Make your own almond milk

Almond milk Jenna Cho

Remember that kale smoothie I made last time? What I didn't tell you was that I was feeling so fanatical about binging on health that I was also making from scratch the almond milk the recipe called for.

Let's talk convenience for a second. Yes, the store-bought variety will last longer, so if you only need a little bit of almond milk at a time, store-bought makes sense. All you have to do is twist that little cap off, conveniently placed on the carton so you don't even have to pry the lips apart to create a spout.

The cost of making your own almond milk is probably about the same as buying a carton of the stuff. Nuts aren't cheap.

But what you get by making almond milk yourself is you eliminate the unfortunate need to drink all sorts of additives alongside your milk. Some type of gum (xanthan, locust bean) is bound to be part of the ingredients list in store-bought almond milk. So is carrageenan, which some claim is a carcinogen. I don't know enough about these ingredients to lay judgment on them, but if I don't need them to make my almond milk delicious, I'll opt for milk without, thanks.

Which brings me to homemade almond milk. People have been enjoying almond milk for centuries, but until recently, it was just one of those things that never occurred to me to make at home.

It's so easy. Soak nuts, drain, blend with water. Strain. Yeah, it takes some time, but it's mostly inactive time while you wait for the nuts to soak in water and soften. The most cumbersome part of the process is straining the milk at the end, and that's not bad at all.

My milk was thin and watery, like skim milk. It tasted clean and light, a simple and refreshing drink you could doctor up with a sweetener or blend into smoothies. The Bon Appetit recipe calls for adding agave syrup and a bit of salt, but I didn't feel the need for either.

Bon Appetit says you can use pretty much any kind of nut you like - hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashew, or peanuts - to make nut milk. I haven't tried making milk with any other kind of nut yet, but I'm curious to see what hazelnut milk tastes like. If you try making milk with any of the other nuts, be sure and let me know how it turned out.

Almond milk

adapted from Bon Appetit and thekitchn.com

1 cup raw almonds

4 cups hot water (use less water for creamier milk)

Soak the almonds in water for at least 12 hours. (Bon Appetit says a long soak helps make smooth and silky milk.)

Discard the soak water. Rinse the almonds with fresh water and drain. Combine almonds and hot water (it should be just shy of boiling) in a blender and blend until smooth. (I've seen recipes for almond milk that don't require hot water, but Bon Appetit claims it makes for a creamier milk.)

Use a fine-mesh sieve (or cheesecloth if you want to be very thorough) to strain the milk. Be sure to press down on the almond pulp/meal and squeeze all the milk out of it.

Set the almond meal aside (see more below).

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to three days. Stir or shake well before using.

What to do with almond meal:

I love thekitchn.com's Emma Christensen for her meticulousness and consideration for every aspect of a recipe. Christensen's recipe for almond milk includes a note on how to use the almond meal - which Bon Appetit considers a byproduct and tells you to toss out - for future recipes.

In an oven at a low setting (mine only goes down to 260 degrees, so that's what I set it at), spread the almond meal on a baking sheet and bake for about two hours, tossing occasionally, until the almond meal is dry. Freeze and use later in recipes that call for almond meal.

The almond meal can also be used right away, without drying it out first, in muffins, oatmeal and smoothies, Christensen says.

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