Make Your Own “Milk”

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As knowledge of dairy allergies and intolerances becomes more widespread, a greater number of people are turning to alternatives. Delicious, nutritious and versatile substitutes can be made from a variety of foods such as oats, nuts, legumes, rice and other grains. However, by far the most popular choices are soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk. While these are readily available in most grocers these days, many people are displeased with the number of additives in them. Fortunately, these healthy dairy alternatives are simple enough to make on you own, sans chemicals.

Coconut milk

For this, you'll need an eight-ounce package of unsweetened shredded coconut, some cheesecloth, four cups of boiling water, a sieve, a large bowl and a blender. Add both the water and shreds to the blender and puree them for about one minute. Next, layer the cheesecloth two layers thick in the sieve, hold it over your bowl and pour the mixture through it. After it's mostly drained, gather up the edges of the cloth and squeeze out the remaining liquid. You can use the leftover shreds to cook with.

If you want to add flavoring to your coconut milk, you can add either a whole vanilla bean or half a teaspoon of extract. However, you're free to add more if you'd like. Sweeten with sugar or honey if desired. Coconut milk is useful for baking, puddings, soups and stews as it is very creamy and possesses a thickening quality. The end product can be refrigerated, but it's recommended that you use it within three days for the best taste. Like most dairy substitutes, this doesn't freeze well.

Soy milk and Almond milk

The process for both of these options is the same. You'll need 1 1/2 cups of raw almonds or soy beans, four cups of water, cheesecloth, a sieve, a bowl and any flavoring you desire. Vanilla beans or extract are popular choices. To start, you must soak the beans or nuts for eight to 12 hours to soften them. Once this is finished, put them in a blender with the water and blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth-lined sieve and squeeze out the leftover liquid. You can save the resulting pulp and use it for baking or other purposes. Almond pulp in particular is excellent for cookies and cakes. Add vanilla or another flavoring and sweeten to suit your preferences.

Almond milk and soy milk aren't as useful for cooking since they lack thickening properties. This is especially true of using almond milk in puddings. Store your almond milk or soy milk in the refrigerator for up to three days. Freezing is not recommended since it can ruin the texture and consistency.