Derek – Friday 4th February

Lockdown is a good time for projects. And what better one could there be than working out how to lower our carbon footprint? You could pick one of these: home energy, travel, food, other purchases. Have a go at lowering your energy use for that sector.

Go green!

Last week I considered milk, and specifically the 2 ½ billion+ plastic bottles, which should be reused, but instead go to far inferior recycling. This week, I am going to look at what goes in the bottles.

Cow’s milk bothers me for several reasons. One is cow flatulence. Cows have four stomachs to digest grass, and with all that churning and regurgitating they give off a lot of methane. The gas is 28 times more powerful than CO2 on a 100 year timescale, and more than 80 times more powerful over 20 years. A confusing pair of figures, but let’s just say methane in the atmosphere is bad news.

Dairy cows have huge udders, giving up to 9 gallons of milk a day. If not milked twice a day, the udders would burst. So let’s have some sympathy for those cows in the field, forced to carry 45 lbs of milk (half of their daily yield). No wonder they lay down so much.

The worst factor though, for me, in milk production is calves. Cows give milk because they are calving. The farmer will take on the female calves as in a few years they will mature and give him milk, or he can sell them to other dairy farmers. But he has no use for male calves, and so they are slaughtered soon after birth, to avoid the expense of feeding them.

You might regard that as extreme sexism.

I am reminded of Jonathan Swift’s satire, A Modest Proposal, where he suggests a remedy for the impoverished Irish. They should sell their babies to rich ladies and gentlemen for food. Milk comes with that same slaughterous aftertaste. I recall a TV programme about ten years ago, where a man had a job going round farms collecting freshly killed male calves. One load, he dropped off at fox hound kennels, getting £2 each.

So plenty of reasons to abandon cow’s milk. I like it though, and habit has made me reticent, but I have time on my hands, so let’s at least experiment. In the past few weeks, I have been making plant based milk. I began with oats, using both porridge and rolled oats. The recipe is dead simple. Soak rolled oats overnight, and in the morning drain and wash them, add water at a 3:1 ratio. Then grind in the mixer for 30 seconds. The resultant fluid is filtered though a clean t-shirt or a nut bag. You can add a bit of sugar, a little vanilla, or whatever you fancy. Or nothing at all.

Making the oat milk with porridge oats, you don’t need a mixer or to soak overnight. Put the porridge oats in a jar with the water (3:1 water) and shake thoroughly for 3 minutes. Then filter. The discarded pulp, for both types of oats, can be used to make porridge or added to other dishes.

My verdict on the oat milk I made is that it is OK. Not great. The milk tends to settle out and it’s not so good in tea as cow’s milk. Fine in cereal, though.

I tried mixed nuts, soaking them overnight etc as above. The resultant milk was no better than oat milk. So I went upmarket and had a go at almond milk with the same basic recipe. And this was my winner. The milk didn’t settle out, was fine in coffee and tea, and a smooth drink by itself. I used the pulp in a fry up, with onions, other veg and spicing it up with Marmite and pepper.

If I am going to use almonds, I need a cheap source, as those I bought from the Co-op cost me £2.50 for 200 grams, making about 800 ml of milk. Or around £3 a litre. Way too much. I have another worry, which became more worrying as I read it up for this blog. Around 80% of almonds are grown in California, which is a state with water problems. Made worse by almonds as it takes 5 litres of water to grow one (yes one!) almond. That’s ruinous for other crops and the environment. If I am going to be ethical, then almond milk is out.

So to sum up: oat milk is just so-so, and almond milk great in terms of taste, but too expensive and environmentally lousy. But hang on, hang on, don’t go away, what’s a cheap nut that doesn’t use a lake of water?


I will try them out next week. There’s a cliff hanger to keep you reading.

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