My first stop was Brewer Farms. The only place to get unpasteurized US almonds, legally, is directly from the grower/farmer. Brewer Farms is a family owned business and from what I can see, they produce a high quality product sold at a very reasonable price. My shipment arrived promptly, only a few days after purchase. When I popped a few almonds in my mouth, the flavor was full, fresh, and more "almondy" than I expected. I am delighted with these almonds! These are from the CURRENT harvest, (September -October 2012) and you can taste the difference!Often large retail suppliers sell almonds and nuts from harvests up to two years old. (MOLD MOLD MOLD) and they taste more like cardboard than nuts. (see Fig. 1 and 2)
After soaking 12 hours, these looked like they were about to burst! BEAUTIFUL and full of life! They're in the dehydrator now...and I can't wait to work with them some more! This company is great to work with, and have been eager and willing to answer any and all questions I've had. These are awesome!
Next stop is Living Nutz. They have an excellent website, chock full of valuable information on everything you could ever want to know about raw nuts. They are proactive in their support to help Cornucopia Institute to make domestic almonds legal again. I suggest you stop by and read their FAQ page and learn how nuts are treated, processed and sold. You may not even realize what you are currently getting in the stores. The purpose for this article is to demonstrate how important it is to be aware of what you are buying, and what you can do to ensure you are getting fresh product.
Living Nutz are all certified organic and it's apparent they take pride in their business and support the environment. The majority of their products are grown in the US, however, due to the USDA pasteurization requirements, they are currently carrying unpasteurized Almonds from Italy. It's a viable option for those that want truly raw almonds and don't have access to purchasing directly from a farm. They also support small indigenous family farmers in nations like Bali and Bolivia. Nuts are hand cracked, as opposed to machine cracking, which can heat nuts and destroy valuable enzymes.(see Fig. 3)
Oh, and if you use the Coupon Code "rawfullytempting" Living Nutz is offering a 10% discount on raw walnuts, cashews, almonds, and sprouted almonds. This offer expires on October 31, 2012.
After soaking, the almonds from Italy were really meaty, and the rougher skin was starting to peel off ever so slightly, but peeling skins off of either of these would be a chore...even after soaking. They are both beautiful, plump and very much alive.They both created a delicious, rich almond milk, using 1/2 cup nuts to 2 cups of water. W and I both felt the milk from the California almonds (which are somewhat smaller), produced a slightly richer milk, but honestly, it was not easy to tell them apart. They are both excellent!
Price: There is quite a difference in price. In order to get the lower price, Brewer Farms does have a 5 pound minimum requirement for purchase. Living Nutz sells by the pound, so you can purchase smaller quantities. Please check out their sites for details.
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I received a lovely assortment of almonds from D & S Ranches, an orchard grower in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Because of USDA requirements, almonds must be pasteurized in order for anyone but farmers to sell them to the public. Most often, this process renders the almonds dead, unsproutable, and certainly not raw, (even though the label may indicate so!) D & S sought out the most non-intrusive method available, called " H20 "UN-pasteurization." I believe another name for this is "Pasteurization Under Vacuum." It is very complex, expensive, and time-consuming, but is supposed to be the best method available. You can read more about the process here. According to D & S, the nut meat is never heated and the enzymes, amino acids and proteins remain in tact...and according to them, the nuts are still sproutable! Is this possible? See "My Finding" below.
Nut Sterilization Methods To Avoid:
- Simple Autocalve Sterilization - cooking the almond, which renders the nut dead, and they are still allowed to label these as "Raw!"
- PPO (Propylene Oxide Gas) - a known carcinogen. European Union has banned it's use on food for human consumption, however, the FDA and USDA still allow the use of this product. Please check with your stores to see if their nuts have been exposed to PPO!
My Findings: Unsoaked, these almonds look very similar to the unpasteurized almonds, although there was slightly more damage to the brown skins, (which could be from shelling process or the actual H20 UP). The skins also look slightly more shriveled, which probably occurs during the method mentioned above, so it did not surprise me when the skins peeled off after soaking. The good news is - the nuts are meaty and taste absolutely fresh, and after soaking, they appear swollen, (germinating) although not as "lively" as the unpasteurized nuts above. It's hard for me to tell if this is actual germination since almonds don't really "sprout" tails. I can say these are extremely fresh, the consistency is lovely, and they have a fine flavor, although I found their nonpareils were not as strong in flavor as the unpasteurized California nonpareils. I did find their Aldrich variety to match the unpasteurized California nonpareils in flavor intensity. I really liked those a lot! The Monterey variety were tasty too, but the other two would be my preference. They are all delicious and from the current season's harvest. Another resource for FRESH almonds! If you are able to find unpasteurized almonds, that would be my preference, but if not, I'd go with these almonds way before I'd ever buy almonds from the store. Make sure the nuts you buy are from the most recentt harvest, and understand the pasteurization method they are using.
Another treat sent to me by D & S Ranches was their beautiful Almond Meal -(Fresh-milled and unblanched). I plan to put this in the food processor and make my own Almond Butter!!!
Be very careful when buying almond flour. Most are not made with raw nuts, are also blanched to remove the skins, but also processed to remove the oils, which is what gives them the dry "flour" consistency. You can't really get a true "flour" from almonds. Meal is probably the best you can get without destroying the valuable nutrients. Also, once any nut is ground, it is susceptible to rancidity...which is why it's usually prepared and packaged with shelf-life in mind. D & S Almond Meal is vacuum packed FRESH from recently harvested almonds, and should be immediately stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
I've tried to make my own almond butter in the food processor, from unpasteurized almonds, and it comes out yummy, but it takes a long time, and by the time the almonds break down to release the oils, my food processor (Kitchen Aid) is piping hot. I'm not comfortable straining the motor so much, not to mention how hot the almond butter gets.
How I Prepared Almond Butter
I added 2 cups of D & S Ranches Almond Meal to food processor and within 10 minutes had a yummy almond butter. My machine motor was not hot at all. This is a real time saver for me and it was a much neater process.
As you process the meal, keep scraping down the sides. DO NOT ADD SALT OR ANYTHING to the meal until it's done. It will seize the butter and ruin it. After about 10 to 12 minutes, you should have almond butter. Transfer to a bowl, add your favorite sweetener manually, and pinch of salt (optional), and refrigerate. It should last a couple of weeks, but doubt it will last that long!
Note - I stopped at 10 minutes, and could have continued another minute or two longer to get an even creamier texture. I prefer a grainier nut butter, so I stopped here.
REQUEST - WHEN YOU VISIT THESE SITES: *PLEASE MENTION "RAWFULLY TEMPTING" IN YOUR SHIPPING COMMENTS OR WHEN YOU CALL THE COMPANY, AND LET THEM KNOW WE REFERRED YOU...THANKS MUCH!