Today I tried my hand at making almond milk with medieval-appropriate tools. Here are a few thoughts on the process, while they are fresh in my mind.
I followed the process suggested in En sås av ringa värde (p. 16), using 500 g almonds and 1 liter water. Use additional water for the blanching process.
First, the almonds are blanched in boiling water, then cooled in cold water before slipping off the skins.
I have a standard modern granite mortar and pestle which is somewhat wide and shallow and holds ca. 4,5 dl.
The book suggests that the amount of water be portioned out so that each batch of almonds being ground has some water. I experimented with different proportions of water and almonds to see what seemed to work most efficiently.
For this mortar (4,5 dl): Throw in 1 handfull almonds (ca 65 g) and add 1-1,5 teaspoons water. Begin to pound carefully, first cracking most of the almonds. Add another half-handfull (ca. 30 g) of almonds, working carefully so that the almonds don't spray out of the morter.
As the pounding/grinding continues, gradually add a little more water, about a teaspoon full or so. The water seems to help bind the loose grains of almonds, so less escapes the morter and ends up on the counter (and everywhere else!). Too much water, and there's splashing, which is also not helpful.
Keep pounding, stirring and scraping occasionally with a spoon, until the almonds are a very fine, uniform mass. Remove this mass to the soaking pot and repeat until all almonds are made fine and the mess is ready for soaking for the almond milk.
- This gives the arms a very good workout, and I used roughly an hour to pound 500 g of almonds. I had to remind myself not to tense my shoulders, but just let my arms do the work.
- I wonder if other shapes of morters would allow for more efficient pounding, and how a wooden morter and/or pestle would affect the result.
- The book suggest how to do this process both using modern equipment, and "in the field." In the former, the almonds are ground with cold water and covered with boiling water to produce the almond milk. In the latter, cold or tepid water is used in the grinding/pounding process, then cold water used to produce the almond milk. I wonder how (if at all) the water temperature affects the end result.
Serra, Daniel and Hanna Tunberg. En sås av ringa värde og andra medeltida recept. Malmö: A&J Books, 2009. ISBN: 978-91-977529-1-6.