Milk is important to me, I drink it in my tea. That's about it, but then, that's a good enough reason to make a whole post about it! I also use milk in cakes, corn bread, bechemal sauce for lasagna and to make yogurt and labne. My youngest drinks it straight and we are also keen on cheese. I'm on the hunt now for a happy cow that eats the local vegetation and is not exploited, when I find her my milk supply will be one that makes me happy rather than one that I can't stand to think about. The cheese is more challenging, but I live in hope that I can find a cheese maker who loves his or her cows as my home made attempts at straining yogurt to make a kind of labne cheese is as far as I got with that so far.
The basic milk alternative though is another matter, something that we can attempt at home! I prefer semi skimmed in my tea and this is only available here in horrid tetra pack. so though I can buy whole (full fat) milk in glass bottles or from the local cows) I find it too creamy. I tried making milk with water and blended oats, but this was a false start and the result was not substantial or creamy enough, so here is my breaking news: Amazing success has been achieved with cashew nuts!
It took me some time to be able to obtain raw cashews (with no packaging) after which I found it was incredibly easy to make the milk.
- One glass/cup of raw cashew nuts.
- 3 or 4 glasses/cups of drinking water.
- extra water for soaking
- Soak the cashews in water for at least a few hours or maximum over night,
- Stain nuts and put in blender and blend, add 1 glass of drinking water, blend, add another 2 glasses of water, blend. Add the remaining glass of water depending on the level of creaminess you desire.
- Then put it through a muslin cloth (using a rubber band to secure) and strained the milk into a jar . The resulting milk is creamy enough and feels and tastes like milk!
After 2 days in the fridge the creaminess of the cashew milk sinks (contrary to cows milk cream which floats). My partner tasted it and had no idea that it wasn't kaymak or the clotted cream and it was fabulous in my French press coffee! The residue nut pulp is like a slightly bitty cream so I'm using that mixed with yogurt and honey (cinnamon, ginger etc) as a kind of pudding, it can also be used in cakes etc. I'll let you know if I discover something interesting to do with it.
For me cutting back on dairy consumption, even in just a small way is a positive change. We know that cows are suffering as a result of our farming practices, the cows contribute to climate change with their huge methane output and their need for huge agriculture provided edible input is the cause of deforestation worldwide. Another plus is avoiding the milk packaging.
However the negative side of this change is that though income from sustainable, fair trade cashew production can have a positive impact on local communities, this is not always the case and then it's not the cows, but the farm workers and local terrain that are exploited. In some areas the nuts (such as almonds in California) consume more water than is available and can be considered their fair worth. There is also the factor of travel. Cashews are grown in a few countries and none of them close to me (or you probably) so the shipping cost to the environment makes a big dent in the side of my conscientiousness here.
Conclusion. I suggest we all look at our most local options, in my case almonds are grown locally here in Turkey. I shall be experimenting further and keep you posted.
For my post on this milk in my tea read this.