In the ongoing quest to discover ultimate sustainability, I’ve discovered an often overlooked form of nutrition. It’s easy to grow, easy to store away, and just as easy to make. I’m talking about growing your own soybean and making them into tofu.
I know what you’re thinking. Tofu is the staple food for vegans and hipsters. It’s no replacement for meat. And yes, you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean we should discount tofu entirely. Tofu is a fantastic form of protein when meat isn’t available. And even if you don’t want tofu, you can always make Soy Milk instead. There’s no denying that a bit of gardening will be much easier than caring for livestock.
You don’t NEED to eat any of it, either. Locally grown soy milk and tofu make great products for the local farmer’s market. So even if you don’t care for the product yourself, there’s still money to be made from trying.
Here’s everything you need to know to go from Soybean seeds to tofu.
Step 1: Grow Soybeans
Soybeans are a warm weather crop. So plant seeds in late spring and grow it through the summer. The specific date may vary by location. We recommend consulting the GrowVeg planting date calendar for a reliable planting date.
Keep them planted in well draining soil. Nothing special. If the soil starts to get dry, water it. Keep the plants in full sun, or as much sunlight as you can manage.
One bonus aspect of soybeans is that they add nitrogen to the soil, improving the soil quality for the following crop.
Step 2: Harvest Soybeans
At any point before the first frost date, harvest the soybean plant. GrowVeg can tell you when that is, as well. A good sign of when is to look for when flowers begin to appear. Either chop the entire plant down or pull it up by the roots.
Hang the entire plant upside down in a cool, dry place and allow them to dry out completely. Once that is done, you can collect the soybeans from their pods.
Step 3: Make Soy Milk
Before it can become tofu, you need to make it into soy milk. The process is easier than you might think, though. It begins by soaking the dried soy beans. Take the beans and place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with clean water until the beans are submerged by at least 2 inches. Let that sit overnight.
Next, put the soybeans in the blender with water. It should be about 2 and ⅔ cup water for every 1 cup of soybeans. Blend the mix until creamy and frothy. Once that is achieved, pour the blended mixture into a large pot and put on a medium heat. As it cooks, skim off any froth or foam that forms. Once it begins to boil, remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer and into a mixing bowl. We recommend lining the strainer with a cheesecloth for a smoother filter.
Once cool enough to handle, squeeze the last of the liquid out of the cheese cloth and it’s gatherings. Tada, you’ve made soy milk.
If you’re living 100% off the grid, then this is where your work ends. Soy milk will provide an easy to grow, protein rich source of nutrients, and saves you from cattle ranching.
The reason it would stop here is because the final ingredient needed is a coagulant to convert it into tofu. There isn’t a very viable method of making these coagulants off-grid, which means it’s not completely sustainable.
Step 4: Make Tofu
Now it’s time for the tofu. Much like cheese, this product is made by coagulating the liquid milk into a solid. You will want a tofu mold, some cheesecloth, weights, and a coagulant. You want about 1 tablespoon of coagulant for every 8 cups of soy milk, not much at all. I suggest Nigari, also known as bittern.
Warm the milk in a pot and remove and film or skin that formed. Turn off the heat once warm. Combine the coagulant with ½ cup of warm water to dissolve. Once dissolved, pour about ¼ of the coagulant mix into the milk and stir well. Do this for about 10 seconds, then add another ¼ coagulant mix. Let the milk sit for three minutes, then stir just the top of the milk and add another ¼ coagulant mix. Wait another 3 minutes and do this one last time. By this point, the milk should become yellowish in color with white curds forming. Then wait 5 minutes.
Using a strainer, press down into the milk mixture, compressing the curds and exposing the whey. Scoop the liquid out with a cup and place into a mixing bowl nearby. Repeat this process until the curds feel firm and there isn’t enough liquid to scoop away.
Line your tofu mold with cheesecloth and place the curds into the mold. Top it off with a layer or two of cheesecloth. Close the lid on the tofu mold and place the weights on top. Let the tofu sit there for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on how firm you want it to be.
Step 5: Enjoy Success
Once done, place the tofu in the fridge and let it become more firm. Now you’re done!
Freeze it for long term storage, cut it into cubes, bake it, fry it, combine it with stir fry, sell it to hipsters, the choice is yours.