My family and I have been drinking almond milk for years but it wasn't until recently that I discovered how easy (and inexpensive) it is to make yourself. Then much to my surprise (and joy), an experiment with the left-over almond pulp was successful in being made into almond butter. Two products for the price of one! Using the process below will yield a little over 6 cups of almond milk and 1 cup of almond butter for just $3.56. Beat that, Walmart!
This will require a blender, food processor and dehydrator. The first two are generally common in most kitchens. The dehydrator, on the other hand, not so much. Just like any kitchen appliance there are the low, medium and high-end dehydrators. Finding one used is a great economic option if you are just starting out dehydrating food. The brand I use is a medium-line Nesco that also has fruit-roll trays (bought separately). The trays are necessary to hold the finely ground almonds.
-2 quart mason jars with lids
-glass pitcher with lid
-2 cups raw, unsalted almonds (Costco has a 3lb bag for $16.)
-sea salt to taste
The night before you are going to make the milk, place 1 cup of almonds in each mason jar, fill with 4 cups of filtered water and place the cap on the jar. Leave on the counter over-night or for at least 8 hours. If you can't make the milk the next morning then stick the jars in the fridge until you can get to them. Use within 24 hours, even in the fridge.
Using the drainer, empty the jars and rinse the nuts. Fill the blender with 3 cups filtered water and 1 cup of the rinsed almonds. (If you have a larger blender then add all the almonds and 6 cups of water.) Blend on high for about 1 minute or until the almonds are finely ground.
Place the funnel on top of the glass pitcher and the cheese cloth over the funnel.
Pour the contents of the blender into the cheesecloth-lined funnel. Make sure all of the ground nuts get out of the blender. Bring up the sides of the cheesecloth and twist to close. Squeeze the cheesecloth to extract as much milk as possible.
Place the almond meal from the cheesecloth onto the fruit-roll tray or other solid dehydrator tray. Spread as evenly as possible for even-drying. Repeat process with the other jar of almonds and spread on another fruit-roll tray. Set dehydrator per manufacturer's instruction for nuts (mine is 105 degrees) and dehydrate for 6 hours.
Make sure to get to the almond meal after 6 hours. If the almonds dehydrate for too long then it will take longer for it to turn into almond butter. The wet almond meal can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge, but again, don't leave for more than 24 hours.
Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to the almond milk (or to taste) in the glass pitcher and stir. Place on the cap and store in the fridge. Use within 1 week.
-pint-size jelly jar with lid
-dry almond meal from almond milk
-sea salt to taste
After 6 hours, carefully empty the fruit-roll trays of now dry almond meal into the bowl of a food processor. Depending on the type of food processor you have, this can take anywhere from 6 to 15 minutes. I have a lower-end model and it takes about 10 to 12 minutes to process the meal into butter. Run the processor for one minute at a time, scraping down the sides when necessary.
Once the almond butter is smooth, add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt to the bowl and process again. Store in a jelly jar with a lid in the fridge. Use within 2 weeks (if it will last that long!).
Almond milk can be used in any recipe that calls for milk. The only time I didn't have success was when I tried to make pudding, otherwise, almond milk makes the perfect substitute to cow's milk. Using the almond meal for almond butter helps stretch grocery dollars and is actually healthier than store-bought almond butter due to the nuts being soaked before they were processed. I'll go over the importance of soaked nuts and grains in a future post. Until then, use the almond butter in place of peanut butter and enjoy all the extra vitamin E!