Photo Tutorial: Making Tofu

Mia (my wonderful wife) has been interested in seeing how far off the grid we can get. She’s studying and playing with natural building, researching solar energy, and thinking and writing about the various ways we are dependent on the "Matrix" of culture and industry that maybe don’t serve our families’ well-being.

This week, as part of that quest, she decided to find out what it would take to make our own tofu. The long and short of it: it’s easier than you might guess, but fairly time-consuming. The tofu is awesome, and we get a bunch of cool by-products like okara and broth.

The directions come from a huge tome called "The Book of Tofu," which, improbably, has about a thousand tofu recipes. This post will not contain specific instructions, because if you really want to make tofu yourself, you can certainly spring for a used copy of the book online (we got ours at amazon for 77 cents, plus shipping).

Step 1: Soak soybeans overnight

Step 2: Blend soaked soybeans with water

Step 3: Pour the soybean blend into boiling water, stirring well for 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat when the foam at the top is about to froth over the sides of the pot.

Step 4: Ladle the mixture into a cheesecloth-draped colander resting over a big bowl or pot. Squeeze out all the liquid from the cheesecloth (it will be very hot, so wear gloves, wait a while, or prepare for pain). The liquid is now actually unsweetened soymilk. Instead of costing $3/quart like it does in the store, you can get a gallon of soymilk for about 50 cents worth of beans. The quart cost: about 13 cents. Hmmmm…

Separating the curds from the whey:

Squeeze the tofu udder: ouch!

Here’s the soymilk:

And here’s the curds, known in Japanese as "okara." There are dozens of cool things you can do with okara, one of which is not making chocolate chip raisin cookies, which were frankly disgusting.

Step 5: Dissolve some nigari (a crystal coagulant derived from sea salt or seaweed) in boiling water and add that to the soymilk. Cover for a few minutes. When you open the lid, prepare to be amazed.

Here comes the nigari:

Look, Ma! Proto-Tofu!

Up close and personal:

Step 6: While the tofu is tofu-ifying in the pot with the nigari, prepare a tofu press (a specialty item that we bought online) by lining it with cheesecloth and placing it over a tray or tub that will catch the runoff liquid. When the tofu has coagulated, use a slotted spoon to carry it into the press.

Here comes the tofu!

Ready to press:

Step 7: Wrap the cheesecloth over the top of the tofu. Put the lid on the tofu press and use a weight (like a can of tomatoes – hey, Muir Glen, wanna throw any product placement bucks our way?) to drain more liquid out of the box. Reserve this liquid, along with the liquid left over in the pot, for soup stock. Let the tofu drain for about 10 minutes.

Step 8: Remove the sides of the press and place the tofu, along with the top and bottom of the press, into a bath of cold water. Remove the box and the cheesecloth.

Voila: a pound and a half of tofu! (Supermarket cost: about three dollars)

If you want to learn more, post your question to Comments below. If there’s enough interest, we may put together a video and collect the links where we got the info and supplies.

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