Tag Archives: ethics of food

(Getting Beyond) Humanity – The Pagan Experience

This is a weird one for me, I have to admit, because “humanity” is, for me, linked to “human population” rather than to the term “humane”. It’s strange, because a significant part of my paganism is about expanding my idea of “community” or “neighbourhood” or “people” to include considerably more than just the human membership.
None the less, I’ll see what I can do with this.
If I take “humanity” to mean “humane-ness”… Well, the most obvious part of that is Good Witching – which I’ve written about plenty already (here’s one of them, if you like), but which boils down to looking out for your neighbours and generally being kind and compassionate, even with people who try your patience. The other part is… well, this is me, right? So: Where does your food come from? I’m still a day or two away from placing my Meat CSA order, but my lovely wife and I have decided to go with this option for, basically, Religious Reasons. If we’re going to eat people – bovine and porcine and avian people – we’d best be making sure they had a good, kind, decent life before they died in order to end up on our table and in our stomachs[1]. Likewise, where does your non-animal-kingdom food come from? Were the farmers paid fairly for their produce & their labour? Were the veggies and fruit trees and mushrooms wild-gathered? Were they raised in healthy soil (particularly if it’s soil that you’re working, yourself)? Were they fed a lot of harsh chemicals?
It basically boils down to: Are you treading lightly on the ground that sustains you? Are you being good to your Neighbours?
Are you?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] To that end we’ve started eating “vegetarian inspired” food – meaning more food where the protein component comes from beans and grains and nuts, even if the mirpoix is fried in lard, and the beans and grains are cooked in bone-stock – a few times per week, in order to stretch the half-share a little better (and also for a couple of other reasons). The half-share works out, by a conservative estimate, to about 2lbs/week which… I can make stretch across four meals, certainly, though I’d be happier stretching across half of that. I figure if I follow my “some is better than none” principal, I can supplement the half-share with meat from other sources – sausages from the fancy/humane place up the street (which won’t be cheaper, I’m very well aware); fish from the river if I manage to catch any this July; free-run rabbits from the Rabbit Lady; as well as from ethically-okay-ish sources like the Free From brand of pork roasts that I can pick up at the grocery store if I’m so inclined.

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V is for Values – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So I recently wrote about shifting towards buying local-ish (grown in Canada, rather than in a different hemisphere) dry goods. I also recently had a chat with my wife, wherein she expressed a desire to move towards having less (disposable) plastic in our home. Between these two things, I think that writing a post on Values for, er, last week’s PBP entry is probably pretty appropriate.
 
A long time ago, a couple of friends of mine wrote a book about Neo-Pagan ethics, the difference between ethics (what you do) and values (why you do it), and how people with the same ethics (“It is good to eat locally-grown food”) can being making those decisions based on very different value-sets (“Get to know your neighbours, become part of your multi-species community” vs “When TEOTWAWKI happens, we won’t be able to import bananas from Cuba”). Our household inclinations towards antiques, reusable/biodegradable items, and local foods, and those same inclinations away from non-recyclable plastics, planned obsolesence, and disposable everything, are ethical decisions, but they’re based on a few different sets of values.
 
We value things that last. We value things that are beautiful. We also value things that have stories built into them, and that – as anyone who’s read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making knows – have a spirits, names, and desires, and aren’t “just” inanimate objects. Case in point: Our youngest sewing machine, Janice, really. really wants to do some zig-zag stitches. I’ve promised her that we’ll do some sewing together, so I need to make sure I make that happen before the winter’s out. (I have plans for one dress for me plus a couple of skirts for my wife, so this should be eminantly achievable).
 
I read, ages ago, a blog post (the author of-which I can’t for the life of me remember, though it might have ben one of the Tashlins? Maybe?) about how being an animist effects your purchases and the degree of stuff that you’re willing to accumulate. The author likened it to wanting to cultivate relationships with a few really solid friends (tribe, phamily) rather than having zillions of “friends” with-whom you don’t really have much of a connection and on-whom you can’t really rely (or vice versa, for that matter).
So one of our sets of values is a valuing of stories, of history, of lineage, of things that have been cared for before we ever got to them, of things that were meant to become heirlooms.
 
