Friday, June 29, 2007

Milky musings

Our friends are getting a cow. I'm currently torn over the prospect of offering my kids unpasteurized milk. When I was a medical student I helped look after 5 kids who came down with invasive E. coli disease from drinking unpasteurized milk on a preschool farm visit. One of those kids died, another ended up on dialysis with kidney failure. Chuck grew up on a dairy farm, drinking milk straight from the cow, but strangely enough has no interest in non-store-bought milk. Then again, I know that most problems with unpasteurized milk spring from specific problematic handling practices, and that pasteurized milk is 'processed' and nutritionally depleted compared to raw. Maybe we'll buy their milk, but scald it and use it for yogourt. We certainly want to learn to milk their cow, and would love the chance to try cheese-making and butter-making. We've done these from store-bought, but somehow that doesn't seem quite as nifty.

We don't drink a whole lot of milk, at least not the kind of quantities I was raised on. My kids drink mostly water with meals and for quenching thirst during the day. They like milk with breakfast cereal, but it's a bit of an exception for my kids to actually pour themselves milk in a glass to drink. They did develop a fondness for Rice Dream a year or two ago, though. And they've always loved almond milk, warm or cold. Oy, the tetrapaks, though! Only the juice tetrapaks can even be "recycled" around here, and even with those I know in my heart of hearts that the sarcastiquotes around "recycled" are well-deserved.

I experimented with making almond milk when we first started ordering bulk fruit and nuts from Rancho Vignola each fall. It worked beautifully, but the grinding and filtering was messy and time-consuming. Almond milk was a rare treat. Cashew milk happened a little more often, since filtering wasn't necessary, but the pre-cooking of the millet was enough to prevent nut milk making from becoming part of my routine. I also tried making rice milk. Again, an acceptable end-product, but messy and time-consuming.

So, after kicking the idea around for a while and doing some research, I bought a Soyabella. It has vastly simplified the making of dairy-free milks, and has totally eliminated our use of tetrapaks. We use it in equal proportion for nut milks, rice milk and soy milk ... and various combinations thereof. The night before I measure out the raw ingredients, in this case a combination of cashews and soybeans.

Then I dump them into the milk-making screen cup, set that into the utility cup, and fill the whole thing with water.

In the morning I remove the metal cup and its soaked beans and nuts from the water, and attach the cup to the grinder part of the Soyabella. The grinding blade doesn't look too impressive but it certainly does its job. The cup twists on to make a cylindrical unit that is below the lid of the Soyabella jug.

Then I set the lid into the jug which has been prefilled with water. I plug it in, press "milk" and wait. For a few minutes the unit warms up from an element hidden beneath the bottom of the stainless steel jug, heating the water to just below the boil. It goes through four grinding/filtering cycles, steeps a little longer and then beeps to tell me it's done.

I add whatever flavourings inspire me -- often 1/4 tsp. of salt, two or three tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, sometimes some vanilla extract.

A quick stir, and we're ready to decant into a container for the fridge. Most milks keep 2-3 days in the fridge. Most l.6 L batches of alternative milks disappear around here in 24 hours, long before the thermophils get to them.

Mmm, mmm! I'll even confess that with my cashew-millet recipe, I empty out the paste that's left inside the screen cup, add maple syrup and milk, call it 'porridge' and enjoy it immensely by the spoonful. My kids think I'm nuts, so it's only the worms who are sad not to get their serving.


  1. We've had our Soylife soymilk machine for years, and we now use it for rice and almond milk. I don't use the heat though. I prefer to keep it raw, so I only use the Grind function. Doesn't froth up as much and makes less mess. Great way to save money and packaging.

  2. colleen9:06 am

    I am very interested in doing this, but my concern would be calcium. My little guy is allergic to dairy so I am wondering how I can get enough calcium in him if I don't buy the fortified soy milk. Would almond milk provide enough calcium?

  3. I don't know about the calcium issue. If I were concerned I think I'd go out and buy a liquid calcium supplement and fortify my own soy / rice milk by adding a tsp or whatever of the supplement to each batch of milk, along with the sweetener etc..

  4. We've been drinking raw milk since January and love it - no ones gotten sick and the kids and I prefer to store-bought milk. I drank raw milk up until I was 13, when my uncle was no longer permitted to give it away/sell it in rural NB.


  5. Anonymous10:52 pm

    I've tried doing soy milk by hand but what a mess and hassle! The experimentation didn't last for long. I wonder if we have these in my part of the world. Haven't heard of them but will google them and see what comes up.Thanks for the idea.

  6. Ah.. we used to work our soymilk machine every morning simply b/c that was what our elder boy would drink as a toddler (after he weaned from bf'dg).

    I remember the taste was the fullest (and tastiest) when we used organic soybeans.

    We didn't use to worry about the calcium intake as he would eat quite a bit of tofu too and that's high in calc.

    We can easily buy very tasty high-calcium low-sugar soy milk from supermarkets these days though. But maybe it's because of where we are - drinking soymilk can be quite common among Chinese.


  7. Soy and rice milk are very common where we live too -- every convenience store carries three or four varieties at least. The reason I'm making the milk is to get away from the packaging and its environmental impact. I can buy bulk organic brown rice or soybeans in a re-useable bag and make it, eliminating almost all the packaging.

  8. Miranda,

    I'm intrigued by the Rancho Vignola nuts, and may place a wholesale order in the fall. On their site they write:

    "We offer 5% commission to the Buying Club co-ordinator (that means you!) of an existing wholesale club who refers us to friends, family members and other contacts who start a new club and place a wholesale order. The amount of the commission is determined by the new club’s wholesale order total and is awarded for three consecutive years from the first wholesale order. Commissions earned are calculated at the end of the season and cheques mailed out early in the new year. To be eligible, when referring new customers to us you must provide their full name, address, telephone number and email before we send out the wholesale price list in early September. New clubs must have their own co-ordinator and a separate shipping address from their sponsor."

    Are you a buying-coordinator and would you like me to "put you down" as a referer? Email me at zicki32 at if you would.

    Thanks for a fabulous blog.. you're an inspiration.


  9. I also say common bc we can also buy freshly made soy milk at quite a number of stores. These are stalls that sell just soya products and they make the soya milk right there at the premises. But those are definitely not calcium-fortified. What's high in calcium is the Beacurd, which these types of stalls also sell.

    I love to have beancurd (soft like jelly) with fresh soya milk. Very nice. But these are more of a treat as I only like the beancurd from certain stores bc of the texture and taste.

    I don't drink cows milk. Used to drink loads until I bf'd for 6years - I hated the smell of cows milk somewhere along that journey.

  10. I can not wait to try home made milk!
    thank you

  11. Can not wait to try this out. Thank you!


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