Almond Milk Is Super Refreshing
On Sicily, where days can boil above 100° F., the nights stick at 90° F. for weeks on end and few people even now have air conditioning, cold almond milk helps everyone survive. This great refresher, as they showed me, is made simply by grinding soaked almonds with water then squeezing them out in cheesecloth or a mesh bag. The resulting liquid looks like low-fat dairy milk. It tastes nutty and rich yet light.
Sicilians grow the best almonds in the world. Mostly they are ground up for almond paste, which they then use to make the most divine cookies and sweets, but their combination of sweet and bitter flavors also gives almond milk an unforgettable taste.
I like commercially made almond milk, particularly the ones from Silk and Almond Breeze sold in natural food stores and many supermarkets. But homemade almond milk is even fresher tasting. These are my secrets for making almond milk almost as good as it is in Sicily.
The flavor in almond milk relies on the nuts. The Nonpareil variety, almost the only almond available in the U.S., has as much flavor as an unripe winter tomato when compared to nuts from Sicily. So I set out to find the most flavorful varieties available here.
Happily, Trader Joe has a good alternative. Their organic Valencia almonds produce terrific almond milk because they have some of the bitter almond flavor that make Sicilian nuts taste intensely good. For drinking, the pale beige color of the almond milk they make does not matter.
Mission is the other almond variety to use. Its fresh, slightly sweet flavor and creamy white color make it closer to dairy milk and ideal to use in soups, baking and drinks where milder flavor is preferred. One of the few sources selling Mission almonds is Just Almonds.
To drain the nuts and extract the richest milk, a fine mesh bag works even better than cheesecloth. The one from Pure Joy Planet washes out in a minute and lasts well.
Almond Nut Milk
Makes 3 1/2 to 4 cups
Soak 1 cup raw whole almonds (with skin) in 2 cups cold water for 8 hours. Drain the nuts and place in a blender. Add 4 cups cold water and blend until the nuts are finely ground. If the blender is not strong, do this in two batches.
Pour the ground nuts and liquid into a nut milk bag or double layer of cheesecloth set over a bowl. When all the liquid has drained into the bowl, twist the fabric and squeeze the ground nuts to extract as much liquid as possible. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.