Another is valuing our own self-sufficiency. My wife can fix just about anything, as long as its analogue. I’ve got food-foo like nobody’s business. But neither of us can make a microchip do what we want it to do, or tinker a car back into functioning if there’s an internal computer system in place. Old stuff is built to last – and stuff that’s built to last has the luxury of getting old – but it’s also built to sustain repairs and (in our case) frequently built before computers really existed, let alone were available for personal-use.
Tied into this is a valuing of frugality, of being able to thrive on a lower income so that we can enjoy more free time, follow career paths that make us happy rather than just keep the bills paid, that sort of thing. Buying second hand stuff that can be readily repaired (at home) and easily maintained works into that. But so does growing and preserving our own food, so does knowing how to cook from scratch.
BUT being able to keep old technology (like my walking wheel or her various sewing machines) working, knowing how to perform “old” skills – cobblery, soap-making, subsistance-farming (to some extent – I won’t be raising my own wheat any time soon), carpentry, water-bath canning, herbcraft, mechanics, saddlery, hand-spinning, tanning (that’s not even all of it, you guys) – and keeping them alive is also a way of keeping in touch with the ancestors.
You know that joke about how your parents/grandparents phone you to fix the computer because they don’t know how to open their web-browser? It’s like that. My great-nan most likely never saw a computer in her life. I have no idea what she thinks of it when I’m sitting here, typing away on my laptop, other than “My great-granddaughter went to UNIVERSITY! She type like the dickens, but heaven only knows why she can’t take shorthand…” or similar. But when I grow squash, my farming Nana and Papa know that their children’s children – one of them, at least – have not abandonned the land completely. When I spin and weave and knit and sew, my Gram, my Nana, my ancestors long before them, and my living mom and mother-in-law, all know that the home-skills they have are still valued and cherished by the next generation, and that those skills won’t disappear when (or now that) they’re gone. When I cook family recipes using seaonsally-available food that I grew myself, harvested from the neighbourhood, or even just bought from an Ottawa Area farmer, I am connecting with the land, with the ancestors, with the traditions and rhythms of time and place. I am become (ever more-so) “a part”, rather than “apart”. And that matters. That’s something that I value.

Every Day, It’s A-Getting Closer… (Shifting towards “local-ish” dry goods)

Today I stopped by the local Hippy Organic market to restock on some dry goods. I got brown basmati rice – which, as it turns out, I didn’t really need (woops) – from overseas, and about 2 litres of red quinoa (which works out to about $30…) from Bolivia, and everything else – the pot barley, the red lentils, and the black beluga lentils – came from Canada, most likely Saskatchewan. (They also have (cultivated) wild rice from Saskatchewan, if you’re looking to bring it in from somewhere closer than California, fyi).
 
While my rules (which are more like “guidelines” anyway…) about Local Food don’t tend to include dry goods – for a slew of reasons that mostly boil down to laziness and/or… “frugality” (yeah, let’s call it that) on my own part – I find that, while I’m not buying my whole wheat bread flour from the Oxford Mills mill just yet, I am leaning more and more towards buying dry-goods that are grown in Canada, even if they haven’t been grown in Ontario or Quebec.
 
I look forward to the day when Ottawa Valley edamame and whole wheat pastry flour plus Northwestern Ontario red, green, & black-beluga lentils, yellow split peas, quinoa, and amaranth are available at my local grocery store but, for the moment, while I can probably grow my own quinoa[1] if I’m really feeling the need, I’m probably going to keep shifting our “day to day diet” towards pearl and pot barley[3] and away from grains that have to cross one or more international borders to get to me.
 
