I don’t follow food crazes. I eat kale because I like kale. Not because of its superfood status. Likewise coconut water. If the supermarket shelves are anything to go by, rice and almond milk are currently more popular than soy as dairy free milk alternatives. We don’t have dairy intolerances in our family so these milks don’t feature regularly in our home, however I have learnt that almond milk tastes sublime when used as an alternative to dairy milk in cooking.
So why bother making almond milk? Thanks to its burgeoning popularity, it is now very easy to buy. My local supermarket alone stocks at least four different brands. Yet reading the labels of each of these brands revealed that they all, including the organic ones, contained sugars or other sweeteners, oils, thickeners and other additives. My personal favourite was the brand that contained ground limestone (calcium carbonate).
Homemade almond milk need only contain water and almonds. Most recipes for almond milk also include dates for sweetness, vanilla and spices. Unless you are intending to drink the milk on its own I see no reason for sweeteners. I use my almond milk in smoothies, desserts and baking so prefer to add sweetness to the end product.
It is not necessary to pre-soak the almonds, although doing so has some advantages. Soaking will soften the almonds making them easier to blend with the water, creating a creamier end product. Crucially though, soaking deactivates enzymes which can interfere with digestion.
The enzyme phytic acid is found in the hulls of all nuts, seeds and grains. When ingested, it binds other minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium, making them unavailable for absorption in the gut. Mineral deficiencies can occur as a result in diets that rely heavily on these food sources. Phytic acid is readily neutralised through soaking, and to a lesser extent cooking. Therefore if you can plan ahead it is better to soak your almonds for up to 48 hours before making milk.
It is common to strain the milk through a nut milk bag or other fine weave fabric prior to use. This removes the fine almond pulp from the liquid. The need for straining is dependent, however, on the end use for the milk. For smoothies and baking, removal of the almond pulp is not crucial as the pulp will add additional bulk and protein. For smooth jellies or for drinking it is desirable to remove the pulp, which itself has numerous uses. Personally I freeze it and add it to smoothies. Others add it to baked goods, or dry it for use as almond flour or as a coating for fish and meat.
I know you are still stuck on the “So why should I bother” question. I have a great breakfast idea I want to share with you next week, for which you will need almond milk. Pure, unadulterated, almond milk. Not the kind loaded with sugars, ground limestone and other such goodies. I promise it will be worth the minimal effort it takes to make your own.
How To Make Almond Milk
Soak the almonds for up to 48 hours. If it is hot, soak the almonds in the fridge so they don't go funky. If you have forgotten to soak your almonds, make your milk anyway. It will still work, the end result may just be slightly less creamy.
- 1 cup almonds soaked for up to 48 hours
- 3 - 4 cups filtered water
- Strain and rinse the almonds. Discard the soaking water.
- Place the almonds in a food processor, blender or Thermomix.
- Add the water.
- Blend for at least 2-3 minutes, until the water looks smooth and there are no lumps evident.
- Use the milk as is or strain through fine material or a nut bag to remove the solids.
- Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.