The Viva Vine: vol #2, no #5: November / December 1993
A Nut Milk Story by Pamela Teisler

Do you ever look at your spices and extracts and lament that some of them surely must date back to your childhood? I did recently. But fortunately, I recently leafed through a copy of last winter's edition of *Vegetarian Gourmet* magazine. It's a good thing too, because inside was a very intriguing feature on nut milks, something you can make which uses so many of those long forgotten flavorings.

Nut milks have also given me the opportunity to use up that pound of carob powder I enthusiastically bought at the co-op, and flaxseed and lecithin too! My intentions were very good when I made those purchases, as I have again been reminded by the Vegetarian Gourmet article.

Flaxseed, for instance, contains linolenic acid, which is a nutrient missing from many modern (processed food) diets. Author Candia Lea Cole, who wrote the Vegetarian Gourmet article, tells us, "Signs of linolenic deficiency include dull skin, constipation, hypoglycemia, [high] cholesterol, cellulite and even heart disease."

Flaxseed has been used by herbalists, beauticians, weavers and painters throughout history. But it is also very useful in the kitchen. It is an excellent binder for anyone who wants to avoid eggs and still bake. It also makes nut milks thick and creamy.

Lecithin, a moist, yellow substance made from soybeans, works with, and in much the same way as flaxseed by functioning as an emulsifier. It is a healthy additive too, promoting the assimilation of fats and lowering cholesterol levels. (note: use the granule form rather than liquid form for drinks such as nut milk.)

Carob powder is known to be a satisfactory substitute for chocolate without the caffeine. It provides some protein, phosphorus and calcium too.

Besides taste and nutrition, the best thing about nut milks is that they can be used in place of cow's milks. When we avoid cow's milk we help our health, save the environment, as well as lift a cruel burden off of our friends the cows.

A SUBSTITUTE FOR COW*S MILK

Jo Willard of Natural Hygiene Incorporated, Huntington, Conn., calls cow's milk "liquid meat," and rightly so. Milk has no fiber, carbohydrate, nor vitamin C, and has many other negative characteristics of meat. Milk is also naturally high in protein; and we now know that excessive protein in one's diet causes a depletion of calcium from the bones.

Many people, of course, think you must have dairy products in your diet to avoid calcium deficiencies. There are many plant sources for calcium, however, that are better than milk, such as broccoli, tofu, figs, corn bread and even wax beans and lemons. Nut milks have calcium, too, especially if they contain almonds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. These plant foods all come without the animal protein and the animal fat of milk.

When you drink cow's milk, you risk exposure to salmonella poisoning. In addition, many people suffer lactose (sugar from milk) intolerances as well as allergies to cow's milk.

Most milk today comes from cows housed in massive sheds located outside of large metropolitan areas. Cows are routinely drugged with antibiotics and tranquilizers to counter the unhealthy and maddening conditions of indoor confinement. They are also regularly fed growth hormones. Today's cows are cruelly and unnaturally milked dry up to 3 times a day. Our modern cow lives only one fifth of her natural lifespan due to the stress of excessive milking and calving. Her ultimate destiny is to become your hamburger.

The milk industry is also an integral part of the hideous veal trade. When you drink milk, or eat cheese, yogurt, butter or ice cream, you support this relationship.

As for the environmental impact of dairy farming, as with beef production (dairy's first cousin), the production of milk contributes inordinately to depletion of natural resources -- water, wilderness areas, and fossil fuels. It pollutes our fresh water, and contributes to deforestation and topsoil erosion.

Enough of why... On to the how!

Now, save one, I'm not going to give recipes here. I believe that you should turn to the expert for that. Woodbridge Press of Santa Barbara, California has published "Not Milk ... Nut Milks!" by Candia Lea Cole (c)1990; 128 pages; $7.95.

What I am about to give here will suffice only for the creative cook who feels comfortable cooking and baking with nothing but some good general guidelines.

There are 8 basic parts to a nut milk

Keep in mind these eight general ingredients to making nut milks and, go ahead, be creative!