Does this mean that I’m never buying rice again? Hmm… Maybe? I’m hesitant to say “That’s it, no more rice for us!” at this stage of the game. But if this barley business works out well, I can see rice taking a definite back seat to the grown-in-Canada grains quite quickly. Similarly, I’m more likely to grow butter beans – romano, in particular, but also fava, Christmas Lima, and maybe navy or great northern – that can double as dry-beans, and blanch and freeze them (or dry them on the vine, then finish them in my dehydrator, and store them on the shelf in jars) myself, rather than buying kidney beans or edamame that have been brought in from across half the globe. Between that, a lot of Ontario potatoes, and a home-grown crop of sun-chokes, we should be doing okay for starch. 😉
 
You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have garden space again! I was walking home today, and I picked a few fully-ripened-and-dried seed-pods from a purple-and-pink common mallow, just to scatter them in the front yard. I know I’ll have to wait until May to get my backyard raised beds going, but I’m going to have SUCH a time this winter, planning the lay-out and deciding what to plant where. I’m having visions (not Visions, just “visions”) of dragging in a gallon of snap beans every week for a month, of dozens of pumpkins and butternut squash lining my cold room shelves, jar after jar of tomato preserves, and a freezer full of carefully-blanched chard. I hope I’m not over-estimating what a few 2×8 beds can yield in a given year, but… my last garden (which, granted, was in the actual ground, not in extra-large containers) offered up that much produce fairly reliably, so… Maybe?
 
Here’s hoping that, by this time next year, I’ll be tallying up preserves that include 40lbs of home-grown tomatoes, a freezer full of home-grown greens and beans, and maybe a litre of dry-beans (cranberry/romano or great northern, most likely) just to see if I can do it.
 
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Assuming we don’t go through more than a kilogram of it in a given year, since there’s a limit to what you can do on that front in a small, container-gardened space, and assuming I can winnow it well enough to not be full of chaff[2], AND assuming I can get my head back around to rinsing the stuff before I cook it…
 
[2] That basmati rice that I didn’t actually need? I thought I had 2-3 cups of long-grain brown rice still to be used up. It turns out I have about double that and, here’s the thing, the rice in question is… chaffy. I keep running up again bits of rice that haven’t cooked properly because they’re still wrapped in their protective, straw-like husk… The texture is awful, they don’t taste particularly good, and the tooth-cracking element is not fun, let me tell you.
 
[3] Pearl barley is like “white rice” – it’s had the hull removed and cooks in about 20 minutes. Whereas Pot barley is like “brown rice” (or red rice, for that matter), it’s “whole grain” rather than polished, and takes about 40 minutes to cook. Barley also has the added bonus of not turning to glue or losing its structural integrity when it’s been over-cooked. I’ve been known to stew both pearl barley and pot barley for around ten times the recommended cooking times, and they’ve both turned out just fine. Given my inclination to cook 2:1 grain:lentils, this would mean that I would cook red lentils with pearl barley (or quinoa of any colour, or white/polished rice) and beluga/black lentils with pot barley (brown rice).

O is for Overwhelmed and “Out of Order” – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I’ve just spent a chunk of the afternoon reading this frightening and somewhat perlexing piece and this (less scary) piece that linked to it, and now I want to freak out.
Which isn’t actually helpful or useful.
There are things I can do, sure. Stop buying plastic is a big, but more than slightly difficult, one. Switching to LED lights and eating more and more locally (both in the sense of organic-cotton-clad-hippies-at-farmers’-markets and in the sense of knowing which plants in my neighbourhood are the ones I can eat on the regular) are big ones, too. But, while these actions have a huge impact on my life, they feel like they would accomplish absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
So much of what I could do – solar panels, larger windows, better insulation, geothermal heating, wood stoves – if I had the option, which I don’t living in a low rent apartment building with electric heat, limited natural light, no balcony, and enough of a building-wide bug (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, mould) problem that growing food indoors just seems like an entirely bad idea… seems like it would do little beyond giving me and mine (and “mine” are a very small number, if I get right down to it) a chance at pretending that things are “okay” for longer.
It’s overwhelming.
It’s terrifying.
The questions I ask myself are things like:
We could (just about) afford to move to The Country – two hours away from the nearest suburb of the city we live in – but could we manage that, if we did it? Could we deal with having to drive Everywhere[1]? Could I deal with seeing 99% of the people I care about no more than a couple of times per year? Would my own loneliness drive me crazy, drive my wife to leave me? Would the isolation mean nobody would visit? Would my nearest neighbours be anything like me, want to know me as I am? Would whatever I learn or do, create or cultivate or produce, be of any use to anyone if I’m so far away from everyone?
Gordon quotes the following in this post:
 

