Salad Dressing

Luna called last night, to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. Attila and I got to chat with the Grandbabies for a bit. It is challenging, because their phone is through their internet connection, and kept blanking out, so there were frequent periods where we couldn’t tell if the kids were being silent, or were talking, unheard. They sound so different than they did when we last saw them, in December 2012. They grow up so fast, in the blink of an eye!

It snowed all day yesterday. It was very windy, so for most of the day the snow was prevented from accumulating on the newly unfurled leaves. But it did accumulate on flat surfaces. When I retired for the night there was a half inch thick blanket of white on the deck. And miraculously, it was exactly the same when I arose this morning. No trees were damaged, which was my primary concern. The temperature is rising, it is already 3C, and the sun is out and making short work of the snow. It is a bright and drippy day.

I have managed to garner an additional three hour shift at work, in June. It will be at a distant location where I always enjoy my day, but make very little money after transportation expenses are accounted for. And since it is so remote, not everyone will travel all that way to take that particular shift. Since I like it so much, it is a win/win situation.

While in town shopping last week, I purchased a small bag of xanthan gum. It is relatively expensive, so I plan on using it for only one thing, salad dressings. We eat a lot of salads, and a lot of vegetables.

One thing I took careful note of; NOT TO BREATH IN THE DUST that billows around disturbed xanthan gum. I used a funnel to pour the contents of the bag into a glass jar. Dust billowed, I stepped back so as not to breath it into my lungs. Thank goodness. There was a very light film of xanthan gum dust on the funnel, which I had placed in a sink of dishwater after using it. When I went to wash the dishes, just a few minutes later, there was a film of “jelly” on the funnel, and it clung. That could have been in my lungs. I will be very careful with this ingredient, and use it sparingly.

Now that I have my secret ingredient on the shelf, my great salad dressing recipe development project is underway with Batch One. I began with a likely looking recipe from the Internet, that called for 1 1/2 cups of olive oil and 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar. I reduced the recipe to 1/3 of the original. I now know that recipe’s proportion, of oil to vinegar, is wayyyyyy to high for my taste buds. I think half and half might work better for me. So I kept adding lemon juice and eventually started adding water. I also added a pinch of xanthan gum, salt, pepper, sugar, dried basil, garlic granules and minced onion. By the time I was done adding bits of this and bits of that, I had a salad dressing that I liked.

However, because I was adding things constantly, a recordable recipe was out of the question. So, when I have enjoyed the entirety of Batch One, I will move on to Batch Two, measuring and recording more carefully, with the same basic ingredients.

What the xanthan gum does is emulsify the ingredients, and create a creamy consistency that actually increases the degree to which the dressing clings to the raw vegetables. It is expensive, but is used in such sparing quantities that my purchase will literally last for years.

Used, empty, glass juice bottles are just the right size for my recipe for salad dressing. But the lids are a problem. They collect organic matter under the rolled rim, where it grows unpleasant organisms, which are very difficult to remove. So my next task is to discover a good way to clean and safely use these lids. My first experiment involves lid preservation, using waxed paper, placed between the glass jar and the screwed on lid. It might work. I am a big fan of waxed paper; it is inexpensive and biodegradable and I have been using it since it wrapped my Grade One lunch sandwiches.

Before the Mother’s Day Snow Storm

Worldly Distractions


Condition: Mainly Sunny
Pressure: 101.4 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 2.8°C
Dewpoint: -1.4°C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: WNW 21 gust 45 km/h


“I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.”
Edgar Allan Poe
1809 – 1849

Xantham Gum

“Xanthan Gum is used by people who are allergic to gluten to add volume and viscosity to bread and other gluten-free baked goods. It is made from a tiny microorganism called Xanthomonas campestris and is a natural carbohydrate.” [a secreted polysaccharide]

“The polysaccharide is prepared by inoculating a sterile aqueous solution of carbohydrate(s), a source of nitrogen, dipotassium phosphate, and some trace elements. The medium is well-aerated and stirred, and the polymer is produced extracellularly into the medium. The final concentration of xanthan produced will vary greatly depending on the method of production, strain of bacteria, and random variation. After fermentation that can vary in time from one to four days, the polymer is precipitated from the medium by the addition of isopropyl alcohol, and the precipitate is dried and milled to give a powder that is readily soluble in water or brine.
In the United States, the manufacture of one kilogram of cheese creates nine kg of the byproduct whey, for which the USDA sought to find more uses. Whey is composed mostly of water and lactose, so researchers developed a strain of X. campestris that would grow on lactose rather than glucose. The newly developed lactose-using bacteria produced 30 g/L of xanthan gum for every 40 g/L of whey powder. Whey-derived xanthan gum is commonly used in many commercial products, such as shampoos and salad dressings.

