Dave de Basque

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since May 08, 2015
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Basque Country, Spain-43N lat-Köppen Cfb-Zone8b-1035mm/41" rain: 118mm/5" Dec., 48mm/2" July
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Recent posts by Dave de Basque

John Venn wrote:Hey guys, very late to the party, but I have collected a whole range of cast iron cookware made by Le Creuset by checking second hand shops and second hand websites. They often go for a fraction of the price of a new one, which can be very substantial for Le Creuset.
You have to sift through some that are chipped or have some pitting in the bottom but these do not affect your health as the anti-stick coating is made of glass/ceramic so it is only an esthetic issue (I do prefer mine in good condition and with some patience and regularly checking the shops you can find them.)
Le Creuset also has an awesome custumor support. I bought a second hand skillet with a loose wooden handle that I tried to tighten at home and broke the screw running through the handle, securing the skillet to the handle. Got a new handle, for free (!), through customer support, even though it is a version they do not make anymore, as a Le Creuset pan comes with a life time garantee. Speaking about permaculture...



Hi John, great idea on second-hand Le Creuset. I have a couple of items myself. They're really pricey new and it's a great idea to look for them in second-hand shops/sites.

As far as I know, all Le Creuset pieces are coated cast iron. On the outside coated with painted stuff, on the inside with either black stuff or white stuff. I used to be really confident that the inside stuff was "good" stuff, inert like glass. I thought that basically enamel = ceramic = glass as far as toxic gick goes. But then someone warned me of a number of toxic elements that could potentially be in enamel, and since then I am not as confident in these surfaces. The Le Creuset inside surfaces are really, really long lasting, gotta give them credit for that, but I haven't seen where they actually say what it's composed of. I suppose that's what they call a "trade secret" these days, but call me over-curious, I actually want to know.

And color me skeptical, but I'm not much comforted by affirmations of "no PFOA" or freedom from whatever toxic compound they choose to name. I'm concerned about the toxic compounds it DOES contain but no one is mentioning because they don't have to because trade secrets yada yada. /rant

So I'm kinda confident about my Le Creuset cookware but not totally.

Just so people know, in recent years, I have found Le Creuset knockoffs in European Ikea stores (Lord, please don't let word get out to my permie friends that I occasionally go to Ikea!). "Made in France" say these knockoffs, so I imagine they are actually made in the Le Creuset factory but wholesaled out for other brands like Ikea to sell as their own. I've also seen (and bought) Pyrex cookware in Europe that I'd swear was made by Le Creuset, but it didn't have a "Made in France" imprint, so that one is a bit more sketchy. Same deal with the coatings though, I really want to know what's in them. Not what they don't have, what they do have. Pretty please Mr. Manufacturer.

Plain old uncoated cast iron, I have a skillet of those too, I also worry about a little bit. Most people, I think, have too much iron in their blood, and I think that if you're not pretty careful about what you actually cook in cast iron (no acidic stuff like tomato sauce for starters), you might be at risk of overdoing the iron in your blood, which is not good for your health. The solution to which I believe is donating blood regularly, that drops your iron levels. But anyway, lately I'm liking the alternative of uncoated stainless steel rather than cast iron.

I am not a doctor nor a lawyer nor a metallurgist, but as far as I know food-grade stainless is more inert and less porous than cast iron, so you don't have to be concerned about making acidic foods in it, and also, whatever unhealthy anything might be in the metal is much less likely to slag off into your food.

I've got a good number of uncoated steel pots and pans now. You can see an example of an uncoated stainless steel omelette pan if you scroll up to the first picture above this post, in a post by David Livingston. Hanging there in the middle of the bottom row is a steel omelette pan like French chefs think everyone in the world should have. I have one just like it. If you treat plain stainless steel pans like you would cast iron, they behave just the same. Season them, don't use soap, etc. Another advantage is you don't have to worry about rust, so I just air dry them, whereas I heat my cast iron skillet to dry it. They're perfectly non-stick if you treat them right and last forever, just like cast iron, and unlike the consumerist non-stick coated crap you see so much of.
1 week ago
I'm having problems paying Kickstarter! I'm in Europe. My bank says their default payment gateway doesn't support EU safe transactions... it just asks for your card details and that's it, no verification, etc. Does anyone know if there is some Kickstarter backdoor or some way for EU folks to give them money? Strange, I would have thought Kickstarter was big enough to handle this!
2 months ago
I know opinions differ on this, but I usually think of a swale as a tree-planting system, and it is dead level on contour. So what you're planning I would just call a ditch or a channel or a stream.

