Lately we’ve been practicing the preparation of fundamental foods from different cuisines. We’ve made various breads and pasta, but we recently decided to try to learn how to make tofu as well. The process isn’t very complicated, but it does involve a fair bit of labor. The first step is to procure some dried soybeans.
They’re very cheap (the bag above was about two pounds for two or three dollars, if I recall). As with other dried beans, the first step is an overnight soak in the refrigerator. The beans swell a great deal, so they need to be covered with a fair amount of water. We started with three cups of dried soybeans.
Once rehydrated, the soybeans are relatively easy to blend. We split them into three batches of equal size, and blended each batch with a quart of water. The resulting liquid (with solids) can then be boiled for twenty minutes with an additional quart of water to make soymilk. It will foam vigorously! A spray bottle of water is good for dispersing the foam.
Once the raw soymilk was boiled, we strained it through one of the nylon paint bags (cheese cloths) that we also use for brewing. This did a pretty good job of removing the solids (which are edible, and can be added to cookies).
Next, we poured the strained soymilk into a clean kettle, and brought it to 180F. While the soymilk was heating up, we prepared a solution of a tablespoon of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in 2 cups of water. Once we reached the target temperature, we slowly poured half of the solution into the soymilk and briefly stirred.
The separation was even more noticable the second time. After another four minutes, we carefully strained the curds into molds (bamboo steamer baskets).
Cleaning up from making tofu can be a little bit of a pain, because the soy protein gets burned onto the sides of the kettles. We found that it was very helpful to boil a small amount of water and baking soda in the pans we were trying to clean; about five minutes of this treatment loosened the burnt soy enough that we could scrape it off with a wooden spoon or a coarse sponge.