Milk, a vital part of everyone’s diet. At least for the first few months of our lives anyway. But most of us go on drinking the stuff, long after we are weaned from mother’s breast. Are human beings and cats the only adult animals that drink milk? Not sure about that.
Except, and here’s the sting. The majority of human beings have some level of allergy or intolerance to drinking milk. Exactly how many people are affected like this is hard to ascertain. Researching for this article turned up some widely varying ‘expert’ opinions. But a figure of 75% of the adult human population having some level of intolerance to cows milk is a statistic I found quoted in several sources. At least one article I read stated that cows milk intolerance is ‘extremely rare’ in white people. Well all I can say to that is that I’m white and I have a milk intolerance, so does my daughter, my wife….. and I know whole load of other people too.
In my case it’s not a life threatening thing. I’ll happily enjoy a spoonful of cream on a dessert, or the froth on a cappuccino from time to time. And eating yoghurt or cheese are no problem. But if I pour milk (cow’s, goat’s or sheep) on my cornflakes for a few days in succession I start to feel the effects.
I guess I could cure that easily enough. Trouble is, I like my cornflakes in the morning.
Non dairy alternatives? I’ve tried Soya milk a few times and whilst I acknowledge that I have enjoyed some brands, I have also tasted some that I thought were simply horrible. I’ve enjoyed Rice milk; I just can’t get it here on the island and (please correct me if I’m wrong here) I’ve read in many places that Rice milk has negligible nutritional value until they add it as an extra in the factory.
Actually, all I really ask is that the milk tastes good and doesn’t do me any harm. A friend suggested Almond Milk. Where do I buy that? Certainly not on this island. ‘It’s so easy to make.’ said my friend. I checked it out and, Hey! It really is easy to make.
Not only that it tastes good too. Creamy and only very slightly nutty in flavour.
I’ve been using Almond Milk for about three years now. It really is easy to make at home, nutritious and versatile. I use it in cooking in most situations that call for milk; it works well in Bechamel sauce for example. I’ve also served it to friends as a drink or in their coffee and never once has anybody sent it back or asked what was wrong with the milk.
Nutritionally, Almond Milk is comparable to Semi Skimmed Cows milk. Less calories, sugar and (of course) the fat is not saturated fat. The calcium content is not so easy to get to. I have two so called ‘authoritative’ articles on my desktop as I write this. One gives the Calcium content of Almond milk as negligible, whilst the other states that the Calcium content that is ‘comparable to 2 percent reduced fat milk’.
Take your choice. I drink it because it tastes good on my cornflakes!
The picture shows an Almond tree in blossom near my house. A familiar winter sight in Greece
Use Whole Almonds (Nuts with the brown skins intact).
Soak one cup of almonds in fresh cold water for about six hours, wash and drain them and put them in the blender.
Add one cup of cold water and blend for about thirty seconds. The quality of the water can affect the taste and shelf life of the milk. I use bottled spring water; maybe your mains supply is better than mine.
Stop the blender, add two more cups of water and blend together for about a minute. I always think it’s wonderful to see those nut brown kernels almost exploding in the water to become a flask of white liquid milk.
Once the blending is finished, you need to strain the milk. I use a muslin cloth draped across a large jug. Pour in the contents, gather the corners, being careful not to let any liquid escape over the edge and then squeeze the contents gently through the cloth.
The whole process from putting the nuts in the blender to putting the milk in the bottle shouldn’t take much above 5 minutes. And…. If you’re making it use on your breakfast, make it the night before so it has a chance to chill in the fridge before use.
Quantity. I’m not into accurate weights and measures, but the large coffee cup 9not mug) of Almonds that I use each time makes about 700 ml of milk.
Storage. I keep milk in a glass bottle in the fridge and it’s fine for three to five days. Things that can affect the storage life are : the quality of the nuts, the quality of the water and … the cleanliness of the storage bottle. The milk will tend to separate out overnight in the fridge; just give the bottle a shake before using it.
Quality. You may find an occasional batch tastes different to normal. It’s all down to the quality of the nuts. Making such a small quantity of milk, you can find that just a single, slightly ’off’ nut can taint the milk. It’s not always a change for the worse (the change can be really good sometimes) but be prepared for this.
Variations. I read that some people like to add a squeeze of lemon juice or even a fresh date at the blending stage to flavour of sweeten the milk. My take? Tried it and I really don't think it needs it, but don't let me stop you trying your own variations.
Commercial Brands of Almond Milk. To be honest, I have never tasted a commercially produced brand of Almond Milk. I know they tend to be fortified with extra vitamins and so on…. If you have it available locally, try it. It might be just wonderful