Today’s post features one of those ideas that, before you try it, sounds crazy and needless and hard; but that, after you try it, becomes brilliant and easy and so simple, you can’t believe you waited so long to give it a go. Tim and I have made homemade almond milk twice in the last few weeks, and each time we have, it’s amazed me—I mean, literally, had me staring at the towel I’m squeezing like a cow udder, in total disbelief. In case you relate in any way to my innocence in the almond milk realm, this post is for you.
The first time I had almond milk, I was a teenager. It was vanilla flavor. I’d picked the vanilla flavor at the store because, I suppose, when I’d stood there at the cold case, facing plain or vanilla, vanilla had seemed a better choice. I think it had something to do with the fact that “vanilla” makes a thing sound more like ice cream, and ice cream has always been an easy sell. I liked to pour vanilla almond milk on my cereal. I ate a lot of cereal back then.
The first time I heard of homemade almond milk was much later, probably a year or two ago. Like a lot of things I’d grown up eating by picking up a package at the store, I had no idea how it was made. I don’t think I cared. But then, not unlike when I met Tim in 2010 or, in the case of some of you, when you come over here and hear homemade kombucha or raw milk ice cream or likewise not-mainstream terms, my world bumped up against someone with an interest in something that, to me, was new. This friend of mine said she wanted to make her own almond milk. Then she Instagrammed a photo of her almonds soaking on the counter; and a day later, she shared a photo of her fresh glass of almond milk. I remember thinking, Cool! Way to be adventurous! I remember Tim’s saying how it would be super easy to try. I also remember having zero desire in my heart to go do it myself. I mean, why?
I tell you all that to explain, so you know, the reason we made almond milk this month and the reason I’m posting about it today isn’t because I’m ambitious or brave or a challenge seeker. It’s not because I thought, I can make almond milk! Let me roll up my sleeves and try! In fact, it was Tim who had the idea to make it a few weeks ago, and, that first time, when he did it, I mostly watched. The reason I’m posting about it today is because making almond milk amazes me. It’s because watching a milky substance be strained away from ground nuts for the first time feels like looking at the world like a child.
And if the only gift of making almond milk is that it renews a sense of wonder and discovery, an ability to watch with amazement as familiar objects (almonds) transform before your eyes (yielding both almond milk and almond meal!), then that is gift enough to make it worth trying.
The way I see it, in this world filled with false promises, disillusionments and corresponding cynicism (hand raised), we could all use a little more wonder in our lives. We could all use a few more opportunities to see with childlike eyes and discover, whether those discoveries are the annual glories of spring, the beautiful glimpses of genuine kindness or the simple joy of going to the kitchen to make something new.
Speaking of the wonder-producing discovery of learning how foods are made, check out Erin’s recipe roundup of pantry staples. If you’re even a little curious about how to make some basic food, from tahini to tortillas to kettle corn, it’s worth a look.
Homemade Almond Milk
Makes a quart of almond milk and about three cups of almond meal
It’s worth mentioning that you’ll need a few specific tools to try this project, namely a cheesecloth or tea towel or, if you really want to get serious, nut milk bag. You’ll also need a high-powered blender or food processor, like our Vitamix.
1 cup of almonds
3 to 4 cups of water, plus more for soaking
Making almond milk starts the night beforehand. Place the almonds in a bowl with enough water to cover the nuts; cover that bowl with a thin towel, and let this soak on the counter overnight.
In the morning, drain the water from the almonds. Then, place the almonds in a high-powered blender or food processor, along with three to four cups of water. You essentially want one part almonds to three parts water (or about that). Blend.
Set a strainer over a large bowl and line it with a cheesecloth or tea towel, or use a nut milk bag as mentioned above. Pour blender mixture into cloth; milk will go through the towel and the strainer into the bowl. Use a spoon to stir and help it along. When this gets full, you can gather the towel and squeeze it to get more milk out. The stuff left in the towel is almond meal; the liquid strained into the bowl is almond milk.
Note: You may drink the milk as is, or you may sweeten/flavor it as you like. We add a little vanilla (old habits!) and some maple syrup. Also, regarding the almond meal, it won’t perform *exactly* like almond meal you may be used to buying, but it’s close. The drier you can get it, the better it will work in baking; I toasted mine a little in the oven for this reason, but it’s optional.
PS: If you like the idea of making pantry staples from scratch, you’ll love Alan Chernilla’s book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.