I should preface this with saying that I have never liked tofu. Blah. B-O-R-I-N-G. But I was interested in seeing what kind of non-meat high protein meals I could potentially make in future, using only produce from the property, and I’ve ordered (non-GMO) soy beans for next year’s crops. And so the adventure began. I’ve gotta say- I liked it. Took a couple of tries to get just the right texture but it worked out really well. So here it is, how to make tofu from scratch…
Start by soaking your beans. I used about 500 grams and left them to soak overnight. Add water as required to ensure the beans are fully immersed. Once your beans are soft, grind them to a paste in a blender or food processor. Add just enough water to ensure a nice, even mixture.
Transfer the soybean paste to a large pot and add about 4 cups of water. Heat the mixture over medium heat, for about 20 minutes. Stir regularly. You’re not looking to boil it so much as evenly heat it and allow the fibrous material to separate from the milk.
When you’ve just about hit the 20 minute mark, get your straining materials ready. Finally- a use for those couple of dozen embroidered table runners from the mother-in-law! At least that’s what I used- I don’t like the commercial cheesecloth available these days, too flimsy. I chopped a section of tablecloth and I positioned it over a bowl, to strain the soy mixture.
This stage of making tofu involves “milking the bean”- not nearly as sexy as you might expect, but just as messy. There’s way too much mixture to strain all at once, so I transferred some of it to a measuring cup and poured it a bit at a time through the cloth. You’ll have to squish what remains in the cloth- there’s an amazing amount of liquid left in what appears to be solid mass. Then scrape the remaining soy bean mess (otherwise known as okara) off the cloth and set aside- you can use this later.
Dump the filtered milk back into a clean pot, and repeat until you’ve worked your way through the mixture. (Note: this is where you’d stop if you simply want soy milk and not tofu. Refrigerate and drink plain or add a banana or berries and whip for a tasty smoothie.) Return the pot to the stovetop over low heat.
There are a few coagulants that can be used at this stage. The most commonly used agent is nigari but, not being a tofu-maker, I didn’t have any on hand so I used lemon juice. (Another coagulant that you may have on hand is apple cider vinegar.)
Add about 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to the hot mixture and give it a few swirls. Do not stir vigorously. Turn the heat off and put a tight fitting lid on the pot. Leave it sit for about 20 minutes. Once the time has elapsed, check the mixture. The solids should have separated from the (yellowy) liquid. If it hasn’t properly separated (i.e. if you have a grainy mix instead of fully separated chunks) add a little more lemon juice and let it sit a while longer.
Alright- more straining! When I said this process was messy, I meant it. Your kitchen will be splattered with soy bean milk and remnants and all of your dishes will be dirty. So get your tofu press ready if you have one. I don’t own one, so I made one by punching a bunch of holes in an ice cream container. (On my next try I punched holes in a rectangular margarine container which was a considerably nicer form.) Line the press with your straining material (cheesecloth or tablecloth) and carefully pour the tofu into the press. Cover the tofu with your cloth (wrapping it like a present) and gently press out the excess liquid. Place a weight on the tofu (I used cans) and leave it to sit for about 90 minutes.
Once the time has elapsed, unwrap the tofu and check for firmness. It should hold its shape nicely and be the consistency of store-bought tofu. Transfer the tofu to a plate and cut into squares. It’s now ready to use or store in the refrigerator for use later on.
Note: the okara can be dried on low heat on a baking sheet, and used in place of breadcrumbs, or sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon for a light topping for yogurts, etc. It has a slightly nutty flavour, I like it plain too. There is more protein in the okara than the soy milk or tofu, kind of a shame not to use it.