First things first - I soaked 500 gr (17.7 ounces) of soybeans overnight.
Following Byanna Clark Grogan's recipe for making soymilk without a Soymilk Machine*, we made fresh, hot soymilk in the VitaMix! It worked perfectly! Since we were making tofu, we didn't bother skinning the beans, and (obviously) we didn't add the salt or sweeteners. It was pure soybeans and water. I think we made 5 batches total. Because the water is added boiling hot, we followed Bryanna's instructions and put a cloth towel over the hole in the lid of the blender.
(*Blend 4 cups boiling water with 1.5 c soaked soy beans on HIGH for 1 min. Add 1/2 c cold water, blend again to combine)
Then we poured the hot soymilk into a sieve, lined with my fancy "nutmilk bag." You could also use cheesecloth, but apparently I had the wrong kind (too loosely knit), so the nutmilk bag saved the day. In this stage, we were separating the okara (soybean solids) from the soy milk. The bowl below is catching the soymilk.
In the bag is the Okara that's left over.
Here's Sara using a spoon to get ALL the soymilk out.
(You can see that Fabrizio was working hard too! He was our official taster... wandering in from time to time to sample each step of the process.)
A big beautiful bowl of fresh soymilk! You can see one of our little balls of okara in the background.
Next, all our soymilk went on the stovetop to simmer for 10 minutes. One recipe said to boil for 30 minutes, one said DO NOT BOIL, and one said simmer for 10 minutes. We went with that one, as it seemed middle of the road.
In the end we ended up with 5 pretty balls of okara. They were so smooth and had a great texture... so we decided to make a spread with some of the okara while we waited for the soymilk to boil.
The okara was very mild, and had a really lovely thickness with a super smooth texture from the vitamix. We thought it would be good as a cheeze or a spread. So we took 1 okara ball (about 1 cup) and threw it in the food processor with 1 clove garlic, a handful of pinenuts, a spoonful of light miso, a dash of olive oil, and a mountain of fresh basil. Mmmm! We picked some cherry tomatoes from the garden, busted out some crackers, and had a great snack while we waited for the tofu process to continue...
In this stage, we added our coagulant, and waited for the curds to separate from the whey. We were using Nigari, which Sara had sent over from Italy sometime last year (of course I saved it so we could make tofu together!). First we put the pot of soymilk on the lowest possible heat, and waited for the temperature to come down to about 180 F. Then we slowly added a mixture of 1 big Tablespoon of nigari dissolved in very hot water. We gave it one very gentle stir, and waited 10 minutes. The recipe from Brenda Wiley was really helpful here. She emphasized that the liquid shouldn't be milky at all - it should be clear and amber (as seen in our picture here). So, we made another hot water-nigari slurry, and repeated. This time, after 10 minutes, it had clearly done the job. We had a big pot of soy whey and soy curds. Cool and weird and exciting! We could practically taste success!
We didn't have a proper tofu press, so we made up two make-shift presses. The first was my sieve, lined with a heavy duty cheesecloth-like fabric, over a big pot to catch the whey. Catching the whey isn't necessary, but I thought it'd be nice to water the plants with it. Here, Sara is pouring the hot curds and whey into the sieve. Pouring turned out to be hot and messy, so we quickly switched to ladeling, which was much better.
Here's our other make-shift tofu press: 3 strawberry baskets (for extra strength) lined with the nutmilk bag, and filled with tofu curds. In the sink for good drainage.
Then we had to figure out a good way to weigh down the tofu. We used a little plate here...
... and put a bowl on top, and the Joy of Cooking and Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. For the little tofu in the strawberry baskets we used a square cobblestone that I pilfered from the streets of Italy when I was 16 years old. That old thing (literally) came in handy at last! We pressed our tofu for 15 minutes, which was plenty for the little one, but not quite enough for the big batch in the sieve. There, we ended up adding a cast iron skillet to the leaning tower of weights, and waited another 10-15 minutes. Then it was perfect.
The small tofu came out in a cute little shape, from the weight of the cobblestone and the texture of the strawberry baskets. (sorry for the crummy lighting... but it was dark out by then)
Here's our big batch... cut open. Just look at that beautiful texture!!! It was incredible. I really didn't expect it to turn out so lovely and delicious. We pressed it to a medium-firm consistency, and the texture was very smooth. The tofu had a slightly sweet flavor, which was very pleasant. I think that in the end we made about 3 lbs of tofu. How fun and amazing to make tofu from scratch!
So, what did we do with it???
... A delicious salad from "Healthy Hedonist": Glazed Tofu, greens, cashews, celery, radishes, cilantro in a soy-sesame-ginger dressing. It's a perfect summer meal that is both fresh and warm, and really allowed our fresh tofu to shine.
And, we've both got a bit leftover, so I'll do something else with the extra tofu for dinner tonight.