“[…] Community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth.”

 
I’m not a hedge witch. I’m a hearth witch. I want to know what grows here – native and naturalized and cultivated, all of the above – so that I can encourage it to grown in a patch of land that I can steward for a long time. The “English Country” flower garden that I dream of is mostly multipurpose flowering plants that work as edibles, medicinals, magicals, and that encourage pollinators and beneficial predatory insects[2]. I want to be growing enough food, and out in my (currently mythical) yard often enough, that I can hand off stuff to my neighbours, have enough to give away. I want to welcome people in, build community, strengthen ties. Going Away… doesn’t do that, even though being hermits might, in the long run, keep us safe.
 
The Medicine Woman offers the following:
“We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers.”
 
I am a city witch., and so “going to the wild”, re-wilding myself, needs to happen in a forest of sky-scrapers where wild means feral cats, squirrels, and racoons, means toadstool mushrooms and fallow scrub lots. It means following the curve of the river (full of bass, carp, zebra-muscles, catfish, crayfish, cattails, river grass, brown trout, muskies, an Old Lady sturgeon on the bottom, below the rapids, who’s been there for longer than I’ve been alive). It means hive-hotels for solitary bees, and Making Arrangements with the blue-black hornets who go wonky in the hot days of mid-September, after the frost-warnings of early Apple Moon (or labour day weekend, as you will). It means listening to the crows who fly (in a river of thousands), south to north across the city, every evening at sunset. It means seeing the harrons on the Redeau, or tracking their flight along the length of Bronson from Carleton U to the Ottawa River. It means catching the tok-tok-tok of the big raven whose territory covers most of Hintonburg and part of China Town, and recognizing that the pigeon carcass (all wings, and not much else) had a fatal run-in with the falcon who lives on top of the tallest apartment tower on the block. It means having a good idea of where the lead isn’t when you harvest those dandelions, those wild grape leaves, that garlic mustard. It means skipping the roots of Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, and opting for windfall apples, choke cherries, black walnuts (that are a mess to crack, but that taste like blue cheese, if you like blue cheese). It means knowing that “we are nature, working” (Starhawk, The Earth Path) and, as such, trying not to behave like an autoimmune disorder.
 
So what do I do?
I say “excuse me” when I pass pigeons (or human neighbours) on the sidewalk, and wave to the crows.
I pay attention when I’m walking, looking at who’s around, plant-wise, getting to know the neighbours, looking what says “Notice me!” (for example, I’ve only just started noticing a member of the mint family with fluffy white flowers, growing all over my neighbourhood[3]).
I greet the river, the sun, the moon, and the plants (cherry and serviceberry, apple and crab apple trees, grape vines, raspberry and currant bushes, plots of dandelions, milkweed, feral spearmint, wood sorrel, purselane…) that I eat from. I acknowledge the crossroads, the soil under the concrete and asphalt. Cheer for the rain and the thunder storms.
When I make offerings, I try to make sure that they’re… the work of my own hands. I’ve heard it said that offering a bouquet of wild flowers to Nature is a bit like yanking off someone’s finger and then presenting it to them like a gift. But clean water and hot-cooking compost heaps, the work it takes to build up a water-lens (using swales and the like) or clean up other people’s garbage[4] in a public space (whether that’s a wild public space or a more cultivated one, either way), art[5], or raw materials transformed into something that the rest of nature can’t make on its own (fresh-baked bread, maple syrup, yoghurt or butter, country wine…) are often cited as good bets.
I try to do my animal bit to distribute the seeds of fruiting plants, tossing apple cores, red currants, raspberries, cherry pits into neglected, sunny spots where, hopefully, they’ll find ways to take root and grow.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Ignoring for the moment both the question of my learning how to drive (again), and the other question of what about when there’s no more gasoline? …Could I use a bicycle to get around? How many bicycle-hours away from the nearest transit way station am I willing to live in the mean time? (Would something like this work?
 
