, white bean, and Calabrian pepper paste

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I’m making this soup again, but this time I’ll use regular shallots (as called for in the original recipe), but instead of ‘nduja, I’ll use Calabrian pepper paste. Calabrian peppers are what give ‘nduja its color and taste, so it should work fine as a substitute. I’ll update this post along the way. I’m following more closely the original recipe, except I did add some marjoram and basil, as much for the antioxidant value as the taste. No tomatoes, though I did include 1 cup cooked oat groats.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 2:13 pm

Fermenting vegetables at home: how, why, and some recipes

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Most recent revision: 8 May 2022 – added recipe for Kale & Cabbage (& Other) ferment and linked to “Starter Cultures vs Wild Fermentation—Which is Better?” (a little tactful editing of the title to correct the error).

6 Nov 2021 – I can tell that fermenting  vegetables, like making tempeh (also fermentation), is going to be an ongoing learning experience, at least for a while. Such projects seem best documented in a single post that I extend and revise as I learn — cf. my posts on my diet, on making tempeh, on implementing Covey’s 7 Habits, on personal budget planning and control, on cast-iron skillets, and so on. (Such posts generally end up on the “Useful posts” page.)

So this post is now the designated post for documenting my experience and lessons learned for fermenting vegetables. It includes some recipes. Partial table of contents of this post:

• Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar
• Three useful videos by Clean Living
• Beets & Leeks
• Cabbage & Red (Onion, Apple, and Radish)
• Recipes in two videos by Pro Home Cooks
• Leek kraut with tarragon
• Red kraut
• Giardiniera 
• Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut
• Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera
• Ferment Melange
• 24-Hour Ferment: Carrots, Apples, & Dried Barberries [failure]
• Kale & Cabbage (& Other)

Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar Recipe

Right after all added to jar.

Today (5 Sept 2021) I made this recipe from Cultured Food Life. I assume “shredded” means “coarsely grated.” I experimented with dicing the apples rather than grating them. Didn’t work: prefer grated. This recipe contains my modifications, which amount to doubling walnuts, dates, spices (except cloves), and vanilla.

2 cups carrots, shredded
8 whole dates, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8  teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt or French sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole apples, shredded 
1/8 teaspoon Cutting Edge Starter Culture

If you’re using the packaged starter culture, put the right amount (1/2 packet for 1 qt or liter, or 1 full packet for 2 quarts or liters) in 1 cup of spring water water. (Tap water is often chlorinated, which works against the culture. And apparently distilled water doesn’t work well at all.) Let that sit while you prepare the vegetables. 

The recommendation of Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt is because of their mineral content — refined salt lacks those minerals. The specific recommendation was for Celtic sea salt, but in Canada I found Paludier Fine Grey Sea Salt, which seems to be the same thing (though French, but same harvesting method from the same ocean) and it costs less than half as much as Celtic sea salt. So look around at the various grey sea salts and see what you can find. Coarse is cheaper than fine, and that works fine because you can dissolve the salt in a little water rather than just mixing undissolved salt with the vegetables — fine or coarse makes no difference after it’s dissolved. 

Prepare everything except the apples and put into a large bowl. Mix well using your (clean) hands. This allows you to feel when the diced dates are stuck together and break them apart. 

Once all that is mixed well, grate and add the apples and mix those in. (This sequence gives the grated apples less time to oxidize. I have used Royal Gala, Envy, and Honeycrisp. What I want is crisp, crunchy, and sweet, with a nice red peel.)

Once the apples are mixed in well, add the cup of water that contains the activated starter culture and mix well. Fill the jar — don’t pack it tightly; fermentation works better if it’s not packed tightly — and put a fermentation weight into the jar, then add spring water to bring the liquid level the bottom of the fermentation weight, and cap with a fermentation airlock. There should be an inch or two of space in the jar: vegetables will expand. 

Use spring/bottled water, because chlorinated water will inhibit the growth of the microbes. Tap water is often chlorinated.

Instead of a packaged starter culture, for this first batch I just used about 1 cup of juice from sauerkraut from the refrigerated section (i.e., unpasteurized sauerkraut in which the culture is still living, unlike sauerkraut on the shelves with canned goods) and then added enough water to cover the vegetables. You can also use the whey drained from a yogurt (plain yogurt: just milk and culture, nothing else) that has an active culture (i.e., a yogurt that is not pasteurized). Drain it through cheesecloth. What remains in the cheesecloth is yogurt cheese, very tasty, and the liquid that drains away is the whey, which contains a lot of the active lactobacillus culture.

