From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, I’m Kayte Young, and this is Earth Eats
One of the things you’ll notice about working with spelt is that it comes together immediately. Much more quickly than wheat does.
On this week’s show, we take a look back at a kitchen session with Eric Schedler of Muddy fork bakery, where he shares the secrets of his soft pita bread.
And harvest public media has a story on one more unfortunate consequence of all the flooding in the midwest this year--mosquitos.
That’s all just ahead, so stay with us.
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KY:Renee Reed has our food news this week, Hi Renee.
RR: Hi Kayte
A new lawsuit outlines an alleged conspiracy among U.S. Chicken producers to keep wages low. Most of the affected workers are immigrants working in dangerous meat cutting jobs. The lawsuit names 18 processors, including Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride and the Indiana-based data company Agri Stats Inc. Perdue and other companies in the suit have denied the allegations. The case is rooted in interviews with former employees and was filed on behalf of three former workers.
The lawsuit was filed in Baltimore federal court and is requesting class-action status for hundreds of thousands of workers. The case describes secret annual meetings since 2009 among human resources and payroll departments in a hotel in Destin, Florida, where they discussed pay and benefits for production line and maintenance workers at about 200 plants. The suit claims the companies used consulting agencies to swap detailed wage information.
A 2015 Oxfam report said poultry workers suffered occupational illnesses at a rate five times higher than other U.S. workers in 2013, with 72 percent reporting significant work-related illness or injuries. The report said workers earn low wages around $11 per hour with the real-value of wages declining almost 40 percent since the 1980s. In June this year, the Department of Justice intervened in a price-fixing suit against the country’s largest chicken producers.
The agency asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to halt a class-action suit filed by food distributor Maplevale Farm. Maplevale accused firms of employing Agri Stats, one of the companies named in the wage-fixing case, to fix prices.
In four years, German farmers, gardeners, and landscapers will no longer be able to use the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup. Germany’s Environment Ministry announced this week it will begin tapering use of the chemical glyphosate in 2020 in preparation for a total ban 3 years later. Austria and 20 mayors in France also passed glyphosate bans earlier this year.
Glyphosate is the main chemical compound in the weedkiller Roundup. Roundup was developed by the agrochemical company Monsanto, which was purchased by German company Bayer in 2016. Bayer publicly disagrees with the ban, saying that 40 years of scientific assessments by competent authorities have determined that glyphosate can be used safely. Though the EPA says glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer, the World Health Organization concluded in 2015 that it probably does.
Around 11,000 lawsuits against Bayer are pending, claiming glyphosate caused plaintiffs' cancer - most often, non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Three of those lawsuits have awarded the plaintiffs massive sums of money, including more than 2 billion dollars to a California couple in May.
RR: That’s all the news I have this week, thanks to Chad Bouchard and Taylor Killough for those stories.
KY: Thank you Renee
RR: My pleasure Kayte
KY: This year’s catastrophic flooding has created hard times for many in Midwest, but it’s been great for mosquitoes. And with increasing temperatures and flooding events expected in coming years, the region may become a more welcoming place for hungry pests. As Alex Smith reports for Harvest Public Media, some experts say we’re not ready to deal with the diseases they may carry.
AS: In August of 2012, Rebecca O’Sullivan hosted a party in Wichita, Kansas. She had just a single glass of wine but woke up with what felt like the worst hangover imaginable. She thought it was the flu but soon found out she’d contracted West Nile Virus, which can affect the brain.
O’SULLIVAN2 “I lost the ability to count. I couldn’t do basic addition and subtraction. I just remember thinking I’m going to collapse at work.”
AS: She had to leave her job in the aerospace industry, and her health got worse. A neurologist later discovered that the virus had caused meningoencephalitis. West Nile virus, which first appeared in the US 20 years ago this summer, showed up this year in the Midwest before its typical season, not long after the floods hits.
FRANKS 1: “As you can see here, this overview, all that water, and then that sand through the trees. There’s a lot of land underwater.”
