Saturday, June 6, 2009
Nut milks are what I consider to be a raw food classic. They're quick, easy - fun, even. And they taste jolly good too. In fact, if you know what you're doing they taste superb, and anyone - young or old - would love them given half a chance.
What follows is the why, what and how of nut milks together with a few hints and tips for making good ones greater. So even if you already consider yourself to be a Nut Milk Maestro, the following article may just help elevate your status to Nut Milk King or Queen!
Shall we get started?
Why nut milks?
Nut milks are packed with nutrition owing to the fact that they contain a fairly significant amount of nuts (1 measuring cup typically). However, with that does come the fat of course, but much less than usual as all of the fibre is removed if you choose to strain, and therefore a significant amount of the fat is left behind too as it remains in the fibre. This way you get all of the taste, none of the bulk and most of the nutrition (all nuts are typically high in zinc, magnesium, iron, protein, some B vitamins and manganese though it does differ from nut to nut). Blended and strained nuts are much easier to digest than when eaten dry and whole and therefore are much easier on the system.
And although they are fibre-free, because they are so nutrition-dense they make for a very filling drink or snack, or even meal depending on your appetite - but without giving you the full feeling of a meal. In the past I would quite often have a nut milk for supper if I wasn't hungry earlier on in the evening but wanted something an hour or so before bed. And sometimes only a nut milk would do!
What are nut milks and what can be done with them?
* Nut milks are a delicious and fresh alternative to dairy milks and are not to be confused with any other kind of milk you may have come across. This includes non-dairy milks such as soya and commercially produced almond milk, all of which are heat-treated.
* Nut milks are so-called because of their white dairy-like appearance and their similarity in taste to cow's milk, especially cashew milk which is the most similar and in raw food recipes is most commonly used as a dairy replacement.
* Fresh raw and unflavoured nut milks consist solely of raw nuts and water - nothing else.
* Nut milks taste fresh and creamy and leave you feeling refreshed and satiated, whereas dairy milks tend to leave a mucousy after-taste and you feeling a bit "gunky."
* Nut milks are delicious drunk either as is, or with sweeteners or flavourings added to them.
* Nut milks are great replacements for people with dairy intolerances.
* Nut milks are more commonly known about than seed milks, but all of the nut milk information given below (apart from that relating to ice-cream) can be applied to seed milks - i.e. milks made from using seeds such as sesame, sunflower, pumpkin or hemp, as opposed to nuts.
How to make a nut milk
To make a nut milk you will need a blender (or Vita-Mix) and something to strain the milk with. A "nut milk bag" is ideal for this but you can use a fine mesh sieve to good effect - but it must be fine mesh as anything bigger will not work and you will get lumps or fibre in your milk.
Step 1: Go nuts!
To get started you'll need some good quality nuts to work with. The best ones to start with are usually almonds as these are easy to find, easy to use and most people seem to love them. Whatever nuts you choose these will ideally be organic and with no broken bits or chips and will be raw - not salted or roasted! Other good ones to start with are cashews or hazelnuts.
Step 2: Get blending
To make enough nut milk for 1 large serving place 1 measuring cup of your chosen nut into your blender with 3 cups of pure water. Blend until all the nuts have been broken down and no bits care remaining. You should be left with a "milk" that has no bits rattling around inside it, although if you've used almonds there will be bits of brown skin showing up in the mixture - this is fine, we'll get rid of these next.
Step 3: Take the strain
Next, prepare to strain your milk by getting a jug or bowl to collect it in and your strainer in hand. Pour your milk through the strainer and into your jug or bowl. My own personal preference is to use a nut milk bag and a tall jug as the bag sits nicely around the top of the jug making it much easier to pour the milk into.
Step 4: Milk it to the max
You'll want to get as much milk from your mixture as possible, so you'll need to make sure you have strained it well. If you've used a nut milk bag to strain, continue squeezing the bag until no more milk can come out. If you're using a sieve use a spoon to swirl and press the nut milk and pull around until all the liquid has come through.
Step 5: Drink now - or flavour?
Your milk will now be "fizzing" with life and completely clear of any bits of pulp or fibre as you've strained it. At this point you can drink your milk simply by pouring it into a glass and serving, or you can choose to sweeten it or flavour it according to your own preferences. (Be sure to rinse the blender jug well first). I personally like to sweeten my nut milk a little, which I usually do with a Medjool date or two, or a tablespoon of agave nectar - I think this one simple addition takes the milk from a "7" to a "10" and most people who try them both and then compare agree (unless they have a low sweetness threshold!). If you'd like to flavour yours, read on for a range of ideas of what you can do with your lovely fresh nut milk, but bear in mind these ideas are just for starters!
Top nut milk facts & tips
* Nut milks will keep for several hours in the fridge with negligible loss of taste and nutrition. This only applies to pure nut milks - not those which have had anything added to them which will tend to ferment quite quickly and should be drunk ideally within the hour.
* To make a raw ice-cream with a nut milk base start your experiments with cashews or almonds. Cashew is the nut most like cow's milk in taste, but some people aren't so fond of cashews. But almonds are always a winner!
* To make a nut milk even more quickly AND avoid all the straining (of all kinds!), use 1 Tablespoon of nut butter instead of the 1 cup of nuts. Simply blend the butter with the water and hey presto! Instant milk.
* You can add fruit to nut milks, but bear in mind that it's not a great combination as far as food combining goes (when eaten together fruit and nuts tend to ferment in the stomach). However, because the nuts are not whole but in a milk form and therefore fibre-free this is much less likely to happen, or at least will be much less intense. Almond and strawberry is a great-tasting combination!
* Some great ingredients to try adding to your nut milks (in moderation!): Maca, mesquite meal, coconut butter, cacao beans or powder, vanilla pod or essence, cinnamon, dates, agave nectar, carob.
Nut milks for maestros
* If you make nut milks regularly but would rather not faff about with a sieve or bag and you're a gadget fan, you might consider investing in a nut milk maker. These machines are really rather groovy-looking and retail at around £59.99. The make I own is the Yaoh which is brilliant.
* If you're ready to get more out of your nut milks then consider making shakes, ice-creams, soups and dressings from them. The only difference between them all is the flavourings you choose to add and the temperature at which you serve them. But all equally lovely!
* If you've always stuck to almonds or the same nut for your nut milks, try something different. Some are bound to taste better than others, but you could always mix two or more to create something very special!
Nut milk recipes
There are some amazing nut milk recipes around these days, many of which are mine ; ) I've given you a great one in the recipe section today, but if you'd like some more you can access them here.
I look forward to hearing about your own nut milk creations! Happy Blending!
© 2009 Karen Knowler
Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com