I recommend using a wide-mouth 1 quart (or 1 liter) canning jar. A canning funnel helps in filling the jar. Cover the jar in a way that keeps air out but lets gas escape [a silicone fermentation airlock lid is ideal for that, and I now have a set. – LG], and let it ferment for a few days.

During the night after I packed the jar full and set it on the counter to ferment, it occurred to me that the carrots and apples would likely expand, causing some overflow. I therefore put the jar in a bowl, and this morning around noon I did find liquid in the bowl. I tasted it, and it does indeed taste like carrot cake. Because of my inexperience, I had filled the jar too full with liquid. Lesson learned: Leave airspace at the top. But I also think placing each jar in a bowl is a good idea — and with a later batch, where I was more careful with liquid level, I did have some overflow. 

A process like this fermentation roughly follows an exponential curve: initially very little visible activity, but then things speed up. I expect that tomorrow (the second day of fermentation), fermentation will be visible, and certainly on the third day I will see activity. 

So far, so good.

Three days later: It’s extremely tasty. I thought it would be sour (like sauerkraut), but it’s just somewhat tart. I’m definitely making this again. I’ll now order some proper equipment. (I didn’t want to buy supplies until I knew whether I liked it.)

. .

Fermentation airlock and fermentation weight, both for wide-mouth jars

6 Nov 2021 – Lesson learned from the first batch above: get wide-mouth jars: easier to load and easier to dip out fermented vegetables. Unlike regular-mouth jars, wide-mouth jars are more cylindrical, without narrowing at the aperture (the proverbial bottleneck).

I now have a dozen 1-litre wide-mouth canning jars (easier to find here than 1-qt jars, but more is better, right?), four silicone fermentation airlock lids for wide-mouth jars (but note DIY airlock using coffee filter, shown in video below), four glass fermentation weights for wide-mouth jars (like these), and a package of starter culture. I’ve also ordered a tamper (like this one), though after ordering it I learned you don’t want to pack the jars too tightly or the ferment won’t work so well. Still, it has come in handy and I find I use it in every ferment I make.

Informative video

I’ve been making fermented vegetables for a while, and this video gave me some good new ideas. I especially like her DIY airlocks from coffee filters.

I definitely will make that ginger and carrot version.

And this video on fermenting kale has some excellent information. I do recommend using bottled spring water rather than tap water for the fermentation.

She added some more advice on fermenting kale:

Siberian kale looks good, but I doubt I can find it, so I’ll go with green leafy. The spices she used are all preservatives, so that might be why they didn’t work.

Starter culture

Cultures for Health offers some good information on fermenting vegetables — scroll down on that page. There are quite a few articles. In one of their articles, they note

A fermented food recipe may call specifically for salt, whey, or a starter culture. The method chosen can vary, depending on personal taste, special dietary requirements, and even the vegetables used.

If salt fermentation is the preferred method, choose from the different kinds of salt appropriate for culturing.

There’s more at that link. I’m using coarse Celtic sea salt, but I’ve ordered some coarse Himalayan salt for the next series of ferments. (Used up the Celtic salt I had.)

Even though the sauerkraut juice (from live-culture sauerkraut sold in the refrigerated section — for example, Wildbrine fermented foods — worked fine, I don’t want to be buying sauerkraut. It’s expensive for one thing (another reason making your own ferments is a good idea). It occurred to me that I can use some of the liquid from one batch of my fermented vegetables as starter for the next batch. I’ll definitely try that, which would obviate the need for purchased culture. (In fact, as I read further in the Cultures for Health articles, they recommend this as one way to start the culture.)

I did find an interesting source of whey to be used for fermentation: the whey from making yogurt cheese using a live-culture yogurt (i.e., a yogurt that’s not pasteurized). 

I do like yogurt cheese, and it’s easy to make: dump yogurt onto some cheesecloth, suspend it over a pot for a few hours, and you get yogurt cheese (in the cheesecloth) and whey (in the pot). Since I love yogurt cheese, this would be a good source for a starter culture — except that I no longer eat dairy very often at all (cf. my diet). But if you like yogurt, this may be a good source of starter culture for you. From a recipe for fermented beets:

Whey, the nutritious by-product of the cheesemaking and yogurt-making process, is full of Lactobacilli, so it serves as a fantastic fermentation starter. This recipe inspired by rosl, a Jewish specialty from the Ukraine that calls for pickling beets in brine. The sweet, spiced beets are seasoned with orange zest and mustard seeds, and make for a delicious accompaniment to roast meats or fish. You can purchase whey online or make your own by draining store-bought live-culture yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined mesh sieve over a bowl: The drained liquid is whey. 

