Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan?

I am developing our spring and summer cake ranges at the moment. After the success of our gin and tonic cakes, it seemed like a good idea to try another favourite drink in cake form. Prosecco is a delicious and much-loved Italian white wine, which seems perfect for a spring cake.

Let’s start with the good news. Is Prosecco gluten free? I would never say that all Prosecco is 100% gluten free, but I think it is fair to say, it is pretty much gluten free. Obviously, wines aren’t fermented from gluten-containing ingredients, like beer or whisky are, but there are possible sources of gluten contamination. For example, some wine barrels are sealed with a gluten-containing paste. It is possible that this gluten could contaminate the wine inside. However, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat-Martinotti method, which uses steel tanks, rather than casks or fermenting in the bottle. This means Prosecco is cheaper to produce, and removes the potential gluten source of the cask sealant. Hooray!

Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Is Prosecco vegan? Maybe. The Charmat-Matinotti method requires clarification of the Prosecco, after the second fermentation. This process is called fining. A fining agent is added to the wine to bond with suspended particles, such as grape fragments, and even soluble substances, such as tannins. Some fining agents are of animal origin: egg whites, casein from milk, gelatin, and isinglass from the swim bladders of fish (as an aside, how did anyone discover this? “Well, Gianni, we’ve tried tiger spleen and armadillo kidney, but it’s not clarifying the wine. Let’s give it one last go with a goldfish swim bladder and see what happens.”) Wines made using animal-origin fining agents may be a concern to vegans. The good news is that there are non-animal alternatives made from minerals, for example bentonite clay or activated charcoal. The only way to know is to check the brand of Prosecco you are buying. Luckily, the fantastic website, Barnivore, has already done the hard work for you. You can be sure that we will check the brands we use to make sure that they are vegan.

Is Prosecco gluten free and vegan? Very probably, and maybe!

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Light at the End of the Allergy Tunnel

This is a good news post, and the blog I would have liked to read at the beginning of our journey. Things are going very well for the Allergy Brothers at the moment. It hasn’t always been like this. In the beginning, the Allergy Brothers were two very unwell, little boys. Allergy Wizard was so malnourished that he actually wore out his first pair of shoes because he just didn’t grow out of them. Everything changed, after the boys were finally referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and we had a path to navigate to get them safely back to health. The trauma and terror of the early days was replaced with the demoralising discovery, that every new food we tried to introduce, just added another food to the list of their avoided allergens.

We were told that the boys would grow out of their allergies by age three. Their third birthdays came and their allergies were still going strong. Then we were told that the allergies would probably be gone by the time they started school, but they both started school with long lists of things to avoid. We all started to give up on the possibility that the boys would ever grow out of any of their allergies, but it is finally happening! In the last sixth months, they have had successful trials of strawberries, citrus fruits and dairy.

In the last week or so, the boys have started eating products made with rice flour. So far, there have been no reactions. This is literally life changing for all of us as it opens up a world of free from products. The photo that heads this blog doesn’t look like much – a scrappily-made fish finger sandwich. For us, it’s a novelty. A month ago, making a fishfinger sandwich would start with activating yeast, ready to make the bread dough, while cutting the fish fillets into goujons. This did mean that the boys had a very healthy diet, but we now have more freedom. Meals can be quickly put together so I don’t have to constantly watch the time to make sure I have long enough to cook before they get hungry. We need to make sure things really are going well, but they might yet have their first meal out…

The Cost of Multiple Allergies

Last year, I saw an Instagram post by AllergyKid2006 that showed the impact of food allergies on budgets. Another family commented that it becomes even more expensive when there are multiple allergies. Those families live in the USA, but it certainly seems like we pay more to keep the Allergy Brothers safely fed in the UK too. I wondered how much the difference in prices is exactly, so I took a notebook along to my last supermarket shop…

Regular Food

Allergy Brothers’ Equivalent

Asda Soft White Rolls £1

Asda Fusilli 45p

Asda Semi-skinned milk 48p per litre

Fairtrade Dairy Milk chocolate (45g) 60p

Old El Paso Regular tortillas (326g) £1.49

Asda Golden Balls cereal (375g) 89p

Asda Sunflower spread 90p

Radox Kids Bath and Body Wash (400ml) £2.50

Pizza and Pastry Multimix £2.99

Eskal Corn Pasta £2.02

Ecomil Almond Milk £2.49 per litre

Kinnerton Free From Chocolate (85g) £1.30

Old El Paso White corn tortillas (208g) £1.90

Nature’s Path Munch cereal (300g) £3.89

Pure Sunflower Spread £2.35

Jason Chamomile Body Wash (887ml) £10.99

It’s shocking to see the differences in prices. This doesn’t include additional costs, such as petrol used to travel to larger supermarkets or the cost of electricity or gas to bake the bread mixes.

