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Plant Milk


The making of milky drinks and liquids from plants is not at all a new idea.

Milk of the Virgin Mary, though possibly curative, was neither vegetarian (nor readily available), hence the huge importance of Almond Milk to the pious medieval diner

Oat Milk turns up in Robert Huish's 'Alphabetical Receipt Book' of 1826, and is described in the 'Penny Satirist' of 1844 as "Oat-milk..is a pure vegetable substance, and made by washing pure chaff with pure water, till the water becomes white as milk... The water is then boiled till it becomes a nice thick jelly; if too thick, more water can be added." Oat Milk appears, too, in Robert Huish's 'The female's friend, and general domestic adviser : including a complete alphabetical receipt book. Instructions in dress making, &c.' as a useful addition to Yorkshire ale.

Plant milks seem always to have had a tinge of the 'healthy'. We find rice milk being recommended repeatedly in the 19th Century for the infirm and workhouse-poor, often quoting Dr Phelan's receipt for Rice Milk in the 1848 report of the Poor Law Commissioners, which involved boiling "half a pound ground rice, and half pound best flour with a gallon of boiling water, for twenty minutes" and using it to 'let down' cow's milk.

Andrew Borde's 'Compendyous regyment or a dyetary of helth' of 1542 tells us that "And vse these thynges Cowe mylke, Almon mylke, yolkes of rere egges". Andrew Marvell's 'To Dr. Witty' of 1678 says that "The Doctor doth Stint them to Cawdles Almond-milk, and Broth", while 1767 Philip Stern could advise that "A sea biscuit with a pint of cold almond milk, made with barley water or whey, is a good breakfast for a consumptive person. And so on. "Almond milk..forms a very soothing beverage in fever, as well as a pleasant summer drink" says E. S. Dallas Kettner's 'Book of the Table' of 1877

The historic plant-milk hero is Almond Milk, known at least since the 14th Century and which turns up time and time again in receipts for the grander class of persons, a treat for the rich and a safely vegetarian alternative to cow's stuff on holy days. Unfortunately it is also one of those foods which seem to have been so commonplace, so ordinary, so simple, that nobody bothered to write down how to make them. We've got plenty of early examples of what to do with Almond Milk, though. How about some 'Tannye', a spiced milky drink?..

Original Receipt in the 15th Century 'Austin Manuscripts' (Austin 1440)

Tannye: Take almond milk, & sugar, an powdere ginger, & of Galyngale, & of cinnamon, and Rede wine, & boil y-fere: & that is good tannye.

..or an apple and almond-milk desert from king's cookery book of 1390

Original Receipt in 'The Forme of Cury' by the Chief Master-Cook of King Richard II, c1390 (Cury 1390)

Take apples and seethe them in water, draw them though a strainer. Take Almond milk & honey and flour of rice, saffron and powder fort and salt. and seethe it to standing.

..or perhaps a Jusshell of salmon, a sort-of fish-cake made with almond milk, breadcrumbs and herbs...

Original Receipt in the 15th Century 'Austin Manuscripts' (Austin 1440)

Iuschelle of fish. Take fair fry of pick, and caste it raw on a morter, an caste thereto grated bread, an bray them as smale as thow mayste; & if it be to stondyng, caste thereto almond milk, an bray them to-gederys, an stere it to-gederys, & caste thereto a littel saffron & salt, an whyte sugar, an put al in a fair treen bolle, & toyle it to-gederys with thin hond, an loke that it be not to chargeaunt, but as a man may pore it out of the bolle; and than take a chafoure or a panne, an caste ther-in fair gravy of pick or of freysshe samoun, y-draw thorw a strainer, & settepage it on the fire; thanne take fair percely an sawge, an caste thereto, an let it boil, an caste thereto a little saffron an salt; and whan it hath y-boylid a whyle, stere it faste, an caste the stuffe thereto, an stere it euermore; an whan alle is oute of the bolle, caste a litil an a litil in-to the chafoure, or the panne; stere it soffter an sofftere, tylle it come to-gedere; than gader it to-gederys with a ladelle or a skymoure, softe, tille it be round to-gedere; thanne take it from the fire, an set the vesselle on a fewe colys, an late it wexe styf be hys owne acord; than serve forth.

For more on Almond Milk...

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