[2] Queen Anne’s Lace, motherwort, chickory, purple cone flower, bone set (queen of the meadow), catnip, tansy, foxglove, mallow, hollyhocks, spiderwort, marigold, juniper, cedar, sunflowers, black cohosh, bee balm, bergamot, sweet william, centaury, Joe Pye Weed, blue cohosh, bouncing bet, mugwort, skullcap, mullein, slippery elm, wood sorrel, scilla, sweetgrass, giant (purple) vetch, borage, yellow evening primrose…
 
[3] Turns out it’s (probably) catnip, which can be used to make a lemony, minty tea that will (in theory) help you sleep, and which can be chucked into spells to draw good luck, particularly good luck in romantic/sexual endeavors, your way. Apparently the oil also works as a mosquito and tick repellant. Yes/No?
 
[4] I know. I know. It all has to go somewhere, and amalgamating a bunch of it into a (most likely plastic) bag that is then sent to a landfill doesn’t actually fix the problem of we use too much disposable, non-biodegradable, crap… but it does keep things contained a little better, and makes it marginally less likely that other people in a lot of different areas are going to swallow, or get tangled in, our Tim Horton’s cups and six-pack rings.
 
[5]Songs, stories, poetry, dances, sure. But clay sculpture and temporary visuals – a picture rendered in wet sand (or plain chalk?) that will disappear with time, rain, and spring floods or tides, wherein the work of creating it is the offering.

Ethical Eating (Critter Edition) – The Continuing Saga

So I lent The Omnivore’s Dilemma to a friend of mine, and she and I were chatting about it and she said that it’s got her thinking about how she sources the meat her family eats, and how to find ethical sources of critter now that she’s paying (more) attention to this stuff. Conveniently, she knows me and my lovely wife, and we are making more and more connections (most of them, unexpectedly, through my wife’s day-job, although maybe that isn’t too surprising) in the ethical-livestock-farmers neck of the woods. We get our monthly rabbit. We’ve got a lady looking to split a goat with us (and there may or may not be a bag or three of angora goat hair – in need of carding, but otherwise ready to spin… apparently – in it for me, as well). A friend of one of my wife’s other partners raises a wide variety of pastured livestock. And then, of course, there are folks like Barb or John & Lorraine who run meat CSAs, sell at farmers’ markets, and do (some) home deliveries or bulk orders.
Continue reading

Full Moon – Rhubarb Moon Crests

Hello!
My mind is boggling at the fact that it’s nearly Summer Solstice. My wife and I will have been married for a year-and-a-half (exactly) as of ten days from now. Tomorrow night, I’ll be cooking our first Bunny Of The Month Club rabbit – I’ll be consulting the Joy of Cooking on that front, I think – and probably doing it in the cast iron Dutch Oven (the one I used to cook last week’s Fabulous Friday braised pork shoulder roast in) with mushrooms, rhubarb, onions, chunks of parsnip and potato… but I’m not sure what-all else. We’ll probably eat it with a vidal and I’ll do a rhubarb pie for dessert.
 