1) 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup NUTS AND/OR SEEDS, preferably raw (non-roasted), fresh, and refrigerated. A partial list of possibilities includes almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, filberts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Use two or three in combination if desired. (hint: buy broken nuts; they are much cheaper.)
2) 1 Tbsp. FLAXSEED
3) 1 tsp. LECITHIN granules
4) 4 cups HEATED LIQUID -- watered down fruit juice or tap water (or as recommended by Ms. Cole, spring or filtered water)

(For the following four parts, use 2 or 3 ingredients in combination if desired.)

5) 3 Tbsp. (approximately) SWEETENER; a partial list includes brown-rice syrup, barley malt, molasses, and maple syrup

6) FORTIFIERS (optional); a partial list includes:
> slippery elm (1/2 tsp.) which is rich in enzymes that aid digestion, > cocoa (1 tsp.), > carob powder (2 Tbsp); carob is discussed above.

7) FLAVORINGS -- spices (no more than a total of 1-1/2 tsp of ground spice) and/or extracts (no more than a total of 1-1/2 tsp. extract); a partial list includes nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom powder, clove powder, allspice, anise powder, coriander, almond extract, lemon extract, caramel extract, vanilla extract, coconut extract and zests from citrus fruits which you can add sparingly to taste; (hint: For better flavor, buy spices, such as cloves, whole and grind to a powder in your coffee grinder just before use.)

8) FRUIT -- fresh or dried; a partial list includes: bananas, apples, apricots, prunes, raisins, or dates, etc. (add to taste)

Now, "in the beginning" (and I hope you too see this as a religious experience), you blend the fruit you may plan to use in the BLENDER or food processor. Meanwhile, heat the liquid to simmer (do not to boil). Next, grind the nuts and/or seeds in a COFFEE GRINDER to a fine powder. Then grind the flaxseeds in the coffee grinder to a fine powder. Then add to the fruit in the blender the nut/seed powder, flaxseed powder, lecithin, sweetener (opt.), fortifier (opt.), flavoring(s), and then, the heated liquid. Blend everything to a puree consistency. (hint: if using liquid extract(s) or liquid sweetener(s), it is better to add these after heated liquid is mixed in.)

There's only one thing left to do at this point, and that is, pour the glorious mixture through a fine strainer. (hint: I have found that a regular strainer will not work. You must purchase one that is truly fine; do not settle for one that does not fit this requirement. Also, purchase one that is somewhat large; the smaller ones are frustratingly slow.)

Now, you may want to enjoy your ambrosia right away, warm, or you may heat it up. You may also choose to enjoyed it later chilled.

Nut milks generally keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator -- that is if they last there that long.

And, as I promised -- here is our one nut milk recipe from Candia Lea Cole's book, Not Milk ... Nut Milk!

Mellow Carob Cocoa Almond Milk
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 Tbsp. flaxseeds
1 tsp. lecithin granules
2 Tbsp. carob powder
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. slippery elm powder (opt.)
2-1/2 Tbsp brown rice syrup*
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3-1/4 cups hot water

Follow the general instructions, above, on how to prepare nut milks for this recipe.

* I have substituted a plant food, here, rice syrup, for Ms. Cole's honey.

The VivaVegie Society hopes to get a lot of feedback about this article on nut milks. Let us know your angle on the nut milk story. Do you recommend allowing the nuts or seeds to sprout overnight before grinding to make them more nutritious? Do you think New York City should have a house of nut milk/vegetarian community center? Write in your comments for next issue!

The VivaVegie Society highly recommends that all of its members subscribe to Vegetarian Gourmet magazine. It is my answer to all the many, many people who can't seem to get enough recipes. The Winter edition I used for this article, alone, had a total of 110 recipes.

Subscriptions to Vegetarian Gourmet are $9.95 for one year and $17.95 to two years. (PA subscribers, one year, $10.55; two years, $19.03.) Add $4.00 per year to Canadian and foreign postage. Contact Vegetarian Gourmet at P.O. Box 7641, Riverton, NJ 08077-7641.

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