I try to eat healthy. And for the most part I succeed. But I have a weakness for dairy products. Particularly cheese, especially melted, and crème fraiche.
I learned how to make crème fraiche from a blog I love, and its been all over since then. I keep a jar of it in my fridge more days than not, which is amazing considering how quickly it gets eaten. The ingredients of crème fraiche are very simple: for every one cup of cream, add one tablespoon of buttermilk with live cultures. Let sit two days and voila, creamy buttery goodness… that I eat waaaaay too much of.
Its not just the calories.
Casein, a protein in milk, is being found to be very bad for you. In the documentary, Forks Over Knives, they site many studies that show that casein (and indeed all animal protein) can lead to major health problems including cancer.
I eat a lot of casein, aka dairy products. Its not just the cancer thing. Its also about staying gluten free. Many dairy products nowadays have fillers – thickeners like gums which might be made with gluten and added fats like glycerides which might be contaminated in the manufacturing process. It is very hard to find dairy products without these additives, and almost impossible to find dairy substitutes that don’t have them.
So any substitute I can find that I will actually eat and that is truly gluten free is a great thing.
The bits of almond left over from the straining is, let’s be honest, not as good as crème fraiche. However, if crème fraiche is a ten this is a seven. Pretty darn good. Even better with a spoon of vegan plum butter.
But the almond milk? This almond milk is so delicious that I don’t miss cream. It is so spectacular that when I spilled some on a cutting board, I licked it off! It is so tasty that when it is done, I don’t even wait to pour it into a cup, but pick up the bowl and drink.
It is more than worth the effort.
Everybody will like their almond milk a little different. Some may add nutmeg, or leave out the cardamom. Honey can be expensive, so I sometimes use half brown sugar, half honey. Others may like maple syrup as a sweetener, or nothing at all! Experiment and play around to find the perfect milk for you!
I would strongly suggest that you use unsprayed or organic almonds. They taste way better and don’t have any nasty chemicals – imagine adding RAID to your almond milk! Ugh! (thanks to Momnivore’s Dilemma for the analogy!)
When removing the almond skins, I usually plunk myself down in front of the TV or talk with a friend so I have something to do while shelling them.
You could just soak the almonds overnight, but I find the quality and milkiness of the final product is much improved if I let it soak at least 24 hours.
For straining the mixture, you actually can NOT strain it if you want! But its kind of gritty. When straining it, a fine mesh strainer is usually not fine enough (and even if it was, it would need to be BIG, and squeezing it out would be hard). I went to my local co-op – they sell linen cloth bags to use in their bulk section for less than $3 that work perfectly.
You can also not strain it all the way. When it is still moist enough to be firmer than sour cream but softer than ricotta cheese, this stuff makes a lovely creamy replacement for those types of dairy products. (As the milk is a great replacement for cream or milk)
Cheesecloth or a linen/muslin bag
1.5 Cups Almonds (unsprayed or organic are best – better tasting and no nasty chemicals)
3 Cups Water for boiling
1 Cup Water plus another 1 Cup Water for blending
2 Cups Water
2-3 TBSP Honey
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cardamom
1 Cup Water for sprinkling on almond mix
Blanching/Skinning the Almonds:
Bring three cups of water to a boil. Add the almonds. Let boil about three minutes, then drain. Let sit until cool enough to touch. Remove the skins. I just squeeze them and let them pop out into the bowl.
Soaking the Almonds:
Add filtered water to the almonds. I usually use the rule of adding enough water to double the height of the almonds (so if you have an inch of almonds, add water to the two inch mark). Let soak at room temperature, preferably 24 hours.
Blending the Almonds:
Drain the almonds, and put them in the blender. Add one cup of water. Blend on med high setting. Soon the mixture will be so thick it stops moving. Keeping the blender running, remove the little insert in the lid (or if you don’t have one carefully lift the lid part way) and drizzle in about ¼ cup of water. It will likely start to move and then stop again. Keep adding small amounts of water until it is just barely enough water to keep the mixture moving, but no more water than necessary. Keep blending it until it is a very fine puree. Turn off the blender.
Adding the rest of the Ingredients:
Add two more cups of water. Put the lid on, and turn on the blender. Remove the little insert in the lid, and add the spices and the sweetener. (I do it this way rather than putting them in then turning it on because that way spices don’t end up on my lid rather than in the milk) Taste. Adjust.
Milking the Almonds:
Get your linen bag wet with filtered water, squeeze out. Over a bowl, pour the mixture into the bag. Let it drain for a minute or two. Tilt the bag so that one of the corners is pointing down (like a icing bag for a cake), then gently squeeze over and over for several minutes until it is as dry as possible (unless using the almond mixture for something else). Open the bag and sprinkle with water, the try squeezing again. Repeat until you are satisfied.