However, I've really begun to desire health - lasting, God-honoring health - and so I've taken a step back from ease and gotten a good look at the chemicals that my family slathers on or ingests on a daily basis. I looked them up, every ingredient. (My children sometimes think the internet is a curse. As in, "Don't click it, we don't want to know what that's made of and how bad it is for us! Oh, no, now we've got to give that up, too.")
Of course, there is also the fact that the price of everything is going up. (Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the prices of healthier, whole foods rise the fastest, and the most often?) The non-GMO, organic soy milk I bought last week is a dollar more this week. I can no longer find inexpensive, no additive whole wheat bread in my local grocery store, so I have to drive 40 miles and buy the tiny loaf with the huge price tag. That sort of thing.
Actually, I've been making my own bread for years (it tastes better, and I can make English muffins, pizza crust, pita pockets, bagels, and loaves all out of the same batch - how's that for economy?) However, the soy milk and the tofu - well, I've made them before - but there's that ease thing again. Then, as I mentioned, the prices started going up (and up) at about the same rate my teens' food intake started going up (and up, and... well, you get the picture).
We are strict vegetarians (vegans) in our family, and tofu is a genuine staple around here. We put it in sandwiches, in pasta, in "cheeses", in "mayonnaise", etc. Thus it became expedient that I make my own. And my lovely sister suggested that I share with you a tutorial on how it's done. (I think she wants to try it herself and figured out a way to convince me to "show" her how, even though she lives thousands of miles away.)
So, after that long introduction:
How To Make Tofu:
Soak the soybeans overnight in plenty of fresh, cool water. I used one pound of soybeans for this batch. Usually I don't bother measuring but I wanted to know how much I was saving by making it myself.
Drain and rinse the soybeans. Place one cup of soaked soybeans in a blender with 4 cups of cold water and blend until smooth. I don't recommend doing this while your husband watches the news. For some reason mine wanted to hear what he was watching. Oops.
Pour the soybean/water mixture through a thin cotton towel and into a large, deep kettle. My set up includes a thin cotton cloth placed in a steamer basket (or colander) inside the kettle. Then I can just keep pouring and draining without moving anything. (Please ignore the very old, well-used, thin cotton towel. Pretend it is pristine and new, if you'd like.)
Continue with steps two and three until all of the soybeans are used up, maintaining the 1:4 ratio. Keep an eye on what's going on under the towel. You wouldn't want it to overflow. Liquefied soybean waterfalls can be sticky.
This is the part where you build your upper body strength. Tie up the corners of the towel with string to keep from spilling everything over the top as you squeeze it. (We will not discuss the incredulous looks I get when I ask if there is any string in the house. Three of us knit/crochet. Teenagers will laugh at you every chance they get.) I also like to take advantage of the perfect height of my cabinet handles to help hold the weight so I can really squeeze all the "milk" out of those beans.
Squeeze. Don't worry about the sticky. Just squeeze until you get sick of it, then squeeze a bit more.
A note: Don't throw away the soybean pulp. You can add it to bread, cookies, sauces, soups, patties, etc. to up the fiber content/nutritional value. Just don't use too much (it can be overpowering) and cook it thoroughly. It also freezes well for later use. Or, if that isn't appealing, at least compost it.
Okara - soybean pulp
Place the pot over medium high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring frequently to avoid a skin forming, for 5 minutes.
What NOT to do:
Don't walk away and leave the pot unattended, especially right before it comes to a boil. It will boil over fast and messy. Like this:
Turn off the heat. Mix together 1/2 cup water with your coagulant of choice. I have used three different kinds with great success. (Not all together. Pick one.)
Your choice: 2 Tbsp Citric Acid OR 2 Tbsp Epsom Salt OR 1/4 cup lemon juice
The citric acid and Epsom salt both make a firm tofu with no funny aftertaste. The lemon juice will make a slightly softer tofu with a hint of lemon flavor. For authentic Asian tofu, you could purchase and use Nigari, a seaweed derivative. I find it prohibitively expensive. I suppose you could also experiment with vinegar, but we only use it for cleaning - we don't eat it.
Update: The citric acid will make a tofu with a sharper (though not unpleasant) taste than the much blander Epsom salts.
Continuing: Carefully stir your coagulant of choice into the pot with your soy milk. Don't over stir, just get it thoroughly incorporated. You should begin to immediately see little white chunks in the liquid.
Walk away for a couple of minutes to let the coagulant do it's thing. When you come back you should see a yellowish liquid on top and a bunch of white curds sunk down to the bottom.
While you are waiting, set up a drain system similar to the one you strained your soy milk into. I swapped out the steamer basket for a colander. You could use a fancy tofu press, but I don't have one. I do have all the supplies to make one, maybe that will be my next tutorial.
Carefully (it's still hot!) pour the contents of the pot into your strainer of choice.
Allow it to drain for a few minutes, then fold the cloth (or twist it, if you don't mind a dip in the tofu) over the top and pile a bunch of stuff on top to weigh it down. You will notice that my "tofu press" is very high tech.
Press the tofu for an hour or so (the longer it's pressed, the firmer it is). Remove from the cloth and store in water in the refrigerator. Note that my block has already been partially used to make mayonnaise. If you are interested, I'll share that recipe, too.
Be prepared to make tofu often, it goes quickly. Especially around here.