I’ll probably make that recipe, but I’ll use the starter culture I ordered. (I already have an idea for a beets and leeks recipe: grated beets, sliced leeks, and some aromatics (see below). The orange peel is an interesting idea, though I worry that the oils might be toxic to the culture bacteria I use. BTW, I can find no links to a dish called “rosi” associated with the Ukraine.

The package of starter culture says that 1 packet is enough for 5 lbs of vegetables. That seems to be about 1 gallon (4 quarts or, roughly, 4 liters). I imagine I could make a batch of three 1-quart or 1-litre jars with one packet, but that’s a lot of fermented vegetables for me, since I’m the only one eating them. I think I’ll stick to batches of two 1-litre jars. At US$23 for 6 packets — i.e., 6 two-jar batches — that’s just about $4 per batch, or $2 per jar, for starter culture. That does make me think that using some of the liquid from the previous batch is a good approach, using packaged starter culture only when I don’t have a previous batch on hand. Still, even using the culture packets is a lot cheaper than buying a live fermented vegetable like Wild Brine.

NOTE: The starter culture instructions has this important note: Mix the culture powder in 1 cup spring water, let it sit 10 minutes to activate, then mix that with the vegetables before adding them to the jar. Don’t use distilled water: the culture doesn’t do well in that.

The recipe for Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar at the link above said “Transfer the mixture to a jar and sprinkle it with the starter culture.” That’s bad advice. I was suspicious of that from the beginning — when making tempeh, I mix the starter culture throughly into the beans. I set aside my uneasiness because I assumed that they knew what they were talking about, a mistake. From now on, I’ll follow the advice of hydrating the culture starter, letting it sit, and then mixing it well with the vegetables before putting them into the jar(s). 

The starter culture instructions also say that for 5 lbs (about 1 gallon) of vegetables, dissolve 3 Tbsp salt in 2 cups (1 pint) of water, then mix that with the prepared vegetables, and then put that into the jars to eliminate air spaces. (They say to pack the vegetables tightly, but I already read not to pack them too tightly or it impedes fermentation. They say to ferment for 7 to 10 days.)

The amount of salt they suggest seems like way too much salt for me. I’ll try with 1 or 1.5 tablespoons and see what happens. And I definitely will not mix the brine with the vegetables before putting them into the jar. I’ll mix the culture water with the veg, put that into the jar(s), and then add brine to the appropriate level, eking it out with plain water if necessary.

Advice pages on vegetable fermentation

Cultures for Health has currently a page of useful links to information on fermenting vegetable. On some pages, you must scroll down a bit to get to the actual advice. The website is not well-maintained, but you still can glean quite a bit of useful information.

Loosening packed shredded vegetables on day 3 or 4

I discovered this in the context of fermenting shredded cabbage (to make sauerkraut), which I pack tightly, but it probably would also apply to the beets & leeks recipe or any other situation in which shredded vegetables are tightly packed. On day 3 or day 4 after starting the ferment, remove the lid and the fermentation weight and poke a table knife down through the mass in several places. This will loosen the packed vegetables a bit, and the liquid that has gathered at the top will drain down back into the vegetables. Then replace the fermentation weight and the lid (with the fermentation airlock) and let it continue. I ferment kraut and other shredded vegetables for two weeks (except Carrot Cake in a Jar, which has a shorter fermentation period), then remove weight and airlock, put on the regular lid, and refrigerate. 

I’ve noticed that some vegetable ferments are done more quickly: the fermented Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera took only 3 days (!) and the Ferment Melange was done after a week. The other Giardiniera was also done quickly, though krauts do seem to take two weeks. So just keep an eye on it and test.


Dr. Greger has an interesting 12-minute podcast on the nutritional aspects of fermented foods. Listening to it contributed to my motivation to get more deeply into it.


Do the probiotics in fermented foods survive digestion?

One reason for eating fermented foods is to deliver probiotics (and prebiotics, in the form of dietary fiber) to the gut microbiome, whose home is in the large intestine. To get there, the probiotics — primarily lactobacilli — must survive the digestive tract gauntlet of mouth (chewing and saliva), stomach (acid and massage), and small intestine. Can they do that?

