Making Tofu

#VeganMoFo18 Day 26 – Making Tofu

 

Bulk Tofu in CA Co-op

I never even imagined making my own tofu, but now that we’re working toward being a zero waste household, the plastic tofu tubs have been starting to irritate me! We don’t eat a ton of tofu, but it’s enough that the tofu tubs were noticeable to me. Unfortunately, I’ve not found a source for package-free tofu near me, although admittedly, I’ve not searched all that hard for it. I’m sure there is a source out there, as I did run across it in a co-op in Sacramento during our recent trip to Napa, but I’m not sure it’ll be closer than downtown Seattle, which is quite a journey for me.

Tofu is basically pressed curds from soy milk, similar to pressing curds from animal-based milks into cheese. When you make tofu, you add a curdling agent to cause the solids in the soy milk to clump together and separate from the liquid (whey). There are several curdling agents available: nigari, which comes from sea salt, lemon or lime juice, vinegar, calcium sulfate (commonly known as gypsum), and magnesium sulfate (commonly known as Epsom salts). Nigari, gypsum, and Epsom salts make sweet and light tofu, although tofu made with gypsum is more velvety, so used predominantly in making silken tofu. Tofu made with vinegar or citrus will have the taste of those acids in the finished product. The authors of  The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine suggests using Epsom salts because it is inexpensive and easy to find.

Update, I found nigari solution at a local Asian market (Uwajimaya) and from a local purveyor, San Juan Island Sea Salt, and have used it to make tofu as well. It makes a firmer block, which I like. You can also purchase nigari online.

To make the tofu, start with soy milk. You can use commercially made soy milk, or, use homemade soy milk. I’m using the soy milk I made in yesterday’s blog post. It takes 8 cups of soy milk to make a conventional-sized block of tofu you find at the store.

Heat your soy milk over medium heat to 180˚F. I used my thermometer from my canning supplies. Make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick or burn on the bottom.

Using a thermometer to measure heat of soy milk. https://trimazing.com/

Thermometer Measuring Soy Milk Temp

If using Epsom salts to coagulate your tofu, make a solution of 2 cups water and 5 teaspoons Epsom salts while the milk is heating. It takes less nigari, 1-1/2 teaspoons is all that is required if using nigari solution.

When the soy milk hits 180˚F,  turn off the heat and add 1/2 of the Epsom salt or nigari solution and stir gently. Put the lid on your pot and let this sit about 8 minutes. Then remove the lid and add the last 1/2 of the Epsom salt or nigari solution to the top, cover, and let sit another 4 minutes. As you do this, you’ll see the soy milk start to curdle and separate from a yellowish liquid—this is the whey. If the whey is cloudy, not yellowy-clear, add a little more coagulant (Epsom salts or nigari solution) and let set a few minutes more.

Progression of curdling soy milk. https://trimazing.com/

Progression of Curdling Soy Milk, from Adding First Epsom Salts Solution to Ladling into Form

Now you’ll simply gently ladle the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined form you want to use. You can use a colander, a tofu press, or a metal loaf pan with holes drilled in it. Take care not to break up the curds as you transfer it to your form.

Ladling curdled soy and whey into form. https://trimazing.com/

Ladling into Form

Put a container under your colander or press to catch the whey that presses out of the curds.

Pressing whey out of the curds. https://trimazing.com/

Pressing out the Whey

Fold the edges of the cheesecloth on top of the curds. Then put a solid, weighted object on top to help press the whey out of the curds and form your block of tofu.

Let this sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours. The longer you press, the more whey that comes out, and the firmer your tofu will be.

Pressed tofu one left, whey on right. https://trimazing.com/

Pressed Tofu (left), Collected Whey (right)

I got a lot of whey out of my tofu during the press!

Paino and Messinger, authors of The Tofu Book, suggest using the whey as an additive when making yeast breads to extend the effect of the yeast. They say you can add to soups and vegetable dishes, or even just drink it. I dumped it into my compost bin, which was too much liquid for it and caused the bin to start to smell. We added a bunch of shredded paper to it to make up for the big nitrogen hit I gave it, and things settled back down.

I ended up transferring my curds into a cheesecloth-lined tofu press so I’d have a rectangular block of tofu instead of a disc. Update, you can add your curds and whey solution to a tofu press initially without transferring after the first pressing—that is what I do now.

Soy curds in a cheesecloth-lined tofu press. https://trimazing.com/

Curds in a Tofu Press

Pressing curds in a tofu press. https://trimazing.com/

Tofu Press in Action

Pressed tofu in Tofu Press. https://trimazing.com/

Pressed Tofu Still in Press

And it turned out great!

Block of finished homemade tofu. https://trimazing.com/

Block of Finished Tofu

Once your tofu is cooled and at the firmness you want, remove it from the cheesecloth and either use or store in fresh water. This fresh tofu should store well in the refrigerator for a week in this water.
Block of finished homemade tofu. https://trimazing.com/
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5 from 2 votes

Tofu

Tofu is actually fairly simple to make. You just need the right ingredients and a couple of tools and you're all set. I think it tastes so much better than store-bought, so it's worth the little bit of effort to make it from scratch. This recipe makes one standard-sized block of firm tofu.
Course Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Asian, Gluten-Free, Whole Food Plant Based, Zero Waste
Keyword Tofu
Author Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching

Ingredients

  • 8 cups soy milk
  • 5 tsp Epsom Salts dissolved in 2 cup of water, or
  • tsp Nigari solution divided two ¾ tsp amounts. Use either Epsom salts or nigari solution, NOT both

Instructions

  • Heat your soy milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick or burn on the bottom.
  • If using Epsom salts, dissolve them in water while the milk is heating. 
  • When the soy milk hits 180˚F, turn off the heat and add half of the Epsom salt or nigari solution and stir gently. 
  • Put the lid on your pot and let this sit about 8 minutes. Then remove the lid and add the last half of the Epsom salt or nigari solution to the top, cover, and let sit another 4 minutes. As you do this, you’ll see the soy milk start to curdle and separate from a yellowish liquid–this is the whey. If the whey is cloudy, not yellowy-clear, add a little more coagulant (Epsom salts or nigari solution) and let set a few minutes more.
  • Gently ladle the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined form you want to use. You can use a colander, a tofu press, or a metal loaf pan with holes drilled in it. Take care not to break up the curds as you transfer it to your form.
  • Fold the edges of the cheesecloth on top of the curds. Put a solid, weighted object on top to help press the whey out of the curds and form your block of tofu.
  • Let this sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours. The longer you press, the more whey that comes out, and the firmer your tofu will be.
  • Once your tofu is cooled and at the firmness you want, remove it from the cheesecloth and either use or store in fresh water. This fresh tofu should store well in the refrigerator for a week in this water.

Notes

You can find nigari at Asian markets or online

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