I’ve been making my own nut milks for years, but it wasn’t until recently (as soon as I let go of my raw cow milk share) that I needed a healthy, sustainable solution for my daily green smoothies. Sure, I can buy nut milks in those asceptic containers from the alternative milk aisle, but I dread seeing anything unnecessarily going into the recycle bin. Making my own nut milk and storing it in mason jars was the only acceptable option for me.
I also get to vary the nuts and seeds I use, instead of feeling limited to what’s available at the market. Brazil nut milk is my favorite, but I also use walnuts, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, and of course almonds. Another benefit of making my own is that I get to decide if the milk gets sweetened or not (and with what sweetener and how much) and I’m not forced to consume the added oils, starches, gums and thickeners that tend to come along for the ride with the store-bought brands.
Organic nuts or seeds. A general rule is one cup of nuts for every three cups of milk you want to make.
Half-gallon mason jar or glass pitcher. Use this for soaking the nuts and storing your final product.
Blender of food processor. You don’t need a high-speed blender or anything fancy to make nut milk.
Nut milk bag, cheesecloth or fine-meshed sieve (optional). Use if you like your milk smooth instead of pulpy.
1. Soak and rinse the nuts. Soak the nuts in water to cover overnight. Soaking de-activates the compounds that keep the nuts dormant, and activates the enzymes that make them sprout. Soaked nuts and seeds tend to be easier to digest and have better bio-availability, meaning that the nutrients have an enhanced ability to be utilized by the cells. Plus, soaking the nuts makes them tender enough to blend. Drain the water and rinse the nuts well before using.
2. Blend the soaked nuts with water. Place the soaked nuts into a blender or food processor and add about 3 cups of fresh water for each cup of presoaked nuts. If you want a thicker, richer milk, decrease the amount of water to your liking. Blend until the nuts are very fine ground and the water has turned a light milky color.
3. Strain the pulp (optional). I choose not to strain my nut milk for a couple reasons: For one, I use the milk for smoothies and I like the milk thick. Secondly, I don’t like throwing away fiber. Although nuts aren’t notoriously high in fiber, they have it, and I like to get it anywhere I can. But smooth is good, especially if you want a nice drinkable glass of milk. For smooth milk, it needs to be strained. A nut milk bag is used specifically for this purpose: It’s clean and easy and also reusable. A cheesecloth folded in 3-4 layers or a large fine-meshed sieve also work well. The pulp can be used for a variety of purposes (see below).
The milk can be drunk as is, but I like to add a touch of one or more of the following for new flavor dimensions:
Raw cocoa powder
Sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Whole fresh, crushed spices like ginger root, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks can be steeped into the milk while chilling (let it steep 12-24 hours for the best flavor)
Fresh fruit (remember strawberry milk?)
Liquid stevia extract
Raw, unfiltered honey
Brown rice syrup
The most commonly used nut for milk is the almond because it lends a mellow nutty flavor. But don’t rule out other varieties; just take into consideration that the milk will retain the distinct flavor of the nut or seed that is used.
Try any of these nut or seed options, or a blend of two or three:
Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts, Macadamias, Pecans, Pistachios, Walnuts
Seeds: Hemp, Sunflower, Flax, Chia, Pumpkin, Sesame, Pine nuts
If you want a smooth milk for sipping, you’re going to end up with at least a cup of pulp every time you make your milk. Most people hate to throw it away, as it does have a range of healthy uses. As mentioned above, I just keep it in the milk and use it for thick smoothies.
Here are five ideas for your pulp (if you don’t want it in your milk):
1. Nut Flour. The pulp can be dehydrated or placed in a 200 degree oven until dried. Grind the dried pulp in a spice grinder or high-speed blender until fine.
2. Raw cookies. Blend the pulp with some dates, nut butter, shredded coconut and sweet spices. Roll into balls and roll in shredded coconut or raw cocoa powder.
3. Soft, raw cheese. Blend the pulp in a food processor with a little nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and salt. Serve with crackers.
4. Cereal. Combine the pulp with your fresh nut milk, dried fruits, nuts and sweet spices for a porridge-like cereal.
5. Body Scrub. A great idea from Raw Food Talk. Let me know how it goes!