It’s… strange. It doesn’t feel like Midsummer.
Maybe that’s the stormy weather we’ve been having lately, with its overcast skies and chilly, wet winds. Or maybe (likely) it’s the fears that I’m living with about money and employment.
Rhubarb Moon is supposed to be “everything’s coming up roses”. All hope and expansion and great sex, all rocketing towards fruitfulness and first harvests. All that stuff that one started working towards back in February, all the dreams that one planted and started cultivating at Spring Equinox and through Beltane, those are supposed to be moving – fairly clearly – towards fruition of one sort or another.
 
While I realize that “supposed to be” is a phrase at-which the gods, generally speaking, probably laugh their asses off, it’s still kind of sitting heavily with me that nothing that I planted is doing much of anything. Not that I’ve been “planting” very much.
Our chest freezer remains in the storage locker – which means no CSAs this year (again); the ritual group that I joined has… not done a whole lot (I need to get in touch with people and suggest that we do an afternoon Thing instead of an evening one, this time, as I suspect it’ll work out a bit better). The presentation I made in February – a sort of “Where do we go from here?” discussion with area LGBTQ Service Providers – has lead to me getting downsized so that I’m spending my “coming to fruition” time looking for new sources of income/employment. Our casual search for a less buggy, yard-posessing place to live has, so far, turned up fairly fruitless… and that’s not the whole of it.
 
You can imagine that things are feeling a little bit stressful and a little bit demoralizing at the moment.
 
Which doesn’t mean that there’s no hope, and it doesn’t mean that there are no Nice Things to be had.
The serviceberries are ripening all over the neighbourhood. In 2-3 weeks (right around the time that Serviceberry Moon starts) I’ll be able to stroll through my neighbourhood and pick bags of sweet, purple tree berries to freeze, eat fresh, and turn into jams and chutneys and pies as I will. A neighbour up the street passed me a big handful of Vietnamese Garlic (the same stuff that I use to make asparagus relish[1]) and I was able to make pizza[2] for the first time – it was such a hit that I’ll probably start making it on a semi-frequent, regular basis[4]. This weekend, my lovely with and I are going to a 12-hour telling of The Iliad – which will be thoroughly awesome – and then, a week later, I’m visiting my Aunties and picking up a gorgeous antique cabinet (heirloom – otherwise we’d never be able to swing it) to bring home[5]. I might even have a chance at a part-time job for a month or two (or six) depending on how things go. Fingers crossed. 🙂
 
So all is not lost, as they say. 🙂
Where are you finding hope and joy at this time?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I’ll post the recipe in a bit, if I haven’t already.
 
[2] The dough was just some extra bread-dough that I had lying around – not quite enough to make a third loaf, but enough to be a pizza crust, so I went with it. I used some of my roasted-garlic balsamic tomato sauce for the sauce – just as-is – and added some of the above-mentioned home-made (vegan) pesto[3] along with dollops of labneh (accidental yoghurt-cheese), button mushrooms, rounds of turkey sausage, and some discounted “cooking mozzarella” that I picked up (with the mushrooms and sausages) from the store.
 
[3] Basically, you take 3 cups (ish) of garlic chives (AKA Vietnamese Garlic) and chuck it in a food processor with a quarter cup of oil, a quarter cup of crumbled walnuts, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt, and then you puree the heck out of it. I froze the first batch, and then made a half-batch to put on the pizza. It works! 😀
 
[4] In the same way that our Bunny of the Month will likely be eating on, or near, the Full Moon, I may do a monthly Pizza Night that happens on, or near, the New Moon (that’s amore?), in the interests of marking these recurring events with recognizable foods. My lovely wife has suggested doing pizza using chutney – like rhubarbicue sauce, for example – and roast turkey or pork (or chicken). I kinda love this idea as it would be a way of acknowledging the Lunar Cycle in a very literal way: Serviceberry Moon might be begun/marked with a pizza topped with serviceberry chutney (in lieu of tomato sauce), a layer of whole grape leaves (or shredded other greens), chunks of chicken or turkey, halved baby tomatoes (or not), and a sprinkling of fresh (or dried) sage and thyme. Thunder Moon might involve tomato sauce, sure, but couple it with slivers of zucchini, chunks of tomato, whole squash blossoms, and fresh basil, with corn meal added to the crust. Apple moon might use apple butter (very sweet) for the sauce, and include barbicued pork, raw cranberries, slivers of onion, and shredded kale or nappa… You get the idea, I’m sure. 😉
 