It was discovered by an extensive research effort by Allene Rosalind Jeanes and her research team at the United States Department of Agriculture, which involved the screening of a large number of biopolymers for their potential uses. It was brought into commercial production by the Kelco Company under the trade name Kelzan in the early 1960s. It was approved for use in foods after extensive animal testing for toxicity in 1968. It is accepted as a safe food additive in the USA, Canada, Europe, and many other countries, with E number E415.

Xanthan gum derives its name from the strain of bacteria used during the fermentation process, Xanthomonas campestris. X. campestris is the same bacterium responsible for causing black rot to form on broccoli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables. The bacteria forms a slimy substance which acts as a natural stabilizer or thickener.On May 20, 2011 the FDA issued a press release about SimplyThick, a food-thickening additive containing xanthan gum as the active ingredient, warning “parents, caregivers and health care providers not to feed SimplyThick, a thickening product, to premature infants.”[9] The concern is that the product may cause necrotizing enterocolitis (i.e., NEC). As of July 10, 2012 the FDA has not established the causal link between SimplyThick and NEC…

Xanthan gum may be derived from a variety of source products that are themselves common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. As such, persons with known sensitivities or allergies to food products are advised to avoid foods including generic xanthan gum or first determine the source for the xanthan gum before consuming the food.

Specifically, an allergic response may be triggered in people sensitive to the growth medium, usually corn, soy, or wheat. For example, residual wheat gluten has been detected on xanthan gum made using wheat. This may trigger a response in people highly sensitive to gluten. Some consider this to be a separate allergy to xanthan gum with similar symptoms to gluten allergy. Xanthan gum is a “highly efficient laxative,” according to a study that fed 15g/day for 10 days to 18 normal volunteers.[11] Some people react to much smaller amounts of xanthan gum with symptoms of intestinal bloating and diarrhea.[4] There are many substitutes for xanthan gum when used for baking such as guar gum and locust bean gum.”

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Joan Lansberry

Thanks for explaining about the xanthan gum, it saved me looking it up! I hope the weather improves in your area.


I am not convinced about the xanthan gum. When I read that ingredient on labels, I always say “ick” and wouldn’t want to ingest it. It reminds me of the recent cinnamon tasting craze that put so many in the hospital; they’d put a spoonful of cinnamon on their tongue and the powder would go into their breathing passages and get damp and clumpy and would lead to serious problems with lungs, nose, etc.

I like to just make a tiny jar of a salad dressing for each salad I made and use it up right then. Sometimes I don’t even combine the ingredients at all but just add straight onto the salad. Less dressing seems better to us. I like creamy dressings and DH likes oil & vinegar ones, so we always have two kinds. But ingesting something gall xanthan gum would never occur to me…


I too have reservations about the xanthan gum Bex. However, I’ve been eating it for a long, long time and to my knowledge have experienced no ill effect. It makes a significant difference to the salad dressing, which makes a significant difference to my eating experience. If I didn’t mind water like dressing, I would not bother with it at all.

There are not official warnings about breathing it in, but I don’t trust it on that count. It does not become airborne unless stirred or poured, so I can safely measure out a 1/8 tsp amount without creating any “dust”. Once it is in the dressing, it will not become airborne.

They put this stuff in baby formulae, which is not so desirable. There is a warning that it is not to be fed to premature infants, but no warning for full term infants. Infants and children are growing and I wouldn’t make a salad dressing for them with this stuff in it. However, if you buy ready made salad dressings, and a lot of other foods, you are probably eating this stuff in small amounts, just as I am doing.


I think one of life’s most satisfying situations is to do work you enjoy at a location/with people that you enjoy. I can certainly understand why you call it a win/win situation, even if it just compensates for the commute expenses.

And from my age perspective, I’m glad to be able to look back and say not only did I do work I enjoyed, it was meaningful and contributed to society, to making the world a better place. That’s important to me.


It certainly is wonderful to be able to look back on what you have done as worthwhile and meaningful Sarah. That, I think, is the definition of a life well lived.

My history on that count is a mixed bag. I’ve done a lot of different things as far as work is concerned. Some did contribute to society, some merely allowed survival. Still, there aren’t very many things I would do differently, if given the chance.