AS: In northwest Missouri, Lanny Franks drives his truck past fields that look like Everglade wetlands, even months after the heaviest rainfall.
FRANKS 2: “Flooding just changes the entire scope of the area. Nothing’s ever completely the same again after a flood.”
AS: But experts say this could become much more common. In the coming years, many parts of the Midwest are expected to see more flooding, and that could also lead to more mosquito-borne viruses … like West Nile. Cory Morin is a health researcher at the University of Washington.
MORIN 1: “Once that flooding kind of resides and you get lots of standing pools of water, then the mosquito populations can really thrive, and you see a real big increase in both the populations and then, in some cases, a disease if there’s a pathogen circulating in the area.”
AS: There’s also the possibility of more drought … which would lead to more disease, too.
Increasing temperatures can also increase the mosquito populations, and that may already be happening. Since the 1980s, the mosquito season in the Midwest has increased by roughly 18 days. But critics say that Missouri and other areas in the Midwest aren’t taking the right approach to handle the problem.
ALLEYNE 1: “The key with addressing these particular illnesses is to be proactive.”
AS: Dr. Oscar Alleyne is an epidemiologist with the National Association of County and City Health Officials. In 2017, the organization polled health departments about how well they follow federal mosquito prevention guidelines. The group found that almost no local health departments in Missouri met the basic requirements. The same was true in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Alleyne says if cities and counties don’t do more on mosquitoes, there’s only so much a state can do to prevent these diseases from taking hold.
ALLEYNE 2: “In a true, comprehensive response, it’s a local activity that needs to have that strength and support in order for us to be successful.”
AS: Alleyne says some of these health departments have stepped up their game. Nebraska, for example, produces weekly reports on diseases and mosquitos by county.
But others, like in the Kansas City area, don’t do this work. Jackson County, Missouri Health Department spokeswoman Kayla Parker explains that the reason is simple.
PARKER 1: “So e actually just don’t have the local resources to do a program like that.”
AS: State-level efforts in Missouri have been stretched thin, too. After West Nile appeared, Missouri got about half a million dollars of federal money a year for mosquitoes … today, the funding is less than a third of that. Dr. Alleyn says that, even if reports of a disease outbreak led to more funds for health departments, these agencies would be unprepared and unable to help people affected by it. West Nile Virus season typically runs from mid-August through late September. It can be a nerve-wracking time of year for Rebecca O’Sullivan, whose health and outlook have slowly been improving.
O’SULLIVAN 3: “The difference is, I know that I’m going to be around tomorrow. It might be a little bit better. It could be worse, but it’s going to be different and I've gotta live the best life that I can.”
AS: She worries that many neighbors and health officials still aren’t taking the risks of mosquitoes seriously. For Harvest Public Media, I’m Alex Smith.
KY: Hear more from this reporting collective at Harvest Public Media dot org
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KY: If you are a regular customer at the Bloomington Farmers’ Market, or the winter market, you're probably familiar with Muddy Fork bakery. They’re the ones with all of the beautifully shaped loaves of bread for sale, the flaky croissants, buttery, hot pretzels, and in the summertime, fresh baked pizza (including breakfast pizza, with bacon and egg toppings) They’re in their tenth year of business, and they’ve been featured on Earth Eats before.
I recently had the chance to visit with Eric Schedler out at Muddy Fork bakery, at their commercial kitchen on their property located on a country road a few miles east of town.
Today we’re gonna make some spelt pita. You can make pita with all kinds of flour. You probably typically think of mostly white flour in a pita but if you are interested in whole grains...pita is a great way to try out using spelt. Spelt can be a little trickier to work with than wheat. Spelt is a wheat family grain. It's an ancient grain and it has a little bit of a different dough quality to it that actually lends itself really nicely to being used in pita, pizza dough, flatbreads because it has a great ability to stretch. It just stretches really easily without ripping so it makes it easy to stretch things out like pita and pizza dough. It also has a quality in the finished bread or flatbread where it's a very soft sort of spongey texture which I think is great for pita. So we're gonna make whole grain spelt pitas today.