The article “The truth about fermented foods,” by dietitian Katrina Pace in says it does. From the article:

The bacteria in fermented foods can withstand the acid in the stomach and, with natural fibres, are transported along the whole digestive system. Studies have shown fermented foods can change the bacteria that grow in your gut, reduce ‘bad bacteria’ and improve tummy troubles.

She adds that “fermentation makes cabbage easier to digest, so even the most tender tummies can manage it.”  The article contains quite a bit of information.

In looking into this, I also learned from one of the Nutrition Facts videos that:

Researchers have since worked on characterizing these bacterial communities, and found two interesting things. First, that “the communities on each produce type were significantly distinct from one another.” So, the tree fruits harbored different bacteria than veggies on the ground, and grapes and mushrooms seemed to be off in their own little world. So, if indeed these bugs turn out to be good for us, that would underscore the importance of eating not just a greater quantity, but greater variety, of fruits and veggies every day. And second, they found that there were “significant differences in [microbial] community composition between conventional and organic…produce.” “This highlights the potential for differences in the [bacteria] between conventionally and organically farmed produce items to impact human health.” But, we don’t know in what direction. They certainly found different bacteria on organic versus conventional, but we don’t know enough about fruit and veggie bugs to make a determination as to which bacterial communities are healthier.

That makes me want to skip the starter culture and try fermenting some vegetables with their own probiotic populations — specifically, fermenting cabbage (and including apple and onion in the ferment) and fermenting mushrooms, both without using a starter culture — for example, fermenting as done in the videos above: no starter culture (though using a starter culture does kickstart the process).

A good article in this connection: “Starter Cultures vs Wild Fermentation—Which is Better?

Ferment Melange was my first effort using a variety (cabbage, onion, apple, carrot, etc.) with no starter culture, in the hope that the result will be a diverse population of probiotics in the fermented result. That worked, but the carrot, apple, and dried berry ferment did not — however, that was a 24-hour ferment, so I was suspicious of that from the outset.

Beets & Leeks Recipe

6 Nov – I made up this recipe. I’ve revised it slightly in the light of experience in actually making it, and revisions are noted.

• 1 large leek, white section, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced
• 1 medium-large red beet, grated
• 5 Thai red chiles, stem removed, chopped very small (with seeds) [originally 9, but that was too hot; might try a couple of jalapeños next time]

I got about 2 full cups (in fact, just a little more) of sliced leeks and also 2 cups of grated beets. I put that in a large bowl, added the chopped chiles, and stirred well with a silicone spatula to mix. Then I added:

• about 1/2 packet Cutting Edge Starter Culture dissolved in 1 cup of water
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt dissolved in 1 cup of water

Let the the starter culture solution sit for 10 minutes, then mix the culture-water with the vegetables. Load the mixture into the jar. Pack it down, but not too tightly.

Put the fermentation weight in place on top of the veggies, then pour in the brine to bring the liquid level just to the bottom of the weight. (When I made my batch, I poured brine in before I put in the weight — then when I added the weight, it displaced water, making the water level too high. So: weight first, then add brine.)

If the brine (plus the water with the culture, already mixed into the veg) is not enough liquid to cover the vegetables, you can add a little bottled water.

I’ll check after three days. The instruction sheet with the starter culture says to ferment 7-10 days.

Update: The next morning the airlock top was bulged, and when I pressed it lightly, some of the brine squirted out. Too much brine, drained off a little. 

Update: After 3 days, it’s tasting pretty good, though too salty. (I had used 2 Tbsp salt — too much. Update: Using the Pro Home Cooks formula in the video below, the proper about would have been about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. /update) And it was very spicy. I think cooking the Thai chiles tames the heat; having them raw and fermented seems to leave them much hotter. Next time I will try 5 chiles rather than 9.

Lesson learned: Add the brine (or water or whey) after putting the fermentation weight in place (since it displaces liquid), and add just enough to go a little above the bottom of the weight. That way there is plenty of open space at the top, but still the vegetables will be covered with liquid.

Second run at Cultured Carrot Cake in a Jar

Yesterday’s Beets & Leeks flanked by today’s Carrot Cake in a Jar

7 Nov – I made 2 liters of the Carrot Cake recipe, so now I have 3 jars going. Putting the fermentation weight in the jar before adding water worked great.

