Monday, May 4, 2009

Homemade Almond Milk (Gluten Free, Casein Free, Soy Free)

straining homemade almond milk and dill-almond "cream cheese"

I had no idea along this journey to health that I would need to give up so many traditional foods. Wheat... No problem! White sugar... No problem!!

But cheese? Milk? Butter? Those things I grew up literally loving to eat... and yet always had a tummy ache and a stuffy nose afterwards. Once I gave up gluten, although I felt SO much better... I knew there were other foods causing problems. I was just REALLY crossing my fingers that milk would not be one of them.

Yet, I realized through a process of elimination that it was. And I have to tell you dairy was NOT easy to give up.

Thankfully though, after nearly 2 months of casein free living, I've realized life is still tasty without milk!

I do not need dairy anymore.

And I am learning how to make substitutes that are SO much healthier for my body and I love being able to create these foods in my own kitchen!

One thing that I've been making a lot in the past few weeks is almond milk.

I tried to make homemade nut and rice milks in the past, but my old blender just wasn't powerful enough to effectively blend them into a delicious beverage.

Enter Meghan Telpner... again... ;-)

A few weeks ago when I followed Meghan's Green Smoothie Cleanse program, I learned a few tips from her website for making easy homemade almond milk.

Tip #1: Pre-soaking the almonds. This procedure not only creates a healthier almond milk because the nuts begin the sprouting process and therefore are able to release more nutrients, but they are also softer and easier on your blender.

Tip #2: Straining the almond milk after blending. Why I didn't think of this when I tried making it previously I will never know... sometimes the best tips are the most simple!

Once I began soaking raw almonds and straining the blended mixture to create homemade almond milk, I couldn't believe how EASY it was!! Almond milk is SO delicious and it's a snap to make at home with a good blender! It's fresh, quick, and very healthy!!

I use this easy unsweetened homemade almond milk cup for cup in any recipe calling for milk. If you prefer a sweetened milk add 1-2 tablespoons of agave nectar or honey while blending. Later this week I will post about other wonderful things you can make with fresh soaked almonds such as almond cheese, and chocolate chip cookies! The best thing about making fresh almond milk at home other than it being incredibly easy and healthy, is that it is also VERY "green." You don't have to waste or throw away any part of the almonds, the almond milk, or the leftover almond pulp. This week I'll teach you how to effectively use those raw almonds without creating any waste while making incredibly delicious and healthy foods!

Homemade Almond Milk
Yield: 1 quart

1 1/2 cups raw almonds, soaked for 12 hours (rinse with fresh cold water before using!)
5 cups fresh, filtered water, divided
* 1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey (optional)

In your blender add almonds and 3 cups of water *If you choose to sweeten your almond milk add honey or agave nectar to blender with water and almonds. Blend/process on the highest setting for 2-3 minutes to create a thick, creamy almond milk. Using a fine metal or plastic strainer pour blended almond meal mixture through strainer and into a large bowl. Scoop the remaining almond pulp left in the strainer back into the blender and add additional 2 cups of water. Again blend mixture on high setting for several minutes and again pour mixture through strainer. Scoop remaining almond pulp out of strainer and store in refrigerator . At this point you can store the strained almond milk in a quart size glass jar in the refrigerator (for up to 10 days), or you can double-strain your milk using the instructions in the notes below.

*If you enjoy cooking demonstration videos, here is Meghan's FANTASTIC tutorial on homemade almond milk. I highly recommend watching it!

Carrie's Notes:
  • I generally like to strain the almond milk a second time because my husband won't drink the milk unless it is very, very smooth!! SO, to strain a second time, I line the strainer with a thin cotton cloth, cheesecloth, or a coffee filter and strain again. The 2nd straining can take 10-15 minutes. I place the strainer over a large bowl, line the strainer with a cotton cloth or a coffee filter (in the picture above I used a coffee filter) and slowly pour in the almond milk. As the milk slowly strains, gently pour in remaining milk mixture. You can speed up the straining process by using the back of a spoon to stir and press the mixture around the strainer (as shown in Meghan's video). Once the mixture has finished straining save the remaining almond pulp in the fridge to use for other recipes.
  • I personally LOVE using fine mesh plastic strainers! I have a whole set of these and I use them nearly every day in my kitchen for making things from scratch! They do not cost much, and are easy to clean and are quite durable!! They are also perfect for straining homemade coconut yogurts and other foods made with starters because they contain NO metal and therefore do not disrupt the natural fermentation process.
  • Reader Sara pointed out that making homemade nut milks is MUCH easier using a cotton sprouting or nut milk bag! I couldn't agree more! You won't have to double strain the milk. I actually ordered some of these bags last week, but I haven't received them yet! They will save you a lot of time and kitchen clean up if you have them available.
  • Soak almonds in clean fresh filtered or spring water and make sure to rinse thoroughly before using in homemade almond foods.
  • You can use all different kinds of RAW nuts in this recipe, macadamias (although I have heard not to soak them, as it can alter the taste), cashews, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, etc... I prefer using raw almonds because they are so mild in taste and really give a beautiful white color to the milk.
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