For the past few months, I have been making all of our “milk” from scratch. While I occasionally make coconut milk, Brazil nut milk, or hemp seed milk, our favorite by far–and our family staple–is unsweetened almond milk.
The best part is that I recently discovered I can buy the most delicious, fresh almonds that are raw, unpasteurized, locally grown, and in bulk (at a discount!) from our local farmers’ market. Before that, I had been settling for so-called “raw” almonds that had been steam-pasteurized versus fumigated with nasty chemicals like PPO (an engine fuel additive!), because I couldn’t afford the imported ones from Spain and Italy that are truly raw. If you are as shocked as I was by the whole PPO thing, you should read Whole New Mom’s post on the topic. Very informative.
Anyway, I will admit that it was a pretty big adjustment at first to make our milk exclusively from scratch, mostly because I didn’t realize just how much our family consumes on a weekly basis (lots!!). But now that I have a good system in place, it’s hard to remember why we ever bought packaged milks in the first place. Not only are we saving money by consuming homemade almond milk, but we are also eliminating the use of packaging and enjoying fresh, delicious milk with all of the digestive enzymes in tact and without the unnecessary preservatives and other ingredients added to store-bought varieties.
Things got really exciting when I realized that I could be using the leftover almond pulp to make my own almond flour. That’s twice the savings and zero waste! Making almond milk and flour from scratch is incredibly easy to do. Here’s what I’ve found works best for us:
HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK
1 1/2 cups raw, unpasteurized almonds (or other nuts) (soaked for about 8 hours)
6 cups filtered water
optional: 8-12 medjool dates (pitted) (*I no longer use dates–see below for explanation)
(*Note: I would make larger batches if I could, but this is the largest amount that I can fit comfortably into both my Vitamix and my nut milk bag.)
1. Soak raw almonds in filtered water in a covered container for about 8 hours.
(I generally start soaking my nuts–yes, there are a lot of jokes in our home about soaking one’s nuts–first thing in the morning after we’ve used up the last of our almond milk for breakfast. That way, they’re ready to blend after dinner while Zander is in the bath tub. This works best for us, but you could easily soak them overnight and blend your almond milk first thing in the morning, if your schedule allows for it.)
2. Drain the soaking water from your nuts and put them into a high-speed blender along with about 6 cups of fresh, clean, filtered water. Add your dates, too, if you are using them.
(I started off using about 12 medjool dates to sweeten each batch of almond milk. My intent was to ease the transition for Zander and Alex, and I gradually reduced the amount of dates with each batch (10, 8, 6, 4, 2) until I was using none. Nobody seemed to even notice that I had stopped sweetening the almond milk–yay! This not only saves us money on dates, but it also enables me to turn the almond pulp into flour, which I don’t think would work very well if it had bits of dates in it. You could probably sweeten your almond milk with a liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or agave nectar, if you like, which could be added after the milk has been squeezed from the pulp, but for some reason, I never tried this, so I can’t say for sure how it would work.)
3. Blend ingredients until your almond milk looks white and frothy, like this:
4. Pour the contents of your blender into a mesh nut milk bag.
(I’ve tried–and been disappointed by–several of these, and for what it’s worth, my favorite is Diana Stobo’s 2-quart nut milk bag. It is durable and reliable, and the nut milk isn’t grainy at all. I’ve been using mine intermittently for well over a year now, with heavy use over the past few months, and it hasn’t sprung a single leak. I have a friend who makes her own nut milk bags using fabric purchased from a fabric store, but I have not yet tried that.)
5. Hang the nut milk bag over a large bowl and simply walk away while it drains! Come back in 30 minutes or an hour and squeeze out any excess liquid.
(I used to hold the bag in my hand and start squeezing as soon as I had poured the milk into it, but this was both time-consuming and irritating. Then one day I realized that I could simply hang the bag by tying it to the handle on my microwave oven and let it drip into a large bowl while I cleaned the kitchen after dinner and got Zander ready for bed. What a time-saver this is!)
6. Using a funnel, pour the almond milk into a 64 oz mason jar (or other glass container) and refrigerate. I don’t know for sure how long this will keep in the fridge, because we always go through it in 1-2 days, but I’ve read that it will keep for up to 5 days.
HOMEMADE ALMOND FLOUR
7. If you are going to take the next step and make your own almond flour, and if (like me) you don’t have a dehydrator, simply empty the almond pulp from your nut milk bag onto a cookie sheet, then crumble it with your fingers and spread it out.
(You can also freeze the pulp and do this step later, if you would prefer to make one big batch all at once. I find that the pulp from one jar of almond milk fills about 1/3 of a 32 oz mason jar. In other words, it took about 3 batches worth of almond pulp to fill the jar pictured below with almond flour).
8. Heat at the lowest possible setting in your oven (mine is 200 degrees F) for about an hour. Then turn off the oven and leave the pulp in for a few more hours (or overnight) to finish drying.
(I always put a little post-it note on my oven to make sure I don’t forget to pull it out in the morning.)
9. When your almond pulp has dried to a crunchy, crumbly consistency that looks sort of like granola, pour it into your high-speed blender (make sure it’s VERY DRY first–I usually wipe the inside of mine with a paper towel to be sure) and pulse until it becomes a fluffy, smooth flour.
10. Store the almond flour in a mason jar until you’re ready to bake gluten-free chocolate chip walnut cookies or chia seed jam oat bars–which, by the way, taste really delicious with a glass of homemade almond milk to wash them down! 😉