KY: Okay, we are going to pause here, for a quick tour through a few of the wheat types that Muddy Fork uses in their weekly baking.
ES: So I have three different kinds of wheat here. I have turkey red wheat, which is an heirloom wheat from the 19th century that was brought to Kansas by Mennonites immigrating from the Ukraine and at one time it was the most popular wheat, most widely grown wheat in the US. It almost disappeared and started having a revival among bakers. So that's the...turkey red wheat is the wheat that we use in our whole wheat breads and it looks like a typical hard red wheat. Turkey red is a winter wheat. As a hard red wheat it's got sort of small reddish, brownish looking grains and we compare that with the ancient grains those are quite a bit larger. The spelt is a similar color to the wheat red wheats. It's got that reddish, brownish color but it's a lot softer than the turkey red wheat so we can take a grain and (cracking sound) that's the turkey red, it goes crunch and if you take a grain of spelt (cracking sound) it's a lot easier to chew even though it's bigger. And that makes it unique because among modern wheats, the soft wheats are lower in protein than the hard wheats and they are softer to chew which is why they're called soft wheats but the spelt is actually a high protein grain but it's got the soft texture to it. It has it's own distinct lineage because it's an ancient grain and it has, as we've discussed, it has a different quality to the gluten that makes the dough feel different and behave differently. Now we get to the kamut which is the biggest grain and it's golden in color. It's also golden all the way through where as the spelt and the red wheat are only red on the brand but once you cut them open they're white inside. This is gold all the way through and it's related to semolina which also has that quality of being golden all the way through. The kamut is also very high in protein and iron too I think and it's really hard, super hard. (double cracking sound)
KY: (laughs) was that your tooth or the grain?
ES: I’m not sure, let me figure out.
KY: So now, back to the spelt pita dough
ES: This is freshly milled spelt off of our stone mill which if you like our Muddy Fork flour you can find it at Bloomingfoods if you're into making bread you may have a little tabletop grain mill at home and you can mill your own spelt. Alright, so we're going to start with water and yeast. This recipe is going to make six four-ounce pitas and I only bake bread doughs by mix and make bread by weight which is very typical in bakeries. It's not as typical in the US for home cooks to use a scale but it's easier and more precise than measuring especially when you get the big quantities you gotta measure twenty, fifty cups of flour would be ridiculous so we weigh everything. So we're gonna get three hundred and fifteen grams of water (pouring sounds) and then we'll put the yeast in the water for just a minute to let it dissolve. So we want a gram and a half of yeast. There's a simple rule about weight conversions with the dry yeast and that is a quarter teaspoon is about a gram. A tablespoon is about ten to twelve grams so for a gram and a half, we're going to do a quarter teaspoon which is one gram and then a half of that quarter teaspoon. I'm impatiently whisking yeast to get it to dissolve a little faster (whisking sounds). Yeast is dissolved now we're going to add the other two ingredients which is the spelt flour and the salt. We want 375 grams of spelt so spelt's pretty thirsty flour and you can see there's only a little bit more flour than water in this dough. We can get into baker's math but the basic idea of how professional baker's describe their recipes is by percentages so that it can be scaled any particular amounts. So in this recipe if you count flour as a hundred parts then the water is 84 parts to that so we would say this dough has 84% hydration. Everything is measured against the flour. Flour always counts as a hundred percent. And the salt, six grams of salt which is about a teaspoon and a third, see how close that is. I'm using a teaspoon and the scale at the same time. I think closer to a teaspoon and a quarter. Get yourself a spoon and stir it up (stirring sounds). If you made bread from wheat flours before then one of the things you'll notice about working with spelt is that it comes together immediately. Much more quickly than wheat does. It just has this, the gluten has a different quality to it where it becomes cohesive right away and then it becomes very extensible as it ferments. And when I say extensible I mean that the quality of stretching out, flattening out. If you were to take a ball of spelt dough and a ball of wheat dough and put them on the table, the spelt you would watch them spread out before your eyes in a way that the wheat doesn't. I did what I could with my mixing spoon and now I'm sticking my hands in here to incorporate this flour.