To avoid erosion completely (always a good idea), I would generally keep the fall of your channel to 2% max, and preferably closer to 1%. If it's heavily planted with water-loving plants with good root systems, you could maybe get away with a bit more, but only once those plants are established, so you'd have to devise a way to keep the flow gentle in the initial stages. Do you know what the maximum possible flow is out of that spring? Combined with a 100-year rain event for the area? (Like hurricane leftovers  blowing through after 3 weeks of solid rain, or some such thing.) That's what you want to plan for.

Meandering around the property gently like that it can do a lot of good. I'm sure there's a limit to how much digging you want to do though, so if you want to drop it down a few feet at a time, you might want to create some infrastructure. Maybe vetiver grass or something if you want to go all-natural.
4 months ago
Interesting about the cake soaks. My carrot cake recipe is pretty moist so I will probably use that in another recipe... thanks for the tip.

My burning questions though are:

1) how was the texture of your frosting?
2) how did you mix the frosting and how did that go?
3) If you kept it outside the fridge, how did it keep?

Thanks Jenn!
4 months ago
Hi Rachel, lovely to find another Donella Meadows fan here on Permies... actually, I would think perhaps there are quite a few.

It's funny within the context of the OP about reductionist vs. holistic thinking, to think about Thinking in Systems (both the book, and the subject in general). I'll come back to that at the end.

I share the concern over the often disastrous dominance of reductionist thinking in our decadent late-capitalist world, and certainly do agree that reductionist thinking can become dangerous when it chronically fails to finish its own analysis by seeking out its place again in the conext it came from, in the whole.

Spending too much time analyzing a small, analyzable thing can make you forget everything else. You forget that the small thing you're analyzing actually is related to everything. In fact, the scientific method, which has given us so much progress, just begs at every turn for us to isolate variables and such, and leads us to find a key factor or two to manipulate situations in some particular way. And we believe its conclusions and act on them as the "truth." As if those one or two little factors we found existed in isolation in the real world. So acting with this mistaken belief that you can manipulate your variables in the real world having only the effects observed in your carefully isolated, sterilized little lab often has us running off the rails in the modern world.

This is made worse by what economists call "externalities," a huge problem in conventional economic theory that everyone acknowledges and then essentially brushes off and looks the other way because its implications are too big. Externalities mean, if I dump toxic gick in your river, neener neener neener, too bad, not my problem, no one owns the river, do they? Same with the air, soil loss, plastic in the oceans, none of it is my (little individual reductionist) problem. But all of us get that sinking feeling when we look at the whole again and see it going to H-E-double-toothpicks due to all of us acting like isolated little reductionists. And there's "nothing to be done" because no one actually has the brain power to think about The Whole. At least not in this analytical way.

That makes your "poetic knowledge" idea all the more interesting. A way to look at wholes as wholes and deal with them that way without dissecting them. I'm really interested in this subject if you want to share more. It seems this is hard core epistemology, meaning the philosophy of how do we know, that we know what we know? Not an irrelevant subject because every few hundred years, our whole way of looking at the world changes, and suddenly society "knows" or "sees" or is interested in radically different things than it was before.

Anyway, it seems to me at the moment that poetic knowledge does not have any big system, or organization, or ideology, or cultural trend, pulling for it at the moment. Science, education, capitalism, the organization of work, our way of looking at problems, all of them seem to be pulling for reductionism. I wonder what forces could/do pull for holism?

