A Fresh Tofu Adventure: How to Make Homemade Tofu
Filed under: easy dinners, money-savers, vegetarian dinner, you have got to try this!
Last week, I came across some great vegan blogs. After a couple months on an almost meatless diet, Joe and I have never felt better. I even started going to the track at the Y to run. If you know me, you might be laughing your head off. I am not a runner. I love my spin class, but I am just too pale and lanky to be one of those “runner chicks.” After we spent the latter part of the summer grilling mushrooms and salmon on the grill instead of burgers (and not feeling weighed down and sleepy), I saw a special on Good Morning America about what bad restaurant food does to our bodies. The relatively healthy anchor ate a craptastic meal from some chain restaurant and then they measured her body responses. They weren’t good. Later in the week, she ate a healthy grilled salmon dinner with rice and steamed vegetables. Her vitals were as if she had run a mile! I can’t remember the exact details, but I can tell you it was enough for me to really make a stand. And we haven’t cooked meat at our house in over 2 months.
Then last week, I happened upon a blog about homemade tofu. I was intrigued, but after looking all over the net for some concrete measurements, I was coming up empty-handed. Most of them mentioned a tofu press and a soymilk maker, but those go for $100 or more. The other instructions on how to make soymilk (the base for the tofu) were lengthy and confusing. Several recipes had other links pointing to other sites and back and forth and it was all incredibly daunting. Two sites even suggested that without a soymilk maker, I would have to pour scalding hot soy beans into a huge blender being careful not to let the steam build up…or it would EXPLODE! No ma’am. I don’t have a huge blender anyhow, so I bought a little hand/immersion blender at Wal-mart for $20. Don’t judge me for shopping at the Wally World. We are on a budget.
Some recipes called for a whole pound of soybeans. After soaking my pound of soybeans (about $2 at the Whole Foods), I quickly realized that was going to yield WAY too much tofu to eat in 3 days. So without further adieu, I give you my researched method. Because if you’ve spent any time reading through the instructions out there, you’re VERY tired of the wordy crap.
Items you will need:
- cheese cloth (I found this at Whole Foods. I cut the 3 yards in half.)
- a large pot
- several medium to large bowls (I haven’t gotten this part down to save on the dishes…yet.)
- blender of some sort
- a colander/sieve/or something that strains
- optional: homemade tofu press (I got this idea from Jen over at Modern Beet. I really like her outlook on food related things.)
- 2 cups of soaked (overnight) soybeans
- 1.5 cups of water
- 4 cups of water in a large pot
- 2 or 3 tbsp of vinegar (other coagulants I read about include gypsum, lemon juice, or epsom salt)
Here’s the process:
- Soak the soy beans overnight.
- Skim out the 2 cups you need and blend with 1.5 cups water until it’s like a bean smoothie.
- Boil 4 cups of water in a large pot.
- Pour the bean smoothie in the pot with the boiling water and return to a boil.
- Let simmer 10 minutes. You can busy yourself with skimming off the foam from the top.
- Fold one piece of the cheese cloth in half and line your wire strainer/colander/whatever.
- Place straining device in a stainless steel mixing bowl. The soy milk you strain out is the part you need.
- Pour the hot mixture in the wire strainer. You might need to wear some kitchen gloves to lightly squeeze the rest of the milk from the soy bean pulp so you don’t burn your hands. This part is not as hard as it sounds. <This okara can be toasted and thrown in bread recipes and whatnot. Expect a zucchini apple okara bread recipe some time this week!>
- Put the okara to the side, and place the stainless steel bowl of soy milk back on the eye (that is no longer on, but still holding heat). <Update: I didn’t do this the second time around because the soy milk was still pretty darn hot>
- Add the 2 tbsp. of vinegar or lemon juice. It should coagulate into “curds and whey” pretty quick-like. I ended up using 3 tbsp of vinegar because I mis-measured and it was still fine.
- Stir the mixture once. Leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.
- Pour mixture into homemade tofu press OR wire strainer lined with other half of cheese cloth.
- This can go either way–the point here is to press the water or “whey” out of the tofu. If you use the homemade tofu press, put it in a pan to collect the liquid as it drains out. If you use the wire strainer method, put a circular plate that fits inside it. Put your weights on top of that. Next time, I think I will try this as I won’t have to mess up another dish. I can just pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth in the strainer, then put the empty bowl back underneath.
A word about whey: In all the research that I did, I read that this leftover drained tofu “water” is really good for plants, and some folks even wash their hair in it. Not sure how I feel about that, but if it was summer time, I would definitely try this on my plants. I suppose the vinegar/lemon/epsom salt part of it binds to the tofu solid part, so I guess it wouldn’t hurt anything. If anyone has any enlightenment on this subject, please let me know. Very new at this stuff.
A word on measurements: Something I had trouble understanding was the measurement of soybeans. Folks listed them in grams and ounces. The dried ones you start out with are going to almost double in size, so my advice is to buy the whole pound. Save half for later, and soak the other half overnight. Going from there is much easier. Whatever you have left over after the 2 cups, you can stick in the fridge to continue soaking for your next meal. Mind you, this will be enough for dinner for 2 tonight which is all I wanted. The fresher the tofu, the better it is. It really is more delightful than the store bought. I would much rather cook this soy mixture than meat, let me tell you!
A word on coagulants: I used 3 tbsp. of vinegar, so my tofu had a very slight vinegary essence. In hindsight, I could have used less. Other coagulants are lemon juice or epsom salt/water mixture. Epsom salt is what tofu makers call magnesium sulfate. I found it in the pharmacy section of Wal-mart. I think I remember my granny using this for something…?
I will be trying the lemon juice and the epsom salt this week as well. The process went pretty quickly, so vinegar was all I could get my hands on at that moment. I could not find gypsum anywhere.
For Dinner Tonight: Since it had a slight vinegar essence, I poured some balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil on it with fresh basil strips. It was REALLY good. I will be serving this with pasta and a white wine basil cream sauce. Look for the recipe soon!