Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is Your Chicken Stock Gluten Free?

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am busy with Thanksgiving preparations and activities. We went to Montauk to do our traditional Thanksgiving turkey trot this morning and now the brined turkey is in the oven. Reading the label on the Swanson's Organic Chicken Broth my mom was using to make the gravy, I came upon "organic wheat" towards the end of the ingredient list. Although my mom is making a huge effort to make this a gluten free Thanksgiving, "organic wheat" is most definitely not gluten free, so my advice to anyone cooking a gluten free Thanksgiving is to READ THE LABELS of all processed food you are using to check for gluten containing ingredients so you don't inadvertently make your gluten free guests sick. We hadn't eaten the gravy yet, so it wasn't a disaster. And I happened to have brought a homemade chicken stock with me (doesn't everyone travel with a homemade chicken stock?) so I can make a separate gf gravy for our gluten free family without disrupting any of the preparations. But, I wanted to let everyone know how important reading labels is when you making gluten free food.

I know it is a lot of work to prepare a gluten free Thanksgiving for 12 people when only 4 people are gluten free so I do appreciate the effort, but if you are going to go to all the effort, you might as well check every label to make sure it is in fact gluten free. Which is a lot of effort, but worth doing if your family gets sick from eating gluten.

Most people would assume chicken stock is gluten free. But because I read every label on everything searching for hidden gluten, I know that chicken stock and soup frequently contain gluten.

Looking on the internet, it looks like most companies direct you to the label to see if there are allergens in the chicken stock because recipes are constantly changing. Because gluten is wheat, rye, barley and non GF oats, you also have to know what to look for when you are reading labels.

The following are basic ingredients which indicate gluten is present from Gluten Free in SD:
  • wheat
  • rye
  • barley
  • malt (usually made from barley), malt flavoring, malt syrup, malt extract, and malt vinegar
  • kamut, triticale, spelt, durum, farina, eindorn, semolina, bulgar
  • cake flour, matzo, matzah
  • couscous
  • wheat starch, modified wheat starch, hydrolyzed wheat protein

Scott Adams on has a more extensive list of unsafe ingredients that is also handy to have access to when you are trying to decipher ingredients on a label.

I admit, it is all a little overwhelming to decipher long labels, but once you know what you are looking for it gets easier. And the habit of reading labels becomes second nature and not as overwhelming as it seems at first. And if a long list of ingredients seems overwhelming, you can choose a product with less ingredients to make it simpler. A long list of indecipherable ingredients means a product that is more of a scientific experiment than a real food anyway and is more likely to contain gluten.

Having dodged a gluten bullet--I am off to make a gf gravy using homemade chicken stock, a little gluten free flour, and a bay leaf. Wishing you and your family a happy gluten free Thanksgiving!

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