Lesson Learned: Grate the apples last, after grating carrots, chopping dates and walnuts, and adding spices and vanilla. Mix those well, then grate apples, add, mix some more.

Doing it in this order gives the grated apples less time to oxidize. (Recipe at top modified to reflect this lesson.)

Another lesson, noted already: mix starter culture in 1 cup water, stirring to dissolve. Let it rest 10 minutes, the mix it with the carrot-apple mix before loading that into the jars. After that’s in the jar, add water as needed. (For this recipe, the salt has already been added, so use water and not brine, but do avoid tap water since it’s likely chlorinated.)

Cabbage & Red (Onion, Apples, and Radishes)

11 Nov – I’m really getting into. I just thought of another combination to try:

• 2 cups Napa cabbage or green cabbage, shredded (i.e., chopped small)
• 1 red onion, halved lengthwise, then sliced into semicircles
• 12 small red radishes, halved
• 4 Thai red chiles, chopped
• 2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt, dissolved in a little water
• 1/2 pack starter culture hydrated for 10 minutes, or some liquid from a previous batch
• 2 grated Royal Gala apples (discard stem, grate the rest including seeds)

I could do an all-red recipe by using red cabbage, but I think Napa or Green cabbage will provide more contrast. Cabbage counts as both Greens and Cruciferous Vegetable in Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, so I might double this recipe and make two liters.

I will prepare everything but the apples, toss it together in a bowl, and then grate and add apples (so they don’t have time to oxidize). I will then add the dissolved salt and starter culture to the vegetables in the bowl, mix everything thoroughly, then put it into a 1-liter jar. I’ll top it with a fermentation weight and enough liquid just to cover veg. I think this will be a one-jar batch. I’ll ferment it for 5 or 6 days, then refrigerate. It will keep in the fridge for weeks if not months. 

Can’t wait to try it.

12 Nov – figured a battle plan for making the above recipe.

Cabbage & Red, just started

13 Nov – It is said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and few of the recipes that I think up go quite the way I initially planned. Still, this one worked out pretty well. You can read about the actual making of it, but let me note Lessons Learned:

a. 1 large red onion cut into small sections and broken up into segments = 2 cups.
b. 2 bunches radishes easily made 2 cups halved radishes, with about a cup of radishes left over.
c. 2 Royal Gala apples of the size I have = 2 cups diced apples. 
d. 1/4 large Savoy cabbage = almost 6 cups when shredded (I added just a little to get to 6 cups)

Final recipe was 6 cups chopped Savoy cabbage, 2 cups diced apples, 2 cups halved radishes, and 2 cups red onion segments, along with 2 jalapeños, about 8 regular-size cloves of garlic, and peel from 1 orange.

I used some of the leftover Savoy cabbage in a salad. Excellent! I will be buying Savoy cabbage more often. However — lesson learned — Savoy cabbage doesn’t do so well in a ferment as regular green or red cabbage. It’s not crisp/crunchy enough.

Pro Home Cooks video on fermenting vegetables

15 Nov – I like this guy, and I was very interested to see his thoughts on fermenting. He does not use any starter culture, nor does he use (say) whey, which contains lactobacilli. Instead, he uses only salt, so I presume the lactobacilli are in the vegetables themselves. I’m going to try this with cauliflower, just as an experiment, as soon as I get my additional fermentation airlock lids and fermentation weights. (I ordered only 4 to begin with, but now I find it’s easy to have more than 4 jars going at once.)

The interesting thing is that he provides a formula for how much salt to use: take the weight of the jar’s contents (veggies plus water), multiply by 0.025 (i.e., 2.5%), and that provides the weight of salt to use. You obviously can weigh in grams, in which case you get grams of salt to use; or you can weigh in ounces and get how many ounces of salt to use.

Assuming a pint’s a pound, a 1-liter jar (given room at the top) will be about 2 pounds — 32 ounces — so that would be 0.8 ounces salt. He strongly suggests you weigh the salt (different salts have different densities — that is, some salts (Maldon for example) are fluffier than other salts), but I found a converter to (roughly) convert weight of salt in ounces to volume of salt in teaspoons. Using the converter, I would use 4 teaspoons of salt — or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon.

He also has this video on making several specific fermented foods: sauerkraut, sriracha, kimchi, and kvass (fermented beets). I did a variant on fermented beets above, and in using the Thai red chiles I can heartily second his statement on how fermentation intensifies those flavors (and spiciness). After that first batch I decided to use half as many peppers in the next batch.

