Historical insight into almond milkAlmond milk is no modern invention and has long been around for centuries. It formed a staple part of diets through-out Medieval Europe and the Arabic world centuries ago. A commonly featured ingredient in Medieval cookbooks, almond milk was prized for its shelf-life, vital in a time with no refrigeration. The methods of preparation also served as an alluring trait for the elite serving as symbol of status. Preparing almond milk centuries ago was no easy task. Kitchen staff would grind the exotic, expensive and imported nuts down to powders with a pestle and mortar, ready to then be made into milk.
As well as symbol of status, almond milk was also closely linked to religious practices, where during Lent and on lean days Christians abstained from meat products and so almond milk formed a suitable luxurious substitute to animal milk.
Noted for high levels of protein, fibre and mono-unsaturated fats, almonds, as with many nuts and seeds, are a great source of macro and micro nutrients. The high levels of fibre make almond milk a useful drink for helping those suffering with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, and is noted as being a good mild laxative for children. Almonds have a low glycemic index are also a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), manganese and magnesium (thing’s we’ll explore in more depth soon).
There has been debate around how nutritional almond milk actually is and it’s my main reason for supporting homemade rather than commercial milks when dealing with dairy-free alternatives. You’ll find many commercial plant-based milks are devoid of the nutrients present when making home-made milks. Couple that with the addition of additives, emulsifiers and sweeteners a lot of these commercially bought milks are just a poor use of money, because what you’re essentially paying for, is a concoction of water, chemicals and less than a handful of nuts or whatever it might be that’s the key ingredient.
Don’t believe me? Take a look next time you’re in the supermarket at the ingredients of any plant-based milk, in particular almond milk, I’ve come across some brands with just 2% almonds for example, that’s 20 almonds per litre. That’s poor value and incredibly poor nutritional benefit.
So there is every reason to make plant-based milks yourself. Not only are the ratios of solid to liquid far higher but you’re freeing yourself of the nasties, maximising the nutritional value but also saving yourself from purchasing what is essentially expensive water. I use a lower ratio of water to almonds than a lot of recipes I’ve come across and have found that 1 cup of almonds, to 2 cups of water provides a really rich and creamy milk and through testing proved to be our favourite combination but there no reason to not up the water content when making your own. What’s great too is that nothing has to go to waste here, the strained almonds can be used as almond meal in other recipes.
A guide to making your own almond milk. Cheaper and tastes great
- 1 cup almonds approx 180g
- 2 cups water approx 500ml
Optional Variation 1
- 1 vanilla pod seeds scrapped
- 2 dates
Optional Variation 2
- 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 vanilla pod seeds scrapped
Soak the almonds in water - ideally two days, but a minimum of 24 hours. In a bowl add the almonds and completely cover in water leaving about 1cm of water on top. They'll pretty much double in size.
Add to blender/food processor with 2 cups water and any additional ingredients and whizz for around 5 minutes
Once you’ve got a viscous mix, set up a pan or bowl and with muslin cloth (or alternative). Pour the whizzed contents into the bag and allow to strain. Once a large amount of the liquid has freely drained, squeeze to get any remaining liquid out.
DO NOT discard the solids. Pop them onto a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 45 minutes on a low heat (100C). You simply want to dry it out really. This can then be used as almond flour in other recipes.
3 days refrigerated will serve you well. Shake well before use, as the fine particles with separate out