Make no mistake - I love dairy products just as much as the next person. A cold glass of milk, an aged stinky cheese, fresh whipped cream on top of a pie, I mean, please.
However, dairy products + the dairy industry have had a distinctly negative impact on human health and the health of our environment as the result of mass production, soil and fertilizer runoff, depletion of water quality, utilization of hormones and synthetic chemicals during nurturing + production, etc.
That isn't to say that there aren't dairy producers doing it right. There are dairy farmers out there caring for their livestock, their lands, and the surrounding waterways responsibly and diligently, and for them I am grateful and in awe.
I will be the first one to suggest that we can do better about supporting local, small-scale agriculture, local farmers, responsible farmers and sustainable practices. However, we can also help to implement sustainability by lessening demand on dairy products so as to offset the desire for companies to mass produce quickly and inefficiently.
One way of doing this is to supplement dairy intake with non-dairy intake. Specifically, we can cut down on our dairy intake by reducing or eliminating dairy milk from our diets and replacing it with non-dairy milks. My non-dairy milk of preference is almond milk, although you can also make cashew, hemp, soy, macadamia, coconut, etc.
Almond milk takes 15 minutes to make at home (if you choose not to peel or have already peeled your almonds) and this is how you do it.
First, buy some almonds in bulk at your local bulk or grocery store. Bulk sections (especially for nuts) are becoming increasingly common, which is a gift to us all. Once you get home, soak your almonds overnight or for a couple nights in water.
After you have soaked your almonds, strain the water and rinse them in fresh water. Now, you can either peel your almonds, or leave them whole. I prefer to peel them as I think it gives the milk a frothier, smoother consistency. Compost the skins, and leave the peeled almonds to the side.
Once your almonds are rinsed, peeled and prepped they are ready to be transformed into almond milk! You'll need a blender/food processor/high speed blender or any of the above. I have a really, really old blender that works just fine, but I know many people swear by their food processors for everything. Take one cup of almonds and place in your blender, submerge the almonds in water, and blend on high speed. As far as the amount of water goes, the more water you use the lighter the consistency will be, the less water you use, the more viscous the consistency will be. I tend to land on the more almonds, less water end of the spectrum.
As you blend your almonds and water, you'll have to periodically strain each batch of blended almonds. Use a cheese/nut milk cloth (or in my case one of my reusable produce bags) and a strainer to strain the milk from the pulp. You will absolutely have to squeeze the remainder of the milk from the pulp. To do this, I simply pick up my cloth bag and wrap the pulp in my fist and give it a good squeeze. Repeat this process - blend, strain, squeeze - until your almonds are gone. By the end of this process you should be left with frothy, white almond milk in one container, and a fairly substantial amount of almond meal.
If you're going to sweeten your almond milk, I recommend doing it sparingly. A touch of simple syrup (to make an entire batch of simple syrup for cooking, cocktails, sweetener all you need is 1 cup sugar/1 cup water, cooked down, chilled), maple syrup, agave, honey, etc. should do the trick. If you like, you can add a couple drops of vanilla extract. If you're using your almond milk to bake or for a recipe, don't sweeten it. If you're using your almond milk to make smoothies or protein shakes, lightly sweeten it. If you're using almond milk with granola or cereals or oatmeal, a little bit sweeter can be nice. Save your almond meal to make cookies or cakes or crumble toppings, but also if you need to compost it, that's okay too. It doesn't make sense to have 30 mason jars of almond meal in your freezer. If you are going to save the meal, freeze it to extend it's shelf life.
Remember - home made almond milk is devoid of preservatives. It won't last long. Use it within a week of making it, or it's going to be awfully funky. Think of this as well if you're going to use this to bake or cook. Things we make at home have substantially reduced shelf lives, and that's ok. We can all do better to use what we have, eat what we make, be conscientious about food waste and simplify where we can simplify.
As always, reach out to us with questions, concerns, tips and tricks of your own, etc.