In addition to this video, also read the Wikibooks Cookbook entry on Fermentation.

Experimenting with the Carrot Cake in a Jar recipe

Carrot Cake Batch 3

15 Nov – I made a new 1-liter jar of this recipe. I doubled the spices and vanilla and also added 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut, which was in shape like very small white rice. 

I routinely use 5 dates, not 4, and I use probably a little over 3 tablespoons of walnuts, not 2. This time I also cored the apples (usually I just include the cores and seeds), and I tried dicing them (or chopping them coarsely) rather than grating them. I think the larger pieces fo apple will work well.

After taking the photo at the right, I realized I had forgotten to include vanilla and dates, and also didn’t include the desiccated coconut I was going to try. So I dumped out the jar, mixed those in, and reloaded the jar. Full disclosure: I did one at a time. Next time I’ll make a checklist to ensure I include all ingredients in the first pass. 

Update 25 Dec 2021: I decided that the apples worked better if they are grated. I’ve updated the initial recipe above to reflect what I now do.

Calculating amount of salt

16 Nov – I use 1-liter canning jars and an empty one (with lid) weighs 448g. I just weighed the 3 jars of Cabbage and Red currently fermenting, and the average, after subtracting the weight of the empty jar, was 1019g, and 2.5% of that is 25.5g. 

I also weighed a tablespoon of Celtic coarse grey sea salt: 19g. So If I were following the Pro Home Cooks formula, which relies on lactobacillus present in the veggies, I would use 1.6 tablespoons of that salt per jar — 4.8 tablespoons for the full batch of three 1-liter jars. That’s a lot of salt. I used 1.5 tablespoons for the full batch. It seems to be working well, but I’ve not tasted it yet.

Leek Kraut with Tarragon

I just started this new batch today, Nov 28, and I plan to let it ferment for two weeks. You can read the full description. Here are the ingredients:

• 2 large, long leeks, sliced thinly, green tops reserved for other use
• 1/2 large red onion, sliced and then cut into short sections
• 1 jalapeño, chopped (including core and seeds)
• 2 tablespoons Celtic coarse grey sea salt
• 2 sprigs tarragon

I was wishing I had used 1.5 tablespoons, but in reading more, I came across this information, with a calculator at the link:

Generally you want to use around 2% of salt for harder vegetables (that have less water content) such as potatoes, carrots, beets. For softer vegetables a 3% of salt is suitable (more water weight) such as cucumbers, asparagus and mushrooms.

 Call the jar’s contents 1kg (using above averages, that’s close enough): 2.2 lbs. The calculator clearly doesn’t understand decimals and gave me an amount of salt appropriate for 22 lbs, so I did the calculation for 2 lbs. For a 3% brine, 1 oz of salt is on the mark. And 2 tablespoons is 1.1 oz. (I weighed it.) That additional 0.1 oz of salt — 10% more than 1 oz — takes care of the weight I didn’t enter into the calculator (the 0.2 lbs = 10% of 2 lbs). So I’m satisfied with the 2 tablespoons I used: right on the mark for soft vegetables.

Update: The leek kraut was excellent. I’ll make it again. However, I do think I’ll use less salt. I’ll go for 2% of the weight of ingredients. 

Red Kraut

Red Kraut

On Nov 18 I made a ferment from red cabbage with some red onion.

Yesterday I removed it from the fermentation jar and put it into a storage container and then into the fridge, and this morning I had a bowl of it. This is definitely a recipe I’ll repeat: cabbage was crunch and mildly tart, and altogether very tasty.

The photo shows a plastic bag sealing the jar, but within a day or two I received my additional order of fermentation weights and fermentation airlocks, and replaced the bag with those.

Toward the end, I did notice a little white yeast growth on top, but I followed the advice of Pro Home Cooks and simply removed it. The kraut itself seems unaffected. (The growth was just at the very top.) And man! is it tasty!

Good video and a new batch of red-cabbage kraut

New batch

In this post you’ll find a good video that discusses making kraut, and in this post you’ll read how I tried her method and where I found I had to revise it — along with the ingredients for a new batch of red-cabbage kraut (with red onion, red apple, jalapeño, and caraway seed).

The main revision is that, while the kraut pounder is excellent for packing the jar, it is not nearly so good as one’s (clean) hands in breaking down the shredded cabbage. You can squeeze, massage, mash, and mix the cabbage (and other ingredients) much better with your hands, plus you can feel any large pieces of cabbage that need further slicing. 

