I have been wanting to make tofu from scratch but the grocery stores here don’t stock soybeans with the other dried beans anymore. I had to go to the Super G Mart (“G” for “global”) to find them.
I must have been feeling ambitious because yesterday afternoon I put some soybeans in a bowl of water to soak overnight. Making tofu from scratch is a rather involved process. It took up most of my morning, but that’s alright, I enjoy this type of project.
The process of making tofu begins with making soybean milk. This is done by blending the soaked soybeans with some water then straining the milk from the bean fibers. I did this in small batches putting the strained bean fibers back in the blender with a little more water and blending and straining again. I repeated this two or three times with each small batch before putting the strained fibers aside in a bowl while I worked on the next batches until all of the soybeans were used.
The soybean fibers were still very wet after straining so I transferred them into a clean muslin towel and squeezed out as much liquid as possible. The wrung out soybean fibers are called okara. Okara has many culinary uses. I used some to make patties which I will mention later. Meanwhile I packed it in a jar and put it in the refrigerator.
The next step was to bring the raw soy milk to a boil. I decided to (once again) infuse the tofu with basil flavor, so I cut the tops off my basil plants and placed the washed leaves and stems into the heating soy milk. It had to be stirred frequently to prevent the milk from scalding on the bottom of the pot. I also added kosher salt (to taste) and a little sugar to tame the lemon juice and vinegar I was going to add.
When the milk finally began to boil I removed most of the basil leaves and stems. Then, while slowly stirring I drizzled in lemon juice and some basil flavored vinegar Faye had made last year, causing the soy milk to curdle.
Using a spider ladle I transferred the curds into a clean muslin cloth draped in a colander.
I am now convinced I need to make a proper tofu box / press. Meanwhile I made do with what I had on hand to press the tofu, knowing it would not result in traditional aesthetic block form.
I folded the sides and ends of the cloth over the curds and set a bowl slightly smaller than the colander on top of the bundle of curds. I then added weights (about 24 pounds) to press out liquid and fuse the curds into solid form.
After a couple of hours of pressing I cubed the tofu and put it in the refrigerator. Tofu is normally stored in water, but since I will be using this very soon I don’t think it is necessary. Besides, I like the very firm, dry consistency which is very different from the extra firm store-bought tofu. The outer edges, which did not benefit as much from the pressing weights, are rather crumbly but the rest is very dense and firm. I am very much looking forward to using this in a dish.
Meanwhile I used some of the okara (remaining soybean fibers after making soy milk) to make patties for my midday meal. To the okara I added chopped onion, grated carrot, chopped spinach (few leaves), finely chopped green chilis, sliced red Thai chili, oat flour (pulverized old fashioned oats), celery seeds, garlic powder, black gomasio, old fashioned peanut butter, tomato powder, flax seed meal soaked in water, kosher salt.
The patties held together very well and were delicious. I look forward to making more homemade tofu and finding more uses for the byproduct, okara.