There are some store-bought things that just annoy me — they’re expensive, they’re full of crappy things, they’ve got packaging not conducive to proper disposal, and they’re so easy to make at home.
One such species are the most of the milk alternatives, such as coconut or nut milks, aka “mylks.” (The dairy industry has sued these folks for using the proprietary term, arguing that it’s not milk if it doesn’t come from an udder.)
I’m not generally a huge fan of alternative things. Either use the real deal or just … don’t. If you have a health issue with a thing, replacing it with a fake version keeps you craving what you can’t have without ever fully scratching the itch. Also, alternatives are generally more processed and have more ingredients — meaning they’re likely less healthy on their face than the original thing, and more likely to introduce chemicals you definitely don’t need in your life.
But sometimes, you do kind of need the thing.
If you’re making a home-made curry, for instance, it’s just not right without coconut milk. Some prepared sauces save space and expense by leaving coconut milk out, expecting you to add it at home.
For me, it’s not an ingredient I use frequently, so buying it ends up as more composting clutter in the back of my fridge. And let’s not even start on the issue of waste: the aseptic packages most mylks come in can’t be reused or recycled. It’s just straight waste.
But you know what? Making your own mylks is insanely fast and easy, as long as you have the right tools.
In this case, the main thing is a sturdy, powerful blender such as a Vitamix.
Depending on what you’re making the mylk out of, you’ll generally use two to three parts water to one part of the base. For coconut mylk, for example, it’s two cups of water to one cup of shredded coconut. Nut mylks are generally three to one.
Once everything is thoroughly blended, you’ll want to strain out the solids to get a smooth liquid. You can do this with cheesecloth, cheesecloth in a colander, or using a jelly bag. You can use a nylon stocking or thin cotton sock, too. In any case, you’ll gently squeeze to get out most of the good stuff. You can use the remaining solids to make quick crackers if you’re feeling inspired, or just compost it.
Another cool think about making mylks at home is you get to play! One of my favorite mylks is a combination of hazelnuts and coconut. Just adjust the water accordingly.
You similarly get to control the sweetness. As you eat more whole foods and less sugar, you’ll find that many prepared items are kind of cloying.
When making milks from scratch, I generally don’t add sweetener. But if I’m making a batch specifically for chai or brewing chocolate — which is how I got started down this road in the first place — it’s nice to add one or two whole dates to give just a hint of sweet. (Make sure you remove any pits first!)
Dates are a lovely addition here because they’re subtle, while also offering a host of health benefits, even if you’re only getting little bits. Like most plant foods, they’re high in phytonutrients that can support immunity, reduce inflammation and regulate hormones. You’ll also get some selenium, magnesium and copper out of them.
These mylks usually last about a week in the fridge, if you don’t finish them up first.