Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oh, nuts

I like my coffee less when B.G. and Missy, our Saanen does, are dry. Black coffee never did suit me, and store bought cow's milk comes with so much suffering. Soy milk makes me ill (I have an allergy, though I seem to tolerate tempeh and tofu better) and rice milk is sickly sweet and weak. Almond milk—I like almond milk, but it's so expensive. I have a hard time justifying the shipping of heavy, packaged fluids across long distances, too . . . and there are no almond milk factories in Acme.

I was ruminating on these matters a couple of weeks ago, and went so far as to post a Facebook status: "can I grow nuts here? Can I make milk from them?" Then, thinking my question made me look a bit ignorant, I promptly deleted it. "I think I could grow hazelnuts," I said to myself. "I'll just have to research hazelnut milk." I wondered if anyone had ever tried hazelnut milk, and if it could be made at home, and whether it required a lot of time and energy to produce.

I left my desk, then, and went to visit my friend down the road. Mrs. H and I see each other often and share a number of interests, but I was still surprised by the coincidence of our parallel thinking. The moment I stepped over the threshold, and before I had shrugged out of my coat, she offered me coffee. "I hope you'll have it with hazelnut milk. I've just made some."

It turns out that homemade nut milks ARE possible! Easy. Delicious. Quick. Affordable. Wholesome. The icing on the cake? Hazelnuts can be grown here, right in Wickersham.

Mrs. H's hazelnut milk was wonderful—easily as nice as anything you'd find in an aseptic package or a refrigerated carton, and far less labor- and petroleum intensive than a trip to the grocery store. I've since duplicated her recipe with raw almonds with just as much success. So great is my enthusiasm for this new coffee-whitener that I've planted three filbert (hazel) trees!

Our new filbert trees
The recipe: 

1/4 cup raw nuts (almonds or hazelnuts), soaked overnight in three cups of cold water

in the morning, drain and rinse the nuts, then combine in a blender with 3 cups of new fresh water; a tablespoon or so of honey or raw sugar; a pinch of salt. 

Blend until it looks whitish. (I've tried this in my super-duper VitaMix and I've tried it with a puny stick blender; the results were better with the VitaMix, though the stick blender did a fair job too.)

Strain through a sieve. (With the VitaMix, this was sufficient. With the weaker blender, I found that the milk was gritty until strained through cheesecloth too.) Squeeze the milk out of the remaining solids, then refrigerate the nutty remains. (They can be used later as an additive in cake or bread.) 

I did the math and found that I can make milk with store bought almonds for about 90 cents per quart. Once our three filbert trees start producing, it's conceivable that we could make over 400 quarts of milk per year—more than we'd need, as we'll have a goat working too.

It's yet to be seen whether the trees do as well as we hope they shall, but I'd say my "which milk?" question is answered in any case.

Go nuts!


  1. Surely you can't produce over 400 quarts! I call folly on you, young lady!

  2. Hey Mat! Haven't you learned by now that the wife is ALWAYS right? ;)

    I figured that by the recipe given above, one needs two ounces of nuts to produce one quart of milk.

    From B.C. Agriculture (http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/aboutind/products/plant/filberts.htm):

    "A mature hazelnut tree should produce 8 to 10 kg of nuts per tree."

    9 kg = 19.85 pounds (~20)

    20 pounds per tree x 3 = 60 pounds per year

    60 pounds / 2 ounces = 480.

    So, a best case scenario for our region (B.C., Wa, etc.) would be 480 quarts of milk per year from three trees, assuming all nuts are used for milk production. ;)

    Of course, our trees might not produce optimal harvests . . . but we don't really need them to.


  3. FarmHusband, not getting involved here, but the wifey is nearly always right. Ask DesignHusband Loren. But regardless, this endeavor is admirable indeed.


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