KY: It doesn't look that sticky...
ES: It's wet but it's not that sticky (mixing sounds)
KY: He's basically pulling a piece of the dough over the top and kind of pushing it in and spinning the bowl around as he does so.
ES: Yeah so I like to knead and mix the dough in the bowl rather than on the table which is sort of a more old fashioned way to knead your dough because then you keep adding more and more flour as you're working it on the table. Alright, that's it. That's our spelt pita dough. We're just going to set it over on the other side of the room and let it sit for a few hours. We'll come back and give it a few folds. During that time which helps build strength in the dough, and that looks really the same as my mixing technique where I'm taking a little piece of dough from the edge of the bowl, pushing it down in middle, spinning the bowl a little bit, pulling another piece and when I talk about folding dough. We're just gonna go around the whole circumference once or twice and that’s a fold.
KY: So the dough has been mixed, now it needs to ferment. When we come back, we’ll divide the dough, and get it ready to shape for the pitas.
KY: Production support comes from Elizabeth Ruh, enrolled agent providing customized financial services for individuals, businesses and disabled adults including tax planning, bill paying and estate services. More at Personal Financial Services dot net.
Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at griffy creek dot studio.
And Insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage, in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at 812-336-6838
KY: I'm Kayte Young, this is Earth Eats, and we are back with Eric Schedler of Muddy Fork Bakery. We are making Pita bread today, using Muddy Fork’s freshly ground spelt flour.
ES: Here we have pita dough which has been going for a few hours. It's very puffy. It has a nice grainy, fermenty smell to it. It's a little sticky looking. I'll put some flour on a table and pull it out with my bowl scraper. Maybe a little heavier on the flour than some of the other ones because it's a wetter dough. We are going to cut this into four-ounce pieces for our pitas. I want to just make sure it's not stuck to the table so I'm going to slide it around on some flour, let it pick up a little bit of that on the bottom side and then I'll cut with my bench scraper.
KY: If you are not familiar with a bench scraper, it is an essential tool for many bakers. It’s basically a wide, flat blade, a rectangle with a handle running the length of one side of the rectangle, and it’s not a terribly sharp blade It's less like a knife and more like a metal spatula. And it's great for cutting dough, scraping your work surface, and moving pieces of dough around on your table or countertop. It's sometimes called a bench knife. Eric is using it to divide the dough.
We’ve got our six little balls here and now we're going to...well six little lumps. Now we're going to make them into balls and we're going to make them as tight as we can and the more evenly tight you can make the balls the more likely it is that they'll puff up the way you want them to. So we're gonna use a little flour and we're gonna use the same kind of motion we've used before where we pull the dough from the outside to the middle but now it's on the tabletop instead of in the bowl and when you get to the end there's this tightening motion you can do by pushing the seam against the table and rotating and sort of tugging the dough up and inside. If you did this all day, you'd do one with each hand. You want to get a little traction with your dough on the table so you get the sound of the dough sliding on the table.
KY: This can be difficult to explain without seeing it, but he’s basically holding the small piece of dough in his hand and pushing it slightly against the table, while rotating the ball. He's tucking the bottom of the dough in and under, and creating a nice, taut surface across the top of the dough ball.
ES: Running out of flour so I put a little more down here...
KY: It takes some practice to get this part down.
ES: Alright, there we’ve got six nice little round balls of spelt dough to make pitas.
KY: Normally, Eric would bake the pitas in their brick oven in the bakery
ES: Which is seven and a half feet deep and five feet wide and it's a little bit cool right now because we have a weekly heating and baking cycle and the oven just retains heat for the whole week when we're finished heating it on Friday night it's about six hundred and seventy and at this point a Tuesday in the middle of the day it's at 365...