Also, I found that it was a good idea to break up the tightly packed kraut after 3-4 days of fermentation. Remove lid and fermentation weight, and then poke a table knife down through the packed kraut in five or six places to loosen it. The liquid that has gathered at the top will then drain down into the packed cabbage. Replace the fermentation weight, pressing down a bit to make sure the cabbage is covered by liquid, then replace the airlock and lid and let the fermentation continue.

Update: Fermented for two weeks and then refrigerated. Really tasty.


I made this batch of giardiniera today (Jan 3 2022) and plan to let it ferment at least 2 weeks, but with a target of 3 weeks.

I started with this recipe, but as usual I varied from it — for example, I included an Anaheim peppers in addition to the jalapeño and the 1.5 red bell peppers. I also had a 1.5-L jar and not a 2-qt jar, so I adjusted the recipe somewhat. 

Update: Bell peppers didn’t work so well (got mushy), but Anaheim and jalapeño peppers were fine, as were the onion and cauliflower. Carrots were tender rather than crunchy, but good.

The jar was complete fully initially, but as fermentation proceeded, the vegetables seem to shrink or collapse so that there were more clear liquid at the top.

Kimchi-inflected red-cabbage kraut

24 Jan 2022. Today I put up 3.5 liters of a new batch of red-cabbage kraut, using some ideas from a kimchi cookbook.  I would say the kraut has been the most successful so far in terms of taste and quantity. 

This post has the details of the recipe and process. I did have some lessons learned — for example, daikon radish should be cut into pieces of smaller cross-section before slicing, since (contrary to my expectations) the slices did not break up during the massaging of the vegetables. (I used the mandoline and sliced everything to 1mm thickness.)

I didn’t use carrots, but that remains a possibility. (Carrots I will shred, not slice.) I had intended to use BBQ onions (roughly the same as spring onions or adult scallions), but the volume became too large. I did add some ground dried chiles and fresh ginger root, and I’m interested to see what that will be like.

Another take on the above recipe

Batch 2 of Kimchi-ish Kraut

I just (21 Mar 2022) made another batch of the above, slightly different as described in its post

Unfortunately, I was taken by an impulse and leaped into making it without having on hand:

• Spring/BBQ onions, or
• Carrots, or
• Fresh ginger root

Still, it will be good, and I followed the rule of “Go with what you’ve got.” More details in the post at the link. I really like this kraut.

Jalapeño & Fresno Pepper Giardiniera

Jalapeño & Fresno Giardiniera

I made a jalapeño refrigerator pickle (equal parts white vinegar and water to cover ingredients, add salt, then refrigerate), and it occurred to me that I could ferment it instead of pickling it (no vinegar, but add starter culture). So I just made a version of it (see photo at right; recipe at link).

I’m going to let it ferment for two weeks. I’m eager to try it.

— The morning after I started the batch, fermentation was well underway: when I tilted a jar, I immediately saw a trickle of bubbles floating upward, a sign the lactobacilli were hard at work. Using a starter culture does kick-start the process.

Update: It was done in 3 days! And very tasty — a little spice, but mild, with good crunch and flavor. More info, including photo of the finished product, at that link.

Ferment Melange

You can find details and discussion in this post, which also includes a photo of the finished ferment. To my surprise, ittook only 7 days. This is my first go at not using a starter culture, just using the lactobacilli in the ingredients. Fingers crossed.

• 1/2 large green cabbage, shredded by hand
• 1 red onion, cut into strips
• 2 BBQ/spring onions, sliced thinly
• about 2″ ginger root, sliced thinly
• 1 apple, halved and sliced 1mm thick on mandoline
• 1 Nantes carrot, cut into stubby matchsticks (a fair amount of carrot)
• 3″ section of daikon radish, peeled and cut into stubby matchsticks

Despite my trepidation, this came out quite well and is tasty: crisp and crunchy and cold from the refrigerator. (I just enjoyed a bowl.)

24-Hour Ferment: Carrots, Apples, & Dried Barberries

I just started this ferment, and tomorrow I’ll post how it did. — I would rate this as a failure. I think I’ll stick with using a starter culture.

Kale & Cabbage & Other

I just started this one on 8 May 2022. I’ve been wanting to do kale since watching the two videos (included in this post above) that Clean Food Living made on the benefits of fermented kale, but I didn’t have enough kale on hand to do a batch. 

