I’ve often heard people make the complaint that dairy subsitutes are nothing more than imitations, a mockery of the real thing. Yet when I decided to look into the history of plant-based milks, I was rather suprised by what I found.
I kid you not, Almond milk was a staple of medieval cooking. Why was that? Well, thanks to the church, animal products were restricted on certain days and events. And because they couldn’t refrigerate it, milk had to be used immediately, not to mention it was seasonal.
Now nut milk? It has none of these issues. It could simply be prepared as needed. Unfortunately it was rather expensive, making it available only to the nobility and the sick. but despite that it was a staple ingredient. Also, The leftover meal or ‘curd’ could also be used as a thickener in soups or made into cheese. Almond flour is old!
And over in China, they have been making soy milk and turning it into tofu since ancient times. Still, I won’t deny that most store bought alternatives are little more than flavoured water, often containing as little as 2% almonds with additives.
But worry not! Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to make your own! I gave it a try. (soak them overnight first)
“Take peeled almonds, crush very well in a mortar, steep in water boiled and cooled to lukewarm, strain through cheesecloth and boil your almond milk on a few coals for an instant or two.”
– Le Viandier de Taillevent
I’m not usually one to get excited, But it’s sooo creamy! (It’s 25% almonds) It even forms skin like cows milk. Sadly it’s quite expensive and a bit tedious-on a budget you’re propably better off with coconut milk. Though I have seen Nut Mylk pastes for sale.
I just find it interesting the way such products are percieved by many as imitations or “vegan food”, when they stand on their own quite well.
Say, I’d been craving a creamy sauce. Being allergic to dairy, I found a great alternative-chickpea flour! just mix with water, salt and oil. To be honest I don’t get why coconut and almond flour are so popular. With chickpea flour you don’t even need eggs! It binds to itself. Flatbreads, cakes, pizza… The possibilities are endless! Just remember the flour needs to soak overnight in water.
It’s full of protein, iron, magnesium, the list goes on. Such a versatile ingredient.
You can even make cheese from nuts or pulses quite easily. After all, what makes something cheese? Cheesemaking is a process of adding acid while heating, then letting the liquid drain, leaving curd behind. The kind of curd doesn’t matter. Even soy curd (tofu) is cheese.
To be honest, I could say the same about avoiding wheat. If one does a little research, It turns out that until nitrate fertilisers came around, it wasn’t even that widely cultivated in europe! It was introduced from asia much later. Oats, buckwheat, millet, Teff, rye, among others were grown in abundance till very recently.
To be honest, I don’t really miss it. I’ve grown rather fond of buckwheat. It might seem new, but kasha has been a staple dish in eastern europe for centuries.
So if someone gives you a hard time because your body reacts poorly to these ingredients, it’s not that you are weak or broken. There is nothing strange about it. We’ve been making nut milk for centuries!
Boltere of Almand Melk (Almond butter/ Cheese)
Now go, And Serve it Forth!