In the UK, gluten free foods used to be prescribed by doctors so people with Coeliac disease could access them for free. This has been restricted since December 2018 to just bread and mixes, although, in some areas, even this has been stopped. The Allergy Brothers have never been eligible for any financial help, as they have allergies, not Coeliac disease; and they are allergic to most of the prescribable breads anyway!

AllergyKid2006 linked to an American not-for-profit organisation called the Food Equality Initiative, which provides free from foods to families in need, who have allergies or Coeliac disease. As food bank use soars in the UK and the NHS stops prescribing safe foods, it seems likely that we are going to need a British equivalent to the Food Equality Initiative or see families really struggling to feed their children safely.

One month on…

Wow!  It has been a busy month here at Allergy Towers.  I have been jumping through hoops, like an overexcited collie in an agility competition.  I am really pleased to say that I passed my Level 2 in Food Hygiene and Handling.  We also passed our Food Standards Agency inspection, and got the top grade (5, very good).

20180622_105948We have been testing lots of vegan, gluten free cakes, including a gin cake with tonic icing that I felt the need to test extensively.  Our testing panel have been generous with their time and taste buds, and supportive.  Yesterday, we delivered our first batch to Cornflower Wholefoods, Brightlingsea, Essex, UK.  I don’t know how well the cakes will sell, but we are going to give it our best shot.

The next stage will be about fulfilling our whole purpose.  We’ll be looking at developing relationships with local organisations so we can offer work-related learning to autistic young people.

It’s all really exciting, bit scary, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few months…

 

 

Is Gin & Tonic Vegan and Gluten Free?

I don’t know about you, but, in these troubling times, I find comfort in the minutiae of life.  There’s nothing like disappearing down a rabbit hole of information to escape reality.

At the moment, my mind is often preoccupied with thinking about new recipes for The Allergy Brothers Cakes.  I am wondering if it is possible to make a vegan and gluten free gin and tonic cake…  Not for the Allergy Brothers themselves, they are a bit young! Maybe for all the parents contemplating the school summer holidays?  The obvious first question is “is gin and tonic vegan and gluten free?”

Gin is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “a clear alcoholic spirit distilled from grain or malt and flavoured with juniper berries”.  Grain and malt doesn’t sound very gluten free.  However, as the gluten proteins are removed during the distillation process, all spirits, unless a gluten-containing ingredient is added after distillation, are gluten free.  However, some very, very sensitive individuals might react to gin distilled from grain and malt.  In the UK, Chase’s gin is made from an apple base, and not grain.  However, gin is gluten free enough to get a thumbs up from the Coeliac UK website so I feel confident with sticking with my old favourite, Bombay Sapphire.

Bombay Sapphire is gluten free, but is it vegan?  Luckily, there is a fantastic website called Barnivore that allows you to check whether specific alcoholic drinks are vegan.  Bombay Sapphire is marked as vegan friendly.  A very few gins are not because gelatin is used to remove impurities in the filtration process, because honey is added as a flavouring, or because beeswax is used to seal the casks.

Now to check the tonic water!  Tonic water is just carbonated water with quinine and flavourings and sweeteners added.  It should be naturally gluten free.  It should also be vegan.  However, some vegans are concerned that some tonic waters, particularly American brands, contain High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Some vegan writers felt that this was just a bad product to consume, and were concerned about the level of pollution caused by mass corn production.  I am planning on using Fever Tree tonic water, which is made from Natural Quinine, Cane Sugar, Spring Water, Citric Acid, and Natural Flavours, so my recipe will be HFCS free.

Phew!  Gin and tonic is vegan and gluten free!  I think I might have a glass to celebrate.  Purely, for research, of course.

Future of The Allergy Brothers (& GDPR)

The Allergy Brothers has always been a team effort with the boys and I working together to test foods and develop recipes (Allergy Dad is chief cake tester!).  Allergy Wizard is particularly motivated and will tell anyone, who will listen, about the blog.

Recently, we visited our favourite, local whole foods shop, Cornflower in Brightlingsea.  Allergy Wizard was busy talking to Christy, Cornflower’s owner, about our cakes.  She was so impressed by his sales pitch that she gave him some free ingredients to make her some samples.  We were very pleased and surprised when Christy asked if she could stock our cakes.  Yay!

It turns out there are, rightly, lots of hoops to jump through before you can sell food to the public.  I am pleased to say I passed my Level 2 in Food Hygiene and Handling.  My next job is to complete a 92 page document for the Environmental Health Officer!

I don’t know if this is feasible, but we are going to give it our best shot.  The Allergy Brothers will become a food producing company.20180524_122818

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