So I watched this video, Forks over Knives. More on that later, but I did start wondering about sugar alternatives like honey, since I’ve never been entirely clear on the whole business. Sugar’s not good for us, but is honey much better?

  • glucose and fructose are the basic sugars.
  • sucrose (table sugar) is disaccharide made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose; it’s broken down into glucose and fructose in the digestive tract.
  • There are also maltose, lactose and other sugars that I’m not consdering here.

Fruit and vegetables contain both sucrose, and free glucose and fructose; the proportions vary.

  • Apples and Pear have a much higher percent of fructose (total).
  • Apricots, plums, and sweetcorn have a somewhat lower percent of fructose (total).

Considering sucrose separately:

  • relatively more sucrose in apricots, peaches, pineapple, beets, carrots and sweet potatoes
  • relatively less sucrose in figs, grapes, pears, sweetcorn, sweet peppers, and sweet onion

Other sweeteners are made of of some combination of sucrose, fructose and glucose, plus water (for liquids) and traces of this and that:

  • Honey – varies, for example: 38% fructose, 31% glucose, 7% maltose, 1% sucrose
  • Maple syrup – mostly sucrose with variable amounts of fructose and glucose
  • Agave – variable and not regulated, some sources give 92% fructose and 8% glucose; another gives 56% fructose and 20% glucose. Agave nectar is hydrolized from agave juice by heating or using enzymes.
  • Corn sugar/dextrose – entirely glucose. Derived from corn (via a chemical process)
  • HFCS – the one in soft drinks is 55% fructose and 42% glucose. Derived from corn syrup via further chemical process.

Fructose is much sweeter than glucose (so less can be used) and has a lower glyemic index, but has equivalent impact on diabetes. Unlike glucose, fructose must be metabolized by the liver and excessive amounts may cause liver problems (such as fatty liver)

It’s not clear why HFCS would be worse than sugar, but rats did gain more weight and get more unhealthy on HFCS than on plain sugar. See Princeton study on rats. They hypothesize that glucose and fructose bound together into sucrose metabolizes differently than as free glucose and fructose.

There’s a number of studies that are particularly focused on HFCS, and of course the usual it’s-all-just-sugar, but I don’t find the results conclusive; everyone has an agenda. Here’s one analysis and an article on liver issues.

Given my personal opinions about nutrition, and this is fairly well supported by all the information out there; the right answer is certainly “none of the above”. Honey is not that different in proportion from HFCS but is the least processed, the most local, and has minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants.

Cooking fat and rendering lard

One of the problems of trying to produce all your own food is cooking fat. We do a lot of saute and stir fry; it seems like every thing I cook starts with saute an onion in olive oil. While I have two little olive trees, which have produced a few olives, I was baffled when I picked the olives to figure out where this olive oil might be. The olives produced a bit of whitish juice that did not much resemble olive oil. When the trees are larger perhaps with many more olives it will make some sense.

There are directions online for making a seed press from a hydraulic jack doing some welding.
You grind up your sunflower seeds, hull and all, and press. It would take a lot of sunflowers, though; a few plants yield a rather piddly amount of seeds. In a few years perhaps nuts will be a source.

We can make butter from the goat’s milk, but it’s not abundant (goat’s milk is naturally homogenized so you don’t get much) and we’d eat it up as butter rather than waste it on cooking.

I’ve rendered chicken (and turkey) fat but it has a sticky mouthfeel and a chicken flavor. It’s not impossible, just distracting. Lamb fat isn’t nice looking at all and doesn’t smell nice. I don’t even like it for soap making, the smell lingers.

But lard may be a good solution. This weekend I pulled out 10 or 15 pounds of pork fat trimmings that the butcher returned with our half-pig (not all from our half; apparently most people just let the fat be thrown away). I ground it up to extract the fat, lard. I’m quite impressed with how friendly this fat is; it’s barely solid at refrigerator temperature, has little flavor, no stickiness. I got several gallons and froze much of it. I hear you can make the best piecrusts from lard. I heard that about chicken fat too, but I couldn’t picture an apple pie with chicken-flavored crust. The lard might actually work.

I tried continuing the rendering process to make cracklings. This resulted in lard with a caramelized fragrance, a nice flavor for savory food but not for piecrust. It also resulted in a lot of unpleasant fatty cracklings. Perhaps I’m not doing it right but it wasn’t worth it.

While it’s hard to imagine us raising regular pigs (mature pigs grow to over 1000lbs), there is a endangered heritage breed of pig that says pretty small (topping out about 250lbs) and are more adaptable to pasture. Traditional pigs put on a lot of fat, since the lard was a very desirable yield back before Crisco. Modern pigs are bred to be leaner (and per “Animals in Translation” lean pigs are also nervous and poor breeders). So an old breed, bred to be fat and peaceful and easy to keep, and smaller, bred for the old-fashioned multi-purpose farm…. it might be perfect again for the New Peasant.