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Your first priority when selecting almonds is to ensure that they are fresh and have been stored properly. Think about how you plan to use the nuts and, if you need sliced almonds, whether you have the ability to do so at home. If you have concerns about whether the nuts have been grown organically or have been exposed to allergens during processing, take time to read product labels to determine whether they meet your needs. A final consideration should be whether you want flavored almonds, as they may not be suitable for use in cooking.
Almonds can be consumed and prepared in a variety of ways. Many people enjoy eating the whole nuts as snacks, and the nuts can also be processed into flour, milk, and butter. Slivered or chopped nuts can be added to a variety of sweet and savory recipes as well. The quality of the foods you prepare can be significantly affected by the freshness and quality of the almonds that you select. If you purchase nuts that have already been slivered or chopped, be aware that they can become rancid quickly, so be sure to check package freshness dates. You can judge the freshness of unshelled almonds by shaking each nut, as they shrink with age. If it sounds like the nut is moving around a lot in the shell, don't buy it.
If you are planning to process your own almond flour or meal, choose nuts that have not been flavored, salted, or prepared in other oils. Typically, skin-on nuts are used to make meal, while skinless nuts are used to make flour. Many cooks find that both products can be used interchangeably, so it is up to you to decide which variety you want to buy. Recipes for almond milk typically call for skinless nuts, although it is possible to remove the skins at home.
Many people with allergies use almonds and almond products as a substitute for peanuts, gluten, or dairy. If you have concerns about allergies or a food intolerance, it is important to find out about the manufacturing standards used to process the nuts that you buy. Some facilities process many types of foods, and your nuts may have been exposed to a food to which you or a family member has a sensitivity. If you are concerned about this, you may wish to contact the company that produces your almonds to find out about its factory's standards.
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