For a while now, I’ve been wanting to try making my own almond milk. I’ve never actually drank almond milk before, but I still wanted to make my own. What put me off was the price of the almonds!
Last weekend while we were out doing our food shopping, I came across a big bag of almonds (750g/26.5oz) that was on sale for £3.99 (originally £4.99) so I grabbed it, smiling, knowing that I’d now be able to make my own almond milk. Yippie!
Why almond milk?
Turns out, almond milk is actually much healthier than cow’s milk! It’s lower in fat, calories and cholesterol, and higher in vitamin A, vitamin E and iron. The only thing that makes cow’s milk better nutritionally, is protein. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that you should only drink almond milk. Everything in moderation, and variety is always nice. 🙂
Why not? Practically anything homemade is going to be better tasting and healthier than a packaged product. After all, you know exactly what’s going into it. In the case of homemade almond milk, it’s pretty straight forward: water, almonds and a bit of sweetener, should you so desire it. However, a store bought product will have these ingredients….
(Taken from the website for Alpro Almond Milk and its ingredients)
Water, Sugar, Almond (2%), Tri-calcium phosphate, Sea salt, Stabilisers (Locust Bean gum, Gellan gum), Emulsifier (Sunflower lecithin), Vitamins (Riboflavin (B2), B12, E, D2)
Now granted, the vitamins are not really an added ingredient as the almonds contain these naturally. However, what exactly are all those other ingredients and what do they do? I decided to check them out…
Tri-calcium phosphate ~ used as a nutritional supplement which occurs naturally in cow’s milk. Guess this is added to give a bit of calcium?
Sea salt ~ um, we know what this is, but why is it added? Don’t we ingest enough salt in our food?
Locust Bean Gum ~ vegetable gum extracted from the seeds of the carob tree and is used as a thickening agent. OK, I’ll admit the homemade version isn’t very creamy like milk, but if you want it more creamy, then just use less water or more almonds. (Here’s some more interesting uses for it: The bean, when made into powder, is sweet—with a flavor similar to chocolate—and is used to sweeten foods and as a chocolate substitute. It is also used in inedible products such as pet foods, mining products, paper making, and to thicken textiles. It is used in cosmetics and to enhance the flavor of cigarettes. Shoe polish and insecticides also have locust bean gum powder as an additive.) Hmm….cigarettes don’t have enough crap in them; they have to add this stuff too!
Gellan gum ~ used as a thickener. Can’t they just use the Locust Bean Gum?? Why add another one?
Sunflower Lecithin ~ basically helps to keep all the ingredients together and avoid separation. ~ (ingredients info compliments of Wikipedia)
You know what? I’ll stick to the homemade version!
OK, here’s how to make your own almond milk.
Soak your almonds.
Put 1 cup almonds into an empty, clean glass jar (I used a large coffee jar) and pour in water to cover about an inch from the top of the jar. Leave to soak for 8-12 hours or overnight. Soaking the almonds not only helps to soften them, but it also removes the phytic acid (an enzyme inhibitor), to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. After soaking, drain and rinse a couple of times.
Put the almonds into a blender or food processor with 2 cups of water to start. Blend for one minute and then add another 1 cup of water and blend some more. You can leave it like this, or if you want it a bit thinner, then add up to another 1 cup water. Blend for another 2-3 minutes.
Turn it off. It should be nice and frothy. Taste the milk. If you like it as it is, then move on to the next step. If you’d like to sweeten it like I did, you can add some honey or agave nectar and dates. I added about a tablespoonful of agave nectar and 3 dates. Turn the blender back on for another 30 seconds or so.
Now, you need to strain the milk to remove the almond pulp. Simply line a fine strainer or sieve with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth or a clean tea towel (I used a thin cotton table napkin). Place the strainer over a bowl, to catch the milk, and pour your almond milk through the cheesecloth-lined strainer.
It will take about 30-45 minutes for all the milk to pass through the strainer. You can help it along by pressing on the almond pulp with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula. You’ll be left with a good amount of almond pulp. DO NOT THROW THIS AWAY!
You’ve just made almond meal/flour which can be used in a number of recipes including muffins, cakes, quick breads, etc. I’ll fill you in on what to do with this in just a few minutes.
Transfer the milk to a glass jar and keep it in the fridge and use it as you would normally use cow’s milk. Use it in your coffee, on cereal, in smoothies or milk shakes or drink it as is or even add sweetened chocolate powder. The next time I make this, I’m going to try it unsweetened. I don’t know if I used too much agave or maybe the agave gave it an odd taste. I’m not saying I didn’t like it, but I want to experiment. You can also add other flavorings to it such as almond or vanilla extracts.
It should keep for about four days but I’ve read that it could keep up to a week. I pretty much used all of mine within the four days so can’t give an opinion about the extra time. Just use your nose…if it smells funky, then it’s past its due date!
After sitting in the fridge for awhile, the milk will separate (hmm…maybe I need some lecithin!). Just shake the jar or stir it up before using.
And now for the almond meal…
As I said earlier, please don’t throw this away. It’s very nutritious stuff and almonds are too expensive to just toss them away. Also, as I hate to waste anything if at all possible, I like the idea of making something where you use the ingredients and the by-product.
The almond meal will be wet and chunky so you’ll need to dry it out prior to using it in recipes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread the almond pulp into a thin layer and put it in your oven on the lowest possible setting. While it’s drying out, every now and then take out the tray and stir the meal around so that it will dry evenly. After the first hour, leave the door open a bit so that the moisture can come out. Mine took about three hours in total to dry out. As all ovens are different, your mileage may vary. 😉
Once it’s dry, dump it all into your food processor and give it a good whiz to break up the larger pieces and make it into a fine powder. You now have almond meal or flour, depending on how fine a powder you managed to make. You should have about a cup of flour.
Keep it stored in a glass jar. You can now use it for any recipe that calls for almond meal or use it to replace some of the whole wheat flour in breads or muffins ~ any of your favorite recipes! I used some the other night as a coating for chicken. I just added some seasoning to it and coated chicken breasts.