With health consciousness on the rise, more people are turning to dietary alternatives with the aim of avoiding allergens in their food. Why? Because many of these foods create internal inflammation of our tissues and joints and chronic inflammation can lead to disease and illness. Common food triggers are wheat, dairy, peanuts, soy, refined sugar. If you're following a paleo diet these and many more are on the no-no list. If you're doing a detox cleanse, you need not be as strict. Many things have easy, healthy substitutes - instead of white sugar, opt for raw local honey. Instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter.
Dairy gets a little tricky because many of the substitutes have OTHER allergens and ingredients to steer clear from. Most shelf-stable nut milks contain carrageenan, "a gum extracted from certain species of red algae (also known as Irish moss) has thickening, gelling, and binding properties. It is used to stabilize emulsions in dairy products; to improve the quality of foods such as soups, salad dressings, sauces, and fruit drinks; and to give a creamy thick texture to milk products," states Prescription for Dietary Wellness: Using Foods to Heal by Phyllis Balch.
For this reason, I like to make my own nut milks at home. The process is easy and the results are great, as long as you're not looking for a thick emulsified product that mimics the consistency of cream. Not going to happen, no matter what 'they' say! Will it be close? Most def, but for anyone just making the change or those who are not vehemently committed to eating healthy (and therefore willing to overlook small things like a change in consistency), there will likely be an acclimation period.
To make homemade nut milk, seeds are first soaked. This not only helps to soften the nut meat, it activates sprouting in the 'seed'. This process makes the vitamin content of nuts more available to us and also strips the seed of their enzyme inhibitors. These inhibitors allow seeds to remain dormant until ready to grow, but are considered difficult to digest. Once seeds are exposed to moisture, the enzymes are neutralized. This is why it's important to soak and drain the nuts, before adding more water to puree them.
The same process is similar for all nuts, if you want to experiment making nut milks at home. I'm posting my method, along with one from Prescription for Dietary Wellness. I would soak my nuts first, otherwise I liked the additions to that recipe and it's a great version for moms looking for a daily alternative for the little ones.
I have a different method from any recipe I've ever read for homemade nut milks in that I do a double soak. I feel like my how to method extracts a lot of the fats from the nut meat and adds to a richer milk, but that could be in my head. Try it both ways and see what you prefer.
Finally, if I'm using almond milk SOLELY for coffee or drinks, I roast the nuts for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until fragrant. This lends the coffee a rich, nutty flavor that I LOVE. I don't miss 1/2 & 1/2 at all.
HOMEMADE ALMOND MILK
1 cup raw almonds, soaked over night or at least 8 hours 1 1/2 cups filtered water 1 1/2 cups warm filtered water
Drain the nuts and add to the bowl of a blender. Add half of the water and puree on high until the nuts are broken down and the milk is creamy. Using a fine mesh strainer, drain the nut meat from the milk, pressing down on the solids to release most of the liquid. Return nut meat to blender and add the warmed water. Let soak for until water is cool, about 30 minutes. Turn the blender on high and puree the nuts until milk is creamy, about 1 minutes. Using the same strainer, drain the nut meat from the milk, pressing down on the solids until all of the liquid is pressed out. Reserve nut meat for baked goods, or as a topping on a smoothie bowl, or dry out in the oven for later use.
This is an excellent addition to children’s and infant’s diets. It’s also good for adults as a milk substitute. Substitute almond milk for soymilk if you are allergic to soy. SOURCE: Prescription for Dietary Wellness: Using Foods to Heal
1 cup almonds 3 cups water ½ fresh papaya (optional; good for babies) 1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (optional; a good mineral source) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional) 1 tablespoon brewer’s yeast or wheat germ or both (optional)
1. In a grinder, food processor, or blender, grind the nuts into a powder. Gradually add the water and other ingredients while continuing to blend.
2. Store almond milk in the refrigerator and serve chilled. Note: Using molasses and papaya makes this a complete milk for infants, especially for those who are allergic to cow’s milk. If you plan to use this as a drink for adults, start by adding ½ teaspoon of brewer’s yeast to the recipe and gradually increase to 1 tablespoon over a couple of weeks’ time. Omit the wheat germ if you plan to use almond milk for cooking or on cereals.