Aside: For the moment, this poetic knowledge concept reminds me of all forms of art, first of all, and then also of language learning, a subject I've always loved. A lot of language students study in that reductionist way -- analyzing the grammar, looking for the logic of the other language's system, learning lists of clearly defined vocabulary. All stuff that feeds into the very weak, slow and limited frontal cortex of our brains, but hey, it's all we've got to analyze with. Other students, though, just mess around, pick up catchy phrases and tones of voice they've heard here and there, and repeat and innovate with them, not very accurately at first, but they keep going and gradually get better at them. Without every actually "knowing" (in that reductionist way we're used to calling 'knowing') what they're doing. Actually everyone learns their own native language this way. And some days you can just see a foreign language student lost in analysis, and other days the same student's neurons line up in a particular way, and they just go with the flow, stop thinking, dive in, and do really well. Speech is more about training the instincts to deliver your thoughts as words -- speech happens way too fast for the analytical frontal cortex to keep up with it. And art, who can analyze that? Though goodness knows we all try. I suppose it's because both rely so heavily on this poetic aspect... dissecting them may turn up some interesting stuff, but it's nowhere near as interesting as the phenomenon (like listening to music) itself.

So circling back to systems thinking... Maybe that is the bridge we need between discrete analysis and holistic mushiness. It seems to have a foot in both worlds. Kind of like Burra's tarot card above. Maybe that's what I always found attractive about it. Anyway, thanks for the post! It sounds like your daughter is lucky with the education you're giving her!
6 months ago

Hans Quistorff wrote:
My primary use of the leaves is to complement things that are too bitter or bland so I don't worry about the slight bitterness.  For coffee I put a 5 finger pinch of the leaves in the mill and put the beans on top and whiz it up fine. Works the same with cacao and I often use both cacao and coffee together.  



Ohhh now that's an idea. I generally drink my coffee black and unsweetened now but occasionally I like something a bit sweeter. I could just drop a few stevia leaves in the grinder when I grind up my coffee beans and then make it in the French press. Worth a try! I have never like the taste of commercial stevia extract in coffee (I love it in tea though), so maybe this is a way for me to like it in coffee.
6 months ago
OK, I tried it today, and it was... OK.

Cream cheese, softened butter, vanilla, and stevia was the initial idea.

I decided to double down on the green of the stevia and add pistachio nuts for a bit of crunchy texture. So I tried chopping them up a bit in the blender, which produced, even at low speed, a dismaying variety of chunk sizes ranging from still-whole nut meats to some powdery shmootz approaching nut butter. I ended up creaming it all, and I can't say anyone noticed a pistachio taste in the final product, so that particular sub-experiment is now off the list for future batches.

Next surprise was the texture... So thick the (high-powered) blender couldn't blend. I really need to get an old electric beater or a fancy countertop mixer gizmo, but for now I've got enough expensive appliances and I'm using what I've got. I use the blender for the frosting in the original recipe with powdered sugar. Anyway, I added some creme fraiche (like sour cream) to start thinning it out and it was getting a bit sour, so I switched to fresh whipping cream. I kept adding that carefully bit by bit and it took quite a lot to make the mix manageable.

Then I had a flashback and remembered observing in the regular recipe how the mixture thinned out and smoothed out when the icing sugar was added, it really surprised me how it changed the texture and made it more manageable.

Anyway, back to now: Color. I was expecting bright green like my homemade toothpaste with stevia and it was a milky yellowish green instead. Makes sense with all that cream cheese and cream I suppose. Didn't know what to do about that, couldn't think of anything appropriate to add to green it up -- any ideas?

Next: Taste test told me this is too stevia-y. So I broke down and added 1/3 cup of evaporated cane juice (I won't use the 'S' word), which we in our house call "rat poison." That took the edge off a bit. It could have used more but I didn't want to add more. Coconut sugar would have totally ruined the color. In retrospect, maybe Xylitol would have been the ticket. Xylitol makes things sticky and runny in my experience, so not sure how that will pan out.

I noticed the mass was getting grainy and the grains were surrounded by a tiny bit of watery stuff. So I decided to add something like the cornstarch that's in icing sugar. I reached for agar agar and then arrowroot, as I kept adding more whipping cream. Finally I got it to an acceptable texture that would blend.

The result was just passable. Color was weird. Texture was more light and whipped-cream like than I wanted. It was not quite sweet enough. And it lacked that sparkle and compactness that the icing sugar gives it.

So next time I'll make some adjustments. Probably will add more stevia and use xylitol too. Maybe I'll look for especially green stevia leaves to make powder of. And maybe I'll look for some neutral-tasting, acceptable oil that's high in Omega 3's and low in Omega 6's to thin it out instead of whipping cream -- anyone know of anything that fits the bill? I'm trying to avoid the typical seed oils (sunflower etc.) that are high in Omega 6.

