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Health, Home, and Happiness: Dehydrating Almonds for flour (and a few rabbit trails)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dehydrating Almonds for flour (and a few rabbit trails)

A 25-pound box of almonds from Azure Standard. A friend and I went in together on the almonds, they're not pasteurized with propylene oxide like most almonds sold in stores (I was told my almonds from Costco are).

Why are almonds pasteurized?  Just like everything that's pasteurized, they do it to cover up the 'symptom' of industrial farming, rather than treating the root problem.

What do I mean by this? Big agriculture, ever more concerned with the bottom line than the quality of food they produce, underpay their farm workers, have sloppy farming practices, and get substandard quality.  Manure, dirt, bacteria all end up in the almonds (and industrial milk, eggs, spinach, tomatoes, beef... you've seen Food, Inc. right?), which makes people sick.  Rather than attacking the cause (substandard farming practices) 'we' go ahead and make a law that all almonds have to be pasteurized.  (I use the term 'we' sarcastically. I would not vote for such a law.)  So now we have safe dead bacteria, mold, and manure in our almonds. And pus, blood, and feces in our industrial milk. Don't forget that pasteurization doesn't take out the gross stuff that's in the food, it only kills it. Yum. This is why it's ideal to know your farmer, which I know is an overwhelming concept to begin with, but if you know the farming practices involved, you know that your farmer is taking care not to allow pus to get into his milk supply, and make sure his animals are clean before he processes them.
Anyway, on to my almonds. These from Azure are steam pasteurized (because California almonds, by law, must be pasteurized) rather than pasteurized with propylene oxide (a carcinogen that the FDA has approved for use in our food).
A friend and I went in this together. Real Food does strengthen the community. You become friends with people who are like minded and you all share what you do best.  My friend has a bit more on the money end so I'm using her dehydrator and Vitamix to make the almond flour. I have more on the time end (she works full time), so I'm soaking and dehydrating the 25 pounds of almonds, about 3 pounds at a time.  It's relatively fast, but it's something that's easier for me to do than her.  

Along these lines, I have another friend who's a midwife and will deliver our next baby, and yet another who has more land and we exchange money for fresh eggs.  Others know that we're happy to take fish or venison off their hands, and will eagerly give baked goods in exchange.  The same time-strapped friend is letting us spend the time in her back yard to do a garden this spring, while she pays the water bill and mortgage for that particular back yard and again we share the proceeds.

This is all mutually beneficial, I am happy to pay for someone to deliver my baby, I'm happy to pay for pastured eggs. I'm happy to spend time dehydrating almonds, she's happy to have soaked almonds and let me use her appliances.  What's lovely about this is that we all benefit. It's not the typical American/Hollywood attitude of 'in order for me to win, someone else has to lose', but rather it's the idea that when transactions are done well, both parties come out ahead. The people who spend their lives stepping on others, putting others down, and taking advantage may appear to win, but they aren't any more successful when you take the whole picture into account (happiness, wealth, etc).  I had found this as I grew up (I'm still growing up) but then it was put into words when I read Thou Shall Prosper.  A fascinating concept, which the book advocates can spread beyond almonds and farming and go into business as well.

Back to my almonds.  In the morning I take out the almonds that have been dehydrating 24 hours, put the ones that have been soaking in, and re-start the soaking process with a new batch.  I keep the dehydrator in my daughter's room, which stays a little cooler than the rest of the house so the warmth is welcome.  At the end I'll go to my friend's house, grind most of the almonds into flour in the Vitamix, and we'll split the proceeds. She'll get a tad more because we eat a handful of almonds still warm from the dehydrator each morning ~smile~ Like most of this real food, the hands on time is really low, maybe 20 minutes a day, but it does take patience.
How to soak and dehydrate almonds. This is the first time I've done it in a dehydrator, I usually do them in the oven.

Curious about more sustainable farming practices and how it's beneficial to the community, your health, and the environment? The 'farm' section in The Omnivore's Dilemma goes into it quite a bit. It's fascinating and encouraging that there is a realistic solution to this food mess we're in.

Is it really that overwhelming to know who is producing our food? Do we think it's overwhelming to know the people who fix our car? Who teach our children? Who prescribe our medications?  Who remodel our bathroom?  I have no problem admitting that I don't know as much as I should about the food I feed my family, but I'm not going to believe the lie that it's all too complicated and too much work, I should just give up and eat whatever everyone else eats.  I'm going to continually plug away, slowly and steadily replacing industrial foods with what I can find locally, ethically, sustainably, and healthily produced.

Another Food Conspiracy: Apricot Kernels and B17


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

We love to barter too! I just traded an armoire I no longer needed with our CSA Farmers for a few weeks worth of fresh eggs.
I think it's all one step at a time. No matter how big the issue seems – healthcare, the environment, food sources – we can just continue one tiny step at a time and let the process unfold.
Thanks for the comment you left on my last post. I hope I can inspire the children I teach to embark on their own meaningful and lifelong journey. I'm farm from self-sustaining, but do continue to try to do better and feel good about all the positive changes I've made over the years.

February 11, 2010 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jennie said...

A dehydrator is on my list of something to invest in soon (we already have a VitaMix and LOVE it!). I know you don't own one, but is there any brands you have tried that you would recommend?

Also, what recipes are you using the almond flour for?

February 11, 2010 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

Love it all. Love my vitamix and love ordering from Azure. thanks for sharing. Holly

February 11, 2010 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Cara said...

I think Excalibur are supposed to be the best dehydrators. They're square shaped too, which is good for using counter space.

February 11, 2010 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger Tommy and Mommy said...

Excellent on so many points. In a true free market, both sides win in every transaction, trading something less valuable (in ones mind or situation) for something more valuable. No one stomps on anyone else. Each gets what she wants. I'm learning tons about food from you - and I thought I already knew it all! :D

February 19, 2010 at 2:20 PM  

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