Friday, February 24, 2012

On Making Tofu

Pin It I suffer from bouts of insomnia. Actually, it's pretty often, like every other day. Most recently from some medications that I'm taking (speaking of which, I am also taking something else that could cause drowsiness, but it doesn't seem to offset the insomnia). Anyway, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss this. I only brought it up because I seem to have the best food ideas when I'm lying awake at night. And after about an hour of dreaming up these ideas and with no prospect of sleep in the near future, I get up and start making things happen. So my most productive hours tend to be between 4 am and 7 am (then I crap out at 3 pm).

This morning's brilliant idea: making tofu. This has actually been in the making since Christmas, after I received a SoyaJoy Total Tofu Kit as a part of my Christmas loot. It's been on the back of my mind to give this a whirl, but there's always an abundance of things to try so it's been on the back burner. Besides, I can buy a block of tofu easily around here. BUT! I am going to make something special with this -- not just any ol' tofu from the corner supermarket. I can't tell you what it is yet. You just have to come back for more...

The SoyaJoy Total Tofu Kit comes with a large bag of nigari (magnesium chloride), a tofu press box and a piece of cheese cloth. If you don't want to buy a tofu press box, you can use any sort of rectangular container with holes that allow drainage and you can apply pressure on the top (A meatloaf pan might work if there is sufficient drainage. Even something as simple as a sieve, if you don't mind a slightly irregularly shaped end product). The other two items are essential -- you cannot make tofu without nigari or a piece of cheese cloth.

I relied greatly on Just Hungry's guide to making tofu -- it's an excellent tutorial with lots of details and good advice. I'm posting pictures documenting my long, arduous process of making tofu and hopefully offer some practical advice.

You will need soy beans, which are dried edamame. But don't actually use edamame, because that won't work. You'll end up with edamame soup -- not a bad thing, just not the intended result. Dried soy beans are hard and yellow and look like this:

I used about a cup and half. They were rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 8 hours at room temp. After soaking, I rubbed them gently together between my palms to hull the tough outer skin. Then the soy beans were drained.

 Soybeans were added with a bit of water to a food processor and pulsed until foamy.

Then I added the blended soy beans with 6 cups of water to a large pot. I slowly brought it to simmer over low heat. If you try to heat it up too quickly, it would either foam and boil over or scorch the bottom of your pot.

After the mixture simmers, the foam will slowly go away. Keep the heat low for 20 to 30 minutes. Remember to stir frequently so the bottom doesn't burn.

The fibrous soy bean starts to separate from the milk. You can see the granules on my spatula.

I poured soy milk mixture into a colander lined with cheese cloth. Then I squeezed the cheese cloth to get all the soy milk out.

It's been 10+ hours and I had soy milk! It tasted bean-y and has that great soy taste that I grew up with. The supermarket soy milk nowadays tastes nothing like this. For this alone, the effort was worth it.

Soy milk goes back into a pot (a different pot) and slowly brought to about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off heat. I dissolved 3 teaspoons of nigari that came in the kit in a cup of warm water. I poured it little by little around different parts of the pot and stirred it gently. Cover and wait 15 minutes.

I poured the mixture directly into the mold lined with cheese cloth.

Weighing it down with an empty measuring cup. I would later add water into the cup to increase the weight. I put the mold into a pan and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Twenty-four hours after I started the process, I have a tiny one-inch thick block of tofu.

Random thoughts on my tofu making project:
  • You need a lot of soy beans to make very little tofu. Next batch will be a much bigger batch.
  • Well, if there is a next batch. The process is long and laborious and I used every pot and container in my disposal, making the clean up process equally long and laborious.
  • Every single surface of my kitchen was covered with some sort of soy bean by-product -- curd, milk and fiber. And they don't come off very easily.
  • The result is very bean-y, like the tofu that I used to have as a kid. Unlike most of the supermarket versions, this one is preservative free and very flavorful.
  • I think I need to do something about my insomnia.

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