Monday, March 09, 2009

Almond Milk from Scratch

About a year ago I switched from milk to almond milk. I've slowly removed most dairy from my diet except the occasionally piece of cheese or ice cream. What I've noticed is that when I eat dairy now I feel lethargic and have sinus trouble. So I've decided the switch is permanent.

Almond milk is more expensive then cow's milk. But I've found a way, with the help of raw almonds from Costco, to make it a little less expensive. I make my own. The taste is much fresher and I can change it to suit my taste.

Basic almond milk is quite simple...with the right blender. For my last birthday my husband bought me a Blendtec blender. It was so worth it. I use it almost daily to make smoothies, soups, fruit mash for a bread recipe, applesauce or almond milk. If you do any of these on a regular basis I suggest you try to get a Blendtec or Vita Mix.

To make the almond milk you need to soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water for at least 4 hours. After 4 hours, drain the water and add 4 cups of fresh water. I pulse a few times to chop up the almonds and then run the blender on speed 10 for one cycle (about 1 minute). Next you need to strain it. I place a feed sack towel (cheese cloth would work fine) inside a mesh strainer placed over a large measuring cup. Then I pour the blended almonds and water into the towel in the strainer. Do it slowly! Next pull up the corners of the towel carefully so you don't spill the mixture. Do this over the strainer! Start twisting the ends of the towel until you have a ball shape with the mixture inside. Still over the strainer carefully squeeze the ball twisting the towel until no liquid comes out. Now you have almond meal inside the towel and about 1 quart of almond milk in the measuring cup!

Store the almond milk in a pitcher in your refrigerator. It will last for about 3 maybe 4 days. But I usually use it up before that! This milk is good in things like cereal, hot chocolate, chai tea and I've even used it to make macaroni and cheese. You may not like to drink it on it's own though. It doesn't taste as sweet as milk. For variation you can sweeten it buy blending it with 2 dates or a sweetener of your choice. I use the dates. You can also add some vanilla and a pinch of salt. This makes a milk that is better to drink plain.

Now back to that towel. Inside the towel you have almond meal. I really despise throwing things away so I've found a few uses for it. First I've used it in many recipes that call for almond meal. I also use it to replace part of the flour in some recipes. This is particularly good in things like oatmeal cookies, brownies, banana bread and muffins. One of my favorite things to do with it is make suet for birds.

So how do you make bird suet? For my family I boil ground beef and freeze it to use in recipes. I let the water I use to boil it in cool and remove the fat from the top. I mix this fat with the almond meal and a cup of bird seed. I put it in a square tupperware container and place it in the refrigerator. In a few hours it's cool and I slice it in half and place in our suet feeders outdoors. Very easy and your using up what would normally be a waste product (the beef fat). Our birds, especially woodpeckers, love it!

So there you go. I started out telling you how to make almond milk and ended up telling you how to make bird suet! Try it yourself and tell me how it goes for you. I'd really love to hear any other uses you come up with for almond meal. So leave me a note!