Unlike animal milk, almond milk contains neither cholesterol nor lactose. As it does not contain any animal products, it is suitable for vegans and vegetarians who abstain from dairy products. Commercial almond milk products often come in plain, vanilla or chocolate flavors and are sometimes enriched with vitamins. Almond milk can also be made at home by grinding almonds with water in a blender. Vanilla flavoring and sweeteners are often added.
Almond milk is slightly beige in colour, and has a creamy texture and nutty taste. It is easy to make at home, and also comes prepackaged in long-life cartons at the supermarket.
In the Middle Ages, almond milk was known in both the Islamic world and Christendom. As a nut (the "fruit of a plant"), it is suitable for consumption during Lent. Almond milk was also a staple of medieval kitchens because cow's milk could not keep for long without spoiling.
Historically, almond milk was also called amygdalate. It was consumed over a region stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to East Asia. The Viandier, a 14th-century recipe collection, contains a recipe for almond milk and recommends its use as a substitute for animal milk during fast days.
Almonds are rich in nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus, tryptophan, copper and calcium. Almond milk does not have as much protein and calcium as cow's milk and other animal milk substances.
For children with atopic dermatitis under two years of age, almond milk is not a suitable replacement for breast milk, cow's milk or hydrolyzed formulas due to the low protein content.[dead link] "The UK Institute of Food Research found finely ground almonds contain potential prebiotic properties that could help boost digestive health by increasing the levels of certain beneficial bacteria in the stomach".
The basic method to make almond milk at home is to run soaked almonds in a blender with water and any sweeteners, then strain out the almond pulp (flesh) with a strainer or cheesecloth. Or, blend almond butter with water and sweeteners, and perhaps skip the strainer step.
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- Taillevent, Guillaume (1988-01-01). Scully, Terence, ed. Le Viandier de Taillevent. An Edition of all Extant Manuscripts. [The "Viandier" of Taillevent : an edition of all extant manuscripts] (in the original French, with a complete English translation provided). 542 King Edward Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada: University of Ottawa Press. ISBN 978-0-7766-0174-8. OCLC 611591796. Retrieved 2010-08-20. Lay summary (2009-04-12). "This volume is the first to present all four extant manuscripts of the Viandier. The texts of the 220 recipes are in the original French and a complete English translation is provided. Variants between the four manuscripts represent more than a century of modifications in gastronomic tastes and culinary practices in French seigneurial life. The commentary and notes trace the significance of these modifications and indicate the influence the Viandier exercised on more recent cookery books throughout Europe. This critical edition also includes a glossary and a bibliography. In addition, selected recipes have been adapted (with minimal modification) for modern use and arranged in a menu for six people."
- Scully, Terence (1995-08-24). The Art of Cookery in the Middle Ages. 542 King Edward Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-611-8. OCLC 32132932. Retrieved 2010-01-05. Lay summary (2009-04-12). "The medieval kitchen revealed: the master cook who worked in the noble kitchens of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had to be both practical and knowledgeable. His apprenticeship a(c)quainted him with a range of culinary skills and a wide repertoire of seasonal dishes, but he was also required to understand the inherent qualities of the foodstuffs he handled, as determined by contemporary medical theories, and to know the lean-day strictures of the Church. Research in original manuscript sources makes this a fascinating and authoritative study where little hard fact had previously existed. Numerous recipes, extracted from manuscript sources, indicate how rich and varied a choice of dishes the fifteenth century gastronome could enjoy. In this fascinating study Dr Scully examines both the theory and practice of medieval cooking, demonstrating their complex interdependence.
During his apprenticeship the medieval master cook learnt a range of culinary skills using the standard facilities — open fire, the mortar and the bolting-cloth —to their best advantage. He had a large repertoire of preparations in order to accommodate the seasonal scarcity of certain foods and the lean-day strictures of the Church. He was also familiar with the inherent qualities of all the foodstuffs he handled, as determined by contemporary medical treatises, in order to ensure that he never imperilled the health of his master's household by an unsuitable choice of ingredients. With few exceptions, these ingredients are much the same as those used today. It is the how and why of their different treatment that makes the cookery of five centuries ago of such interest."
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