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Hard Apple Cider - Make sure it's Gluten-Free!

I’ve had a couple of rude awakenings lately about hidden sources of gluten in things that I assumed were gluten-free. My husband took a beer making class recently and when describing the process he noted that barley malt is a common ingredient in beer – apparently the high sugar content makes for a more alcoholic end product. Then a few weeks later, I was in the mood for hard apple cider and I just happened to pick up a bottle that said “Made without added malt.” What? It never occurred to me that they’d add malt to hard cider, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense if their goal was to up the alcohol content of the final product. Dangit. So add cider to the list of things to be careful about and always, always ask to see the label when ordering at a restaurant.

Look for "Gluten-Free" or the absence of "Malt" and "Barley Malt" in the Ingredients

There’s a fascinating article in the New York Times today about how a man suffering from celiac disease discovered his weakened immune system had made him susceptible to an uncontrollable yeast population in his gut. He was able to control it by eliminating high-sugar foods from his diet, and interestingly, by moving out of New York City, where there were a number of environmental triggers (mold, pigeon filth) that were exacerbating the condition.

At the same time, there is another fascinating article about the microbiome in our guts and how it is just beginning to be understood by science. This story focusses on a doctor who treated a patient with a raging infection in her gut by replacing her gut microbes with her husband’s gut microbes. They call it a fecal transplant (wow. These scientists should take a page out of the Right’s book for naming unpleasant things: The Patriot Act, The Clean Skies Act, etc.) To date they’ve tried it on 15 patients and it has completely cured 13. Amazing. I wonder if someday they will come up with a cure for celiac that gets our guts in line by simply replacing our microbiomes with healthy, functional ones.

Frozen Blubberies, oh my

Quick! Best snack in the world?!?!?! Ok, I’m going to bet a lot of money you didn’t say frozen blueberries. Dangit. But they’re right up there in my book with the all-time greats:

  • olives
  • cheese
  • pickles
  • popcorn
  • peanut butter and hot sauce (seriously! Try it)

Honestly, I’d never had frozen blueberries before but Stanley’s, oh, great fountain of produce, from time to time rocks these absurd sales on organic produce, and when they do, I lose all self-control and let my inner hunter-gatherer go bonkers filling up the shopping cart. Of course, then I get home and my husband looks at me like I’m a total loony bin so I have to think quick. What was I planning on doing with all those blueberries? Well, obviously, I say in my most authoritative tone, they’re amazing frozen. You’ll see. Trust me on this one.

Luckily I was right. Frozen blueberries are delicious. Just buy them fresh when they’re cheap and in season. Wash them in their plastic houses, drain, and pop in the freezer. Before chowing, take them out and let them sit for 5ish minutes to soften ever so slightly. Dang, mother nature knows how to make ’em!

Bi bim bap, anyone? I used to think that was safe for celiacs, and I especially relished the thick, red sauce, gochujang, that came with it. I even found it at an Asian market and got through an entire jar before bothering to read the ingredient list. No surprise, the wheat-beast was featured prominently on the list. Dangit. So the search was on for a recipe. Unfortunately, I came face-to-face with the following line from Wikipedia:

It has been made at home in Korea since the 16th century, after chili peppers were first introduced. The making of gochujang at home began tapering off when commercial production started in the early 1970s and came into the mass market. Now, homemade gochujang can hardly be found.

Hardly be found?!?! Was this written in the age of The Internets?! Impossiblum. I set to searchin’.

Mercifully, I found two recipes relatively quickly. I tried this one first, from the Shizouka Gourmet. Since the measurements are all in grams and mL (awkward!) I’ve included the conversions below. Then just follow Shizouka’s directions. Deeeeeeeelish!

Gochujang: Korean Spicy Bean Paste

  • 1 1/8 c. water
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. + 1 T Korean chili powder (I suppose you could substitute any ol’ chili powder, but real chiliheads would cry foul)
  • 1 c. miso paste (be sure to read the ingredient list because some misos are fermented with barley)
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 t. sake
  • 1 t. rice vinegar