Almost every day I get some new, great feedback from new members of More than a Nut Milk Bag family. This morning's still has me smiling . . .so let me share what Christine had to say:
"I made my first batch of almond milk today and I was shocked to see how easy it was! My goodness, why aren't we all making this ourselves instead of buying expensive cartons with dubious added ingredients?!"
Thank you, Christine for expressing my feelings exactly, and for joining me as we take baby steps to reclaiming our food . . . starting with milk for our families.
Of course, I'm biased, but it is always gratifying to hear someone say "Wow! You're right! Nut Milks are easy."
Here are some easy almond milk tips, to simplify the process and get the maximum life of your finished product.
1 : Use raw organic nuts or seeds of almost any kind
Many different kinds of nuts and seeds make excellent milks. I often use those I have easily on hand. Almond milk is the most popular, and probably the easiest nut milk, but once you have the knack, why hold back? A combination of three, such as almonds, brazil nuts, and hemp seeds, makes an interesting milk -- readers of my Recipe Collection know that I often combine three like ingredients to produce a better than the sum of the parts result. Raw pumpkin seeds make a lovely traditional Pepita Milk.
The methodology remains the same for whatever nuts/seeds you choose, although soaking times, the need for straining, and the amount of pulp left over will vary. Experiment for yourself to see what flavors you like best. Softer nuts, or nuts with thinner skins (like cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, and some seeds) don't need to be softened or strained. I keep some of these around for the times when I need milk but don't want to take the time to pre-soak. Bear in mind that soaking and straining are the steps that vary from nut to nut.
Worth remembering: the quality of your milk and the length of storage time always depends on the freshness and quality of the product you begin with . . . like any food. Sometimes finding 'truly' raw organic almonds in the retail marketplace is difficult (thanks to the food police. Laws changed a few years ago and high heat pasteurization is required by law for almonds in retail outlets.) So buying direct from a co-op or farmers market, where growers can sell 'truly' raw organic, is the best. (Pasteurization, a process that employs heat "for safety," destroys most of the natural enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants in our food. Of course this applies to almonds too).
There are a few vendors who sell raw organic nuts online. Nut-n-Other is a local farm near me. Give Angelina a call or email; let her know you're a friend of mine. I have good reports of these sources, too: The Nutty Guys and Nuts.com.
November is almond season here in California, and as you know, raw living is my life, so I'm a bit far gone with things like fresh organic almonds. At the beginning of the season I buy 40 lbs from my local co-op (with a 10% discount for my advanced quantity order) and store them in my spare refrigerator. No matter what quantity you buy, keep them refrigerated until use. This helps preserve their freshness and keeps their natural oils from oxidizing and tasting rancid.
When shopping around, always compare pricing and remember to ask if the nuts on offer are 'truly' raw organic almonds, and the latest crop. Almond growers and vendors know what you are asking and that you are an aware shopper who cares about quality ingredients for your family.
2 : Soak almonds overnight
Soak for a maximum of six to eight hours -- if nuts soak longer they think they're supposed to germinate, and a process begins that just doesn't taste good and reduces the refrigerator life of your milk. (That's if they haven't been irradiated and had their living qualities snuffed; if they have, they just get mushy.)
If you get caught without time to make your milk right away, drain, rinse and put the nuts in a sealed glass jar, and store them for storage in the fridge. Know that the clock starts ticking on quality and shelf-life as soon as soaking begins, so process them as soon as possible! If necessary, rinse and drain them twice daily until you are ready to use them. Some folks say to store them in water, but I find that they get water-logged.
3 : Add Nuts First
When you are ready to make your milk, place the nuts in the blender first. You want the solid bits down by the blades, so they'll get chopped quickly. Measure your water, but add only enough to the blender to cover the nuts. Blending until the nuts are broken into small bits (5-10 seconds), then add the remaining water and continue blending until well incorporated and nuts are completely broken down. Be careful not to blend too long; usually 30 seconds is plenty.
Beginning the blending process with only a small amount of water keeps the nuts down near the blades so they are broken quickly and uniformly. Less blending means more flavorful, better textured milk. If you add all of the water to the nuts when you begin, the nuts get an exciting ride but only hit the blades occasionally, so your blending time will be much longer, introducing more air and heat into the milk, making it less creamy.
4 : Flavorful additions
Sweeteners and flavors can be added to your milk either before or after blending A single pitted date, a half teaspoon of vanilla (liquid or powder), or a bit of carob or cacao powder make nice additions. Storage times vary with additional flavorings.
Keep in mind, if your milk may be used for savory recipes (e.g. corn chowder or other soups) you will want only nuts and water with no additions.
5 : Store in glass with an air-tight lid
I use canning jars, like the ones my grandmother used. Ball and Kerr make several sizes that can usually be found at grocery, natural food, kitchen, and hardware stores. I also use these jars for sprouting, soaking, storing nuts and seeds and almost anything in my raw kitchen. Use the old-school metal two-part lids. The cheapie plastic ones leak (surprise!) but there are new reusable glass ones that have promise.
6 : Keep your milks cold and closed
When you take the milk out for use, don't let it warm up. Take what you need and return the rest immediately. When milk is left on the counter, it warms up quickly, the enzymes get active, oxidation increases . . . your milk's delicious life shortens. This is true for most refrigerated food products.
With these tips in mind your almond milk (or any nut or seed milk) should last from 3 to 5 days in your refrigerator. If your nut milk's lifespan is less, the source of your almonds is the likeliest cause.
7 : Don't let perfect be the enemy of good
When you are first starting out, don't make yourself crazy trying to get the most perfect 'truly' raw organic almonds and end up NOT making your own milk. You have to start somewhere, so . . . go buy some almonds or some other nuts and seeds you might like to experiment with, always remembering that fresh and organic is better. Your local co-op or natural food store would have something for you. Here's my prediction: you'll find the experience is like Christine's, and will be "shocked to see how easy it is."
Looking for ideas about what to do with all your lovely almond milk?