[5] At least that’s the plan. It’ll go (some way, some how) in our Living Room and be used to hold either leatherworking supplies OR fibre and chandalry supplies & various oils and essential oils.

Baking with Whole Wheat Flour – Baby Steps

Hey there.
So I’ve spent the day writing (YAY), making candles (YAY), and baking more bread for our household use.
My life is so hard, I know. 😉
Having read Cooked a couple of weeks ago, and having, as a result, been “suffering” feelings of inadequacy in the cooking-from-scratch department, and having found a medium-sized bag of whole wheat flour – advertised as “perfect for muffins” and so, in theory at least, a grind that is closer to “pastry/soft” than “bread/hard” flour – on at half-price when I hit up the grocery store last week, I have decided to start adding (some) whole wheat flour to my dialy bread recipe.
My first batch was 1/4 whole wheat to 3/4 polished/white flour. Today’s batch (batch #2) was 3/8 whole wheat to 5/8 polished/white flour. I think there’s a reasonable chance that I could up it to half and half and still get a tasty, flavourful, easy-rising loaf of bread using my current method (which is basically “make a wet dough” that can be stirred rather than kneaded, and use “quick rising” (fine grind) dried yeast in the mix).
 
I confess that I was really worried that my attempts at even partially whole-wheat bread would turn out dense, heavy, and kind of bitter. But, so far, this is working.
 
Part of it, I suspect, is that my whole wheat flour has the bran part – which is apparent kind of sharp and, as such, tends to pop the bubbles that make the bread rise – ground relatively fine, which makes for fewer bubble-popping problems in the dough. I think. The other part, maaaaaaaaaaaaybe, is that I mix the whole-wheat flour in with the yeast and sugar and warm water, rather than adding it, dry, to the mix along with the white flour. In theory, this is a way of pre-soaking the bran (and getting the yeasty digestion started earlier on it, too) before the whole business really starts becoming “dough”.
 
I’m really liking the results. I mean, beyond the Hearty Hippie Righteousness of putting whole-grain anything into my bread, the bread actually tastes good which was NOT the case the last time I tried to bake with whole wheat flour.
Maybe this is because I’m adding a tiny bit of extra salt to the dough. Or maybe it’s because – in the intervening ten years – I’ve learned to brush the tops of my just-out-of-the-oven bread with some butter in order to keep the crust from becoming a hard-to-cut-through shell. Or maybe it’s because I bake bread (and other stuff, but in this case bread) often enough that my flour doesn’t have time to, uhm, go rancid(?) on me, and my yeast doesn’t have time to get “old” or “tired out” beofre I use it (and thus has fairly vigourous levening powers when it gets used).
 
Regardless, it’s going over well with The Wife (and The Parrot, who probably shouldn’t be fed as much bread as I give her) and tastes good with savoury things (like as the base for a pulled-pork sandwich or as toast-with-marmite) and sweet things (toast with apple butter is particularly awesome – have yet to try it with something more “delicate” like cocoa-infused strawberry-balsamic jam, but I’ll get to it eventually).
It’s nice to think, too, that I’m getting something more than just calories (maybe even the odd mineral here and there!) from this bit of home-baking that makes up so much of my day-to-day diet.
 
I’m definitely not at the 100% Whole Wheat bread-baking stage of this game, and may never (or not) opt to bake things like cakes and tea-biscuits with whole wheat flour. But it’s a step. And it may be followed by another step. Who knows where this will lead? 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.