KY: And that’s too cool for our pita baking. So we took the dough on a short walk up the hill, to the house where Eric and his family live. We’ll bake the pitas in Eric’s regular home oven. You might hear his youngest daughter Ruth in the background…
ES: So we’ve got our balls of dough that have been resting for, oh thirty, forty minutes and I'm just taking them up off the wooden board or you might just have them sitting on your table and put quite a bit of flour on them because you're gonna roll'em thin and you're gonna use up that flour quickly. And I start rolling with a rolling pin and I'm rotating frequently so I can try to keep the shape nice and round. Of course, if you have ovals no problem. I'm just used to making things look round. Now we want them to be about six to eight inches across I think.
KY: And those don't seem to be springing back that much....
ES: No and part of that is the spelt, because the spelt has that extensibility to it where it will stretch easily and the rest they had a nice rest after rounding them. If you try to roll them right away they definitely would. okay we’ve got two pitas ready to go here...
KY: After rolling out the pita’s, he’s placed them on what's called a pizza peel, it’s one of those large wooden paddle-shaped tools with a long handle. It makes it a ot easier to slide things like pizza or pita bread into a hot oven.
ES: I’ve preheated some fire bricks in the oven and you can use a pizza stone the same way. I just happen to have fire bricks lying around from having built a brick oven and I've preheated them at about 500 and now I've turned the oven down to 450. Emulates a brick oven because in our wood fired oven the bricks are the heat source so the air is always a little cooler than the bricks. Here we go sliding them on, closing the door.
KY: And then on the peel you have a little bit of rice flour but you could cornmeal or something...
ES: You can but I really like rice flour on a peel. I think it's more effective than regular flour or cornmeal. It also burns at a higher temperature than cornmeal and wheat.
KY: So you don't get that smoky...
ES: You don't get as much...depends on how your oven is. Our break is about 670 when we start baking bread on Friday nights so...
KY: Making pita is a fun thing to do with kids, or really, with anyone who hasn’t lost their sense of wonder. After a few minutes in the hot oven, they begin to puff up as the signature “pocket” fills with steam. With an oven light and a window, it happens right before your eyes, like a time-lapse video, but it’s real-time. It’s quite magical
ES: Alright, I’m going to crack open the door and it looks like they've started to inflate....turning into little balloons in there so we're going to make sure the bottoms get a little bit brown, which they're not yet and then we’ll flip ‘em over.
KY: this is a small, flatbread,so it doesn't take long
ES: Alright, I’m gonna flip these pitas over. I think it's easier with a spatula then using the peel. There we go. I popped them too.
KY: So now they’re deflating...[Music] as always, we will have this recipe available on our website, earth eats dot org
ES: Alright so the first two pitas are done. We're taking them out and I like to cool them on a plate with a towel and so you make a stack of pitas and as you're taking them out and making the stack bigger in between each batch you bring the towel over it to cover so that they stay moist and warm and soft.
KY: And that’s how you make pita. Each batch only takes a few minutes to bake. You can make a whole stack of them for dinner, and the extras keep nicely in a plastic bag for lunch the next day.
Check the earth eats website for the episode where Eric Schedler teaches us how easy it is to make the perfect filling for your pita pocket-- falafel. From scratch. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds. You can find that episode in our archives, and if you just need the recipe, it’s there too. Earth eats dot org.
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RR: The Earth Eats team includes Eobon Binder, Chad Bouchard, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Taylor Killough, Josephine McRobbie, Daniel Orr, The IU Food Institute, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.
Special thanks this week to Eric Schedler and everyone at Muddy Fork Bakery.
Production support comes from insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at 812-336-6838.
Elizabeth Ruh, enrolled agent with Personal Financial Services assisting businesses and individuals with tax preparation and planning for over 15 years. More at Personal Financial Services dot net and Bill Brown at Griffy Creek studio. Architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy-positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at Griffy creek dot studio