Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Almond Butter

After reading a few late medieval almond butter recipes, I decided last night to turn those dazzling whites (shown below) into the real thing. Mind you, this is not ground almonds, what is today labelled almond butter as an analogue of peanut butter. This is actual imitation butter, formerly used during Lent when real butter was forbidden.

I am simplifying the procedure, but basically you take raw almonds that have been soaked a day and night and peel them by hand. Roasted almonds or those that have been processed in any way won't work. I know they're all routinely pasteurized now, but that really doesn't cook them. I had about a half pound.

I put these into a wooden mortar and pounded them with a drizzle or two of rosewater, for about a half hour. I could have gone longer. Add water a dribble at a time. The smooth mixture is still pearly white. Then put the mixture into a big bowl and pour over very hot water. Let sit for about 15 minutes. Add a little sugar, and a pinch of salt. You now have almond milk, and let me tell you, it was remarkably similar to milk, in consistency, color, and very surprising to me, in flavor. It tasted nothing like the souped up sweet toasted almond flavor they put in commercial almond milk you can buy at Trader Joes and such.

Then put a dash of vinegar into the milk, and it does some very subtle curdling. just enough so that if you pour it into a strainer lined with coffee filters, the water part then slowly drips out, and what you have after an hour or two is a very thick creamy substance that looks rather like thick sour cream. I put this on another filter/blotter and popped it in the fridge. The only thing I was missing was the saffron to color it yellow, which I think is essential for the deception. Mine was still bright white, but looked very much like whipped butter.

I spread it on toast this morning, next to another piece with real butter. They tasted completely different, of course - mostly because of the rosewater. That's the flavor medieval diners were after, and it was quite pleasant. Concrete almond fat basically. I think if you colored it yellow and left out the rosewater and added more salt, you might convince someone that this was a low fat butter spread or something. Of course it's not low fat, but neither is it a hydrogenated transfat.

I think I may have a business opportunity here, for vegans especially.

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