Almonds & Almond Milk: A Few Questions Answered

So I was asked questions twice in the past month about almond milk. How it is made, was it really used a lot, wasn’t it really expensive…. Here are my answers to those questions almond milk….

 1. How is it made?

Almond milk is made by soaking ground almonds in hot water and then straining out the ground almonds. The liquid left over is almond milk. I tend to do a 1:2 ratio of almonds to water. So if I want to 2 cups of almond milk I would need a cup of ground almonds. I bring my water to a boil, remove from the heat and stir in the almonds. I generally let the almonds soak until the mixture is room temperature. Then I use muslin and strain it to remove all the ground almonds. I also squeeze the ground almonds in the muslin to get as much liquid out of them as possible. Ta da! Almond milk!

 2. Was almond milk really used a lot?

YES! Almonds were grown all over England and other countries as well and almonds were used for many culinary tasks. Almond milk was hugely popular because unlike animal milk it can be used on non meat days and it has a much longer shelf life. Animal milk wasn’t used as just milk often because you could make better use of it by making it into butter or cheese which stored properly last much longer than milk.

3. Wasn’t it really expensive?

Compared to the amount of time and resources it takes to keep a animal healthy and producing a gallon of almond milk would have cost much less than a gallon of animal milk.

Beyond those questions I have a few other thoughts on almonds….

Almond Butter

Almond butter, like almond milk could be used on meatless days.

Curye on Inglish* has the following recipe for butter made from almonds.

 Botere of almand melk. Tak þikke almound melk & boyle it, & as it boyleth cast yn a litel wyn or vynegre, & þan do it on a caneuas & lat þe whey renne out. & þan gadere it vp with þyn hondes & hang it vp a myle wey, & ley it after in cold water, & serue it forth. 

Here is the translation… 

 Butter of almond milk. Take thick almond milk & boil it, & as it boils cast in a little wine or vinegar, & then do it on a canvas & let the whey run out. & then gather it up with your hands & hang it up a mile away, & lay it after in cold water, & serve it forth. 

You will notice that it says “hang it up a mile away“, this likely did not mean take it a mile away and hang it but that you should hang it up the amount of time it would take to walk a mile. So about 20-30 minutes will do.

Almond Meal

Almond meal is simply ground almonds. It is more coarsely ground than flour, closer to what we think of modern cornmeal being like. Ground almonds were used to make almond milk as the recipe mentioned earlier shows but it is also used as a thickener for pottages and sauces. I have a theory that most often the ground almonds used for thickening were not the fresh ground but were the leftovers from making almond milk.

I have not found described anywhere what was done with the almonds after they were used to make almond milk and it seems silly to think that they would have just gone to waste. The left over ground almonds could have been laid out to dry and would have kept in that form for a good long time as the nut fats would have been mostly removed. Without those fats the ground almonds would take even longer to spoil and would be more stable in a variety of temperatures.

This almond meal would still be able to thicken just as well if not better than the fresh ground almonds because once dried they would be little more than the pulp of the nut and would be able to absorb more liquid than the fresh ground and still full of fat almonds.

It is my conclusion that likely when you see ground almonds in a recipe where they are thickening a sauce or a pottage, unless the recipe tells you to grind the almonds fresh, they are probably the left overs from making almond milk.

So go forth and use almonds! (unless you are allergic that is)

* – Hieatt, Constance B. and Sharon Butler. Curye on Inglish: English Culinary Manuscripts of the Fourteenth-Century (Including the Forme of Cury). New York: for The Early English Text Society by the Oxford University Press, 1985.


Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: