Adventures in Hemp Milk (or ‘How to Avoid Being Smothered by Tetrapaks’)
I don’t get on fantastically with dairy products. Not an allergy or even really an intolerance, so much as a generally-feeling-better if I avoid them in large doses. Especially milk. Goats’ milk is better (and I love the taste - it reminds me of childhood, which isn’t to say that I was suckled by goats) but for quite a while I’ve just drunk soya milk. Recently, though, we’ve had a bit of a hot chocolate thing going on here (sometimes hot carob, but that’s another story…) Which means we get through a lot of soya milk. Living on the edge of Dartmoor, soya milk doesn’t come cheap, but we’ve also been stacking up tetrapaks for rubbish or recycling (they get shipped to Sweden, which seems insane, for those who are curious about these things) and, short of starting a wallets-and-hats-and-possibly-roof-insulation-made-from-tetrapak-business, we started thinking that making our own milk might be the way ahead.
Hemp and oats can be grown locally and sustainably and we dig their energetics in a Chinese Medicine way (I’m an acupuncture student these days and have been looking at food through that filter for a while…) Soya has a more complex route to get from seed to belly and the process of turning it into milk is more laborious, not to mention that it’s a serious agro-business with knock-on effects in terms of deforestation, etc etc - I don’t quite know why it’s become the alternative (but I’ve not got anything against it, either, apart from the nagging sense I have that my body doesn’t like any bean-related thing in such amounts.) Anyway, the upshot is that we decided to experiment with hemp and oat milk. It’s early days, but we’ve got a very drinkable result which means we’re spending a fraction of what we were, with no waste at all (see ‘Exfoliator’ and ‘Spaceship Coating?’ below.)
Here’s how it goes:
Soak 1 cup of hemp seeds in plenty of water overnight. Some recipes say to give the seeds a pulverise in a blender first, but I haven’t seen it make a real difference and don’t much want to spend my hours before bed dry-blending hemp seeds. You want enough water in there that when the seeds sink (as they will do overnight) they’re covered. You’re not going to use the water for the milk, so don’t stress about quantity, okay?
By the way, when I write ‘a cup,’ I’m using an American ‘cup’ measurement, equal to… Well, equal to between 200 and 250ml. Roughly. This isn’t a laboratory. I have a cup that I use for measuring cups, but I think it’s a wee bit smaller than the official Metric Cup or even the United States customary cup. Forgive me. For the full facts, visit the Cup (unit) Wikipedia page. I may even convert to the Japanese cup.
Also soak a cup of oatmeal (or rolled/porridge oats) in about 2 cups of water overnight.
In the morning, drain the hemp seeds (use the water for your plants, of course) and add to the goblet of your blender with the oatmeal and its water. At this stage I add a teaspoonful of honey and sometimes some sunflower seeds or ground almonds. You could also add cashew nuts (or any other kind of nut or seed that takes your fancy.) Set your controls for High and blend away! About 45 seconds seems to be good - I don’t want to burn out my blender, but you do want to really pulverise those seeds…
Now, top up the resulting grainy gloop with water to make just over a litre in your blender goblet then strain it all through muslin into a jug or a pan. Taste it, test how it pours. Add more water if you like it a bit thinner. Use less water in the earlier stages if you want it even thicker. We have a glass bottle that we then decant the milk into, before keeping it in the fridge.
How’d it go?
We’re still learning how best to do this. So far, coffee and hemp milk is a disaster (sad for certain others) and barleycup too (sad for me, but I’ll get over it. It’s only barleycup, after all…) The straining can take a long time - I’ve put the muslin in a frame so that I can leave it over a pan and let gravity do its work.
What else? Oh yes, the waste from the straining? We’re drying it in a tin in a nook by the fire and making exfoliator out of it. At the rate we’re producing hemp and oat mush, I may have to abandon acupuncture and writing and go into full-time exfoliator-production. This wasn’t what I planned. It may also be good for keeping slugs off things - that experiment awaits the summer (which is hard to imagine in today’s permafrost.) There are possibly other uses. Future spacecraft may be coated in it. I’ll keep you posted.
The idea was to produce less rubbish, save some money and make something that tasted good and was good for us. I think we’ve succeeded - I’ll update you if there are further significant breakthroughs, health warnings or hemp-related disasters or epiphanies. Good luck.