Paleo, vegan, lactose-intolerant, allergies: whatever your reason for dumping dairy, it will inevitably leave a nagging void in the milk department. Although nut milks seem to reign as the “other” milk of choice, those with nut allergies can rejoice as there are hempseed, rice, soy, coconut, and oat milks all trying to make their mark. They each have their own unique flavor; choosing one is a matter of taste and nutritional restrictions. Of the lot, almond milk is the go-to staple in my house.
The first time I saw an article about homemade nut milks, it was in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. Of course she makes her own nut milks: it’s such a Martha thing to do. I filed that one under “someday” in my mental file–like sooo many other things. As time passed, I started seeing it more and more on blogs and Facebook posts. I would have never thought I had the time to make homemade milk, but it turns out that soaking time aside, it took less than 10 minutes…10 MINUTES! I only needed four things to make my first batch: almonds, water, a blender and a nut-milk bag. This was so simple; it made me wonder why I didn’t Martha it up sooner.
Let’s talk the bag that you need to strain your almond milk: referred to as a nut milk bag–sorry, can’t help but snicker–it is a reusable, multi-tasking fine mesh bag that can be used for far more than homemade milks. It can make quick and easy work of making homemade cheese, cold brew coffee, iced tea, or anything else that needs to be finely strained. The small investment of $10 or less pays for itself after 2 uses; they are sold on Amazon.com. As another option, you can use cheesecloth to strain; but, I found it to be messier and more difficult to contain the pulp as compared to the mesh bag. In addition, cheesecloth can be expensive and is not reusable.
Homemade nut milk tastes completely different from the boxed stuff, mainly due to the lack of ingredients needed to make your own. Stabilizers and preservatives are staples in the boxed version; while those ingredients serve a purpose, they dilute the nutrients in the nuts so much that what’s left contains virtually no protein and the taste is hardly reminiscent of almonds. The homemade version contains water and almonds–that’s all; it is almond milk in its purest form. I add a small amount of sugar and vanilla to the party, but you don’t need them.
To make your own homemade nut milk, the instructions are simple:
Soak – Blend – Strain – Drink
1 cup of rinsed almonds, or nut of choice–preferably organic–in enough filtered water to cover by one inch for a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 3 days. Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator. If you are in a rush, you can soak the nuts in boiling water for 30 minutes, then proceed with the next two steps.
Drain soaking water, rinse nuts, and then add them along with 2 cups of fresh filtered water to your blender. Blend at high speed for two minutes.
Note: There are so many schools of thought on the ratio of water to almonds. I have seen everything from 1 cup all the way up to 7 cups of water blended with 1 cup of soaked almonds. The version I like the best uses 2 cups of water. It makes for a creamier version that smells and tastes like, well, almonds. The more water you use, the more diluted the taste will be. Experiment to get your favorite consistency.
While the nuts are blending, line a one quart measuring cup with the nut milk bag or three layers of cheesecloth. Pour milk into the mesh bag and pull the string closed. (If using cheesecloth, gather all sides up to form a ball and squeeze). Grab the top of the bag tightly with one hand while you gently squeeze the liquid into the measuring cup with the other hand. Transfer milk into a pitcher and add 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
Refrigerate for up to five days. Makes between 2 – 2 1/2 cups. Recipe may be doubled.
Use your almond milk the same way you would use cow’s milk: cereal, hot cocoa, coffee, or just drink it straight. Because this recipe yields such a creamy, nutty concoction, I like to use it in smoothies and for a killer cappuccino.
After squeezing out the liquid, a play-doh feeling, ball of almond pulp will be left in the bag. Since all of the moisture and oils have been removed, there is a question on what to do with it: it doesn’t taste like anything and its texture is a bit odd. I’ve tried crumbling it up and baking it on a parchment lined baking pan at 250 degrees for 2 hours. Once it is dehydrated and cooled, it is ground up in a food processor or powerful blender to make homemade almond flour. That part I need to experiment a bit more with–I’ll keep you posted. Whether you choose to make flour out of it or just toss it, it is important to not wait to clean the pulp out of your bag. As I found out the hard way, if you dilly-dally, you will be left with a bag of black, furry mold that will require the purchase of a new bag–yuck! Once you remove the pulp, a little scrub with soap and water will get the bag ready for its next use. Wring out excess water and hang to dry.
I’ve always loved baking things from scratch. So, it surprises me how easily daunted I can get when contemplating homemade edibles outside the baking realm such as pesto, nut milk and jams. Slowly, but surely, I am not allowing myself to be intimidated by things that are seemingly tricky and time-consuming; when in reality, most are neither. It’s crazy that something as simple as soaking nuts in water can result in such a delicious, unprocessed concoction. Nut milk was the first item on my “to attempt” list and I have tackled it with ease; with a little planning and only two ingredients, I’ll never need to go back to the boxed stuff again.
My seven year-old’s comment after tasting this: “I didn’t think you could actually make it taste like Starbucks!” For the record, his tasting was decaf.
2 cups ice
1 cup homemade almond milk
1/2 cup freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee, cooled
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Whipped cream, optional
Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend until thick. Top with whipped cream if desired.
BANANA ALMOND SMOOTHIE
Thick, creamy, and satisfying: this smoothie makes a great after-school snack.
2 cups ice
1 cup homemade almond milk
4 pitted dates
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon almonds
Add ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend on high until combined.
RICE “PUDDING” WITH ALMOND MILK
The almond milk will thicken as it cooks, creating a creamy non-traditional pudding with few ingedients.
1 cup leftover cooked white rice (I like Basmati or jasmine)
1/2 cup homemade almond milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Sprinkle ground cinnamon
Mix all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a paper towel and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir again and serve.