I did, however, have half a head of cabbage and various other things I could add, so now I have two liters just starting (and I did use starter culture with these.

Update 22 May 2022: Just tasted the batch (full report at the link above). It is tasty and crunchy and exactly what one wants. A great success. Photo of the finished batch at the link. It looks much the same, though the colors are more muted — the beet’s color spread through the jar.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 1:56 pm

Sports hooligans in Constantinope, 532 CE

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The ruins of the Hippodrome, Onofrio Panvino, 1580.

Sports hooliganism has an long if not illustrious history. Dan Billingham writes in Antigone:

Constantinople’s Nika Riots of 532 may seem like a dark precursor to the so-called Dark Ages of the early medieval period. A tempting assumption to make is that a bout of collective madness and lack of societal restraint caused the grumbles of chariot-racing fans to escalate to the point of laying waste to large parts of the city and thousands dying. Sixth-century Constantinople was far from a place of anarchy, however. It was one of the most sophisticated cities on the planet, with a social order underpinned by a vast legal code. The Nika Riots were, in fact, more ofa sudden social implosion fuelled by mismanagement from an earnest emperor trying to do his best but failing disastrously.

Around a century after the Nika Riots, the sport of chariot racing was in terminal decline. That was anything but inevitable. It had already enjoyed a key cultural role in the ancient world for over a millennium. Its glorious era at Rome’s Circus Maximus was transported to the hippodrome of Constantinople, where it enjoyed several more centuries in the limelight.

Chariot-racing fans were, well, fanatical. Packing the great arenas to cheer on their favourite faction (team) was just one part of it. Merchandise such as statuettes of famous charioteers were popular, and curse tablets have been discovered on which fans would implore gods to wreak all manner of injustice and havoc on an opposition faction. Idolatry was granted to the brave charioteers, along with money that is staggering even in comparison to the earnings of modern sportspeople. 

This level of enduring fanaticism makes the poet Juvenal’s infamous line that the people “anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses” totally understandable. The popularity of chariot racing was so extreme, however, that it would be wrong to think cynical emperors were merely orchestrating spectacles for an intellectually vacant populace. Emperors mostly sought to harness for their own benefit a powerful popular interest in the sport – an exercise which, as Justinian showed in 532, could go disastrously wrong too.

Violence would appear to be a natural consequence of such fanaticism. This wasn’t noted to be a major problem at Rome’s Circus Maximus. Casual violence began to become more associated with chariot racing from the fourth century, however, and continued as Constantinople assumed Rome’s mantle. By the late fifth century, gangs formed within groups of fans that resemble modern-day football ultras. Several high-profile riots occurred during the reign of the Emperor Anastasius (491–518). The toll of several of these events was significant, with around 3,000 fans of the Blue faction killed in an ambush from fans of the Green faction in 501, but still there had been nothing quite on the scale of the Nika Riots.

Their potential for organised violence made chariot-racing factions a force to be reckoned with. How this force played into Byzantine politics is subject to scholarly debate. In his 1976 work Circus Factions, Alan Cameron dismissed earlier suggestions that the factions were aligned with different social groups or followed the religious divides of the era. He saw them as a social ill akin to modern-day football hooliganism with limited political impact.

The sociopolitical identity behind and between the factions does appear to have been muddled, but perhaps this is because the factions were too big even to fit within major social or religious fault lines. Blue was blue and Green was green. How people could declare allegiance to a colour is baffling for historians used to hunting for clear social explanations, but the popularity of the sport was such that people were generally confronted with that choice. Green supporters were accused of being Jews, Samaritans and blasphemers by an envoy of Justinian in the hippodrome in the build-up to the Nika Riots. That they walked out en masse in disgust at these accusations shows they identified as none of these.

Choosing which faction to side with became a major political decision for emperors. The varied conclusions they came to supports the idea  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And see also the Wikipedia article.

Mosaic of the Reds, 3rd-century AD Rome (National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid).

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 12:30 pm

Tools for better thinking

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An excellent collection of various tools and approaches to thinking, both analytically and creatively, which you can filter by “systems thinking,” “decision making,” and “problem solving.”

And it includes a guide to help choose the right tool:

When you find yourself in front of a problem, decision or a system, you can ask yourself these prompt questions. They will point you to the right tool for you.

Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2021 at 10:16 am

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