Hope my meh experiment can serve to inform others' efforts for a healthy cream cheese frosting, anyway. And if anyone wants to report on their experiments at healthy cake frosting, please do!
6 months ago
Speaking of baking, I just used it in a carrot cake, both in the cake part and in the frosting.

The result of the cake part, I'd have to say, is a pass. I also changed to gluten-free flours and also changed leavening (bicarbonate + lemon juice), so it wasn't a scientific comparison, but the cake part is pretty good and I'm satisfied.

The cream cheese frosting, which originally called for 500g of powdered sugar (the kind with cornstarch added) is a pale, green shadow of its former self though. It lacks that "sparkle" and sharpness the sugar gives it, and also the texture is meh. So I will either have to keep experimenting a lot, or ditch the idea, and for instance, just have some of our great, local sheep's milk cheese for dessert (mmm.... ) instead of baking a carrot cake. It's tempting but if I get the knack of stevia-leaf-sweetened frosting I will try to remember to report back here.
6 months ago
Just made carrot cake using bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice as leavening, and it's great! Thanks Leigh, I don't know if I would have had the confidence to experiment without your advice here.
6 months ago
Using stevia leaves

For what it's worth, I understand that the "good" properties of stevia leaves that are helpful against diabetes, are also associated with the off/bitter taste some stevia plants have.  These parts are removed in refining to make the white commercial stevia powders and commercial extracts. So with a commercial product you get a calorie-free natural sweetener but no other health benefits. The natural leaf and the commercial products I think are quite different health-wise, so we should be clear when we're talking about "stevia" whether we're talking about the natural leaf or the refined commercial products. I prefer to get the health benefits of the leaf too, so I am oriented towards finding grow-your-own/DIY ways to minimize any bitterness in natural stevia leaves. And just generally use stevia leaves successfully in various ways.

Drying the leaves. I didn't know this, but now that I've read it I'd have to agree with other people above who've said that any bitterness is removed or greatly reduced by drying. I almost always use the leaves dried and the last few years I haven't had any bitterness problems. I keep whole leaves for teas and such, and grind them up really fine and sieve them for use in recipes.

Combining with other sweeteners. OK, this is not a purist thing and my other ingredients are not DIY, but I have often used stevia leaves for about half the sweetening power in a recipe, and then some combination of coconut sugar, xylitol, honey, brown sugar, or evaporated cane juice for the other half of the sweeting power. I almost never notice any difference in taste this way from the original recipe. And from there I experiment as time permits with pushing the stevia envelope and pushing the proportion of stevia higher without anyone noticing a difference in taste.

DIY extracts. This is an area I haven't tried but am interested in. Alcohol extracts, glycerines, water-based... I'd love to hear people's experiences, what extraction method to use, hot or cold, fresh or dried, how long to macerate... etc. ¿?

Improving the plant product. For best flavor. Selecting out bitterness in the plants themselves when planting from seed as described above. Experimenting with soil quality, watering regime, sun exposure, etc. Also when to harvest the leaves for best flavor. I read an article years ago about when to harvest and now have forgotten and can't find it anymore. Personal experiences, anyone?

How much to use. When swapping out for sugar in a recipe. The commercial products sometimes tell you. But no one seems to say anything about how much ground-up stevia leaf to use. At least as a guideline, because I believe different plants can have fairly different sweetness levels, they're not a "normalized" commercial product. I would love to hear what people say in this regard, and to start, I'll just throw out there a starting-off point I often use to experiment: a somewhat heaping tablespoon of powdered leaves to substitute for 1 cup of sugar.

Ways to compensate other properties of sugar. So sugar dissolves fairly easily, caramelizes when heated, can make a crusty surface when heated in another way, can add a crunchy texture sometimes, etc. Some recipes need these properties and it's interesting to hear what people do to get the characteristics they want in another way.

So there, I've got a few ideas to contribute and I wanted to revive this thread and get ideas from other stevia leaf experimenters out there. And if any of the old hands on the thread above want to pipe in with the results of their previous experiments, I'd be interested! Thanks, hopefully this can be a contribution to our health and our self-sufficiency!
6 months ago