Nitrates

Housekeeping

Preservatives, Not.

It’s time for the semi-annual explanation of a number of issues, starting with how our foods are unadulterated despite required labeling that might lead to a different conclusion. The prime contradiction is found in our link sausage packaging which declares that our sausage contains preservatives - they don’t! So why the label?

The only label our Mom & Pop butcher shop has is for smoked sausage. Smoked sausage must have preservatives added. However, all of our sausage is “fresh” (uncooked) sausage, which does not require preservatives. Nonetheless, on goes the preservatives label because, they say, it “keeps the inspector happy”. Oh well. Take it from us, our sausage does not contain preservatives.
Weenies are a different story. They do contain preservatives, but the very minimum allowed by the regulations. We were allowed that because our weenies don’t travel long distances. Brenham to Houston is a lot shorter trip than Chicago to Houston.

Packaging.

We seemed to have a spike in broken seals lately which of course defeats the purpose of paying for vacuum-sealed meats, for us and for you. We are on this problem like ducks on a June bug. There are 3 points at which the packages might be handled too roughly and we are inspecting at each of those points. If we find broken seals, they are corrected immediately. Please let us know if you receive any broken seal packages.

Hot Piggity Dog

The JVF weenies are back from our little Polish weenie maker in Schulenberg. For our newest customers who have not enjoyed the JVF weenie, some explanation.

Years ago, we decided to make a hot dog weenie from our pastured and grass-fed pork and beef (the beef version is the “Farm-tastic Frank”). We of course wanted ours to be top-shelf stuff; no organ meats or other unmentionables, no drugs, no steroids; every bit of it from prime cuts raised in natural freedom. We refined the recipe over several attempts, made the labels, and went through the approval process with the state departments of health and agriculture. This version is our pork dog, made from the whole hams of our clean porkers. You can now eat hot dogs that are actually good for you.

A couple of notes. The only “manufactured” portion of the weenie is the casing, which is derived from protein sources and, we are told, contain nothing artificial. The other note is about nitrates. Texas is pretty darned conservative when it comes to preservatives. Try as we might, the state would not excuse us from including nitrates in our weenie, but they did allow us the very minimum amount. You can tell by the mild color that that is the case. The redder the weenie, the higher the nitrate content. You couldn’t call ours red at all. Pink is closer to it. But many will ask how other weenies in the store and on the web advertise as “nitrate-free”. Those dogs have substituted garlic powder and ground celery seed. Guess what – the result is the exact equivalent of nitrate you find in our weenie.

Other notes about nitrates. While we would rather not have them simply because they are a red flag to some, the fact is that their connection to any sort of disease is very weak; secondly, if you eat one or two of ours a month, you are nowhere near anyone’s suggested hazard level. My last comment is from Salatin, who also makes weenies, and who claims that grasses are a natural detoxicant, hence the nitrates are neutralized.

Best cooking method: fry in a skillet with butter; when the casing starts to blister on all sides, they are at their eating best.

Salt and Its Cousin, Nitrates

With the recent study implicating a low-salt diet as the wrong way to go for heart health (low sodium actually increased the risk of heart disease while normal levels reduced same), it is time to take another look at salt’s cousin, nitrates and nitrites. This is a topic that has interested me ever since we perfected our Hot Piggety Dogs and Farm-tastic Franks. The State requires the addition of nitrates as a preservative, though we managed to limit the dose to as little as possible (which is why our weenies are so bland in color. The deeper the red color you see in grocery store dogs, the higher the content of nitrates. Ours are mild by comparison.)

Despite the low dose found in our only product containing preservatives, I am and always have been interested in understanding why nitrates have been implicated as a possibly deleterious preservative. The only correlation I have been able to find is as a possible contributor to colon cancer. The correlation, however, is very mild and inconclusive. I suspect the danger, if there is any, comes from eating too much food containing nitrates. Please let me know if you know of research otherwise.