Nuts (and seeds) are exceptionally versatile and add a great protein and nutrient boost to any meal as well as making a healthy snack all on their own.
Almonds are one of my favourite nuts to use as their fats are more stable and less prone to oxidation. I try to incorporate them into as many recipes as possible to add additional protein, fibre, healthy fats. They are also fantastic fermented and add texture and flavour to a dish.
To ferment your almonds (and other nuts and seeds), you will need to soak your raw almonds in milk kefir ‘whey’ for between 2-5+ days. Whey is the clear part of milk kefir that forms during a second fermentation which is done without the kefir grains. (The grains do not like being kept in acidic environments and should not be included in second fermentations.)
How to extract Milk Kefir Whey….
The way to obtain milk kefir whey is when making kefir cream cheese. The whey is the clear part of the milk that forms during a second fermentation and occurs as more of the lactose sugars that are present in the milk, are consumed by the probiotic bacteria that have populated the milk during the first fermentation. (At the end pf your first fermentation (12-24hrs) the kefir milk should still have a creamy structure and only a slight sour taste – similar to buttermilk.)
During a second fermentation (the kefir milk without grains) the bacteria that has populated the milk during the first fermentation will continue to consume the remaining lactose sugars and as the lactose sugars decrease, the lactic acid they are converted to increase to the point when the milk ‘splits’. This is very similar to the process of making ricotta cheese by adding lemon juice (citric acid) to milk that then forms curds and whey.
Once your kefir milk has completed the second fermentation (it is done when the milk has split and the milk solids tend to move to the top and the clear whey sits at the bottom of the jar) it’s ready to be separated. This process will make kefir cheese (the casein (milk proteins/solids) and the clear part (whey proteins). It’s best not to disturb the layers that have formed and gently pour the brew into a strainer that is lined with a tight weave cotton or silk/nylon cloth. The liquid that stains off should be as clear as possible.
Allow gravity to do most of the work as squeezing this cloth can tend to force part of the milk solids through the cloth which is not desirable as it will not keep as long in the fridge once you have strained it.
It’s best to do this straining process in the fridge as it will take a while and the cold temperature will slow any additional fermentation and give the cream cheese a milder taste. (It’s also a good idea to cover it with a lid or a plate during that time as it can dry out the top and also reduce it absorbing smells from the fridge.)
Once you have extracted as much of the whey as possible from the milk solids, we recommend that you throughly clean a glass jar or bottle to transfer your kefir whey to and store it in the fridge. It will keep for 1-2 months. (It’s a good idea to use a permanent marker and add a date to the container while it is dry and at room temperature (any condensation or moisture will make it more difficult to write on your container.)
The white milk soilds that are left in the strainer is your kefir cream cheese which you can also now remove and store in an air-tight container and use in other dishes such as dips, as a spread with sweet and savoury toppings, add it on top of your salads for some additional protein or in place of mayonnaise. I can be used to make cheese cake in place of cream cheese. you can bake it like ricotta. add it to salad dressing to make ranch-style dressings. Add it to smoothies to make them more creamy, make sweet topping for cakes. The only limitation is your imagination. (In its natural form it’s best to condume it within 5-7 days, however if you add other flavour such as making it into a dip by adding salt, spices and herbs, or a sweet version that includes sugar it will last longer.)
Fermenting your nuts…
You can now use the whey to ferment your nuts and seeds in a separate container (glass containers are best). Simply add your nuts or seeds (these should be raw/natural (ie. not roasted or salted). Fill your jar 1/4 to half full with nuts/seeds and then add the whey to the top of the jar. The nuts and seeds will plump up as they soak up the whey and generally double in volume. Keep checking it to make sure that the nuts are fully covered by the liquid as nuts can oxidise. Other nuts and seeds that ferment well include cashews, pepitas and chia seeds.
For best results allow your nuts/seeds to ferment for at least 48 hours. I find 3 to 5 days is good a the lactic acid has a chance to get into the nut, soften it, and also impart some flavour to them. The nuts will become softer and less astringent and slightly sour. The soaking process also helps to reduce the Phytates (phytic acid) that is present in whole grains, seeds, legumes, some nuts which can decrease the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. content and can interfere with the absorption of their nutrients. This is one of the main reasons that it is recommended to soak seeds, grains, legumes and nuts before cooking or consuming them.
After soaking it’s also easier to peel off the outer skin for the nuts. I have a batch fermenting in my fridge at all times to use in smoothies, desserts, to make almond milk, nut butters or just to eat them as a snack or on a salad.
Make sure that they are completely covered with whey as they will oxidise and can turn grey.
I recommend that you add your nuts/seeds to hot dishes at the last minute as heat destroys their beneficial fats and the probiotics they have acquired whilst fermenting.
When removing the nuts from the jar use plastic or wooden or stainless steel utensils as other metals such as aluminium can react with the whey. I would recommend you remove the skin from almonds after they have fermented as they do not have a pleasant taste and can at this point be easily removed. Simply place your fermented nuts on a dry tea towel or paper cloth and rub them together until the skin loosens and rubs off.
You can then use the nuts for cooking and compost the skins which my compost worms absolutely love.
Once you have finished with the whey that is remaining in the jar add it to your compost. If you have plants that love a slightly acidic soil you can dilute it (30% whey/70% water) and water them with the liquid.
Note: It’s not recommended that you reuse the old whey as it has done its job and will also contain any contaminants (such as pesticides/phytates etc.) that have been removed from the nuts in the fermentation/soaking process.)
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