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Just like cheeses, tofu has many variations, from farmhouse via silken (kinugoshi) to frozen and freeze-dried. Here's a way to make it on a domestic scale.

You need:

  • An electric blender, food mill or meat grinder.
  • 2 1/2 - 3 gallon cooking pot.
  • basin or 1 1/2 - 2 gallon pressing pot.
  • 2 quart saucepan
  • rice paddle or long wooden spoon
  • shallow dipper or ladle about 1 inch deep and 3-4 inch diameter (or a LARGE spoon)
  • spatula
  • potato masher or other stamper (or press)
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • large, round bottomed colander (must fit into pressing pot)
  • flat bottomed colander (settling container). Preferably square or rectangular
  • shallow fine mesh strainer or bamboo colander
  • Cheesecloth (about 2 foot square) and a pressing sack (or somewhat coarser cheesecloth)
  • Soybeans (yield varies very much with quality. New season's beans are best)
  • Solidifier (Nigari). I use magnesium sulfate from the druggist (Epsom salts). You can use vinegar, lime juice or lemon juice, but it gives poor yields (in my view) and affects the taste. The real keenies make their own nigari from seawater (where the sea is certified clean!) by letting it evaporate and collecting the concentrated brine that is left. Clean seawater can be used as is. One can also use calcium sulfate.

Wash and soak 1 1/2 cups soybeans in 6 cups water for 10 hours. Rinse and drain.

Prepare in advance: place pressing pot in sink and set colander into pot. Moisten pressing sack lightly and line colander with sack. Line settling container with moistened cheesecloth. Place container on rim of large bowl placed in sink.

Heat 7 1/2 cups water over high heat in cooking pot. While water is heating, divide beans into two equal portions. Combine 1 portion with 2 cups water in the blender. Puree until very smooth. Add puree to water heating (or boiling by now) in pot. Puree the remaining soybeans with 2 cups and add to pot. (If using a meat grinder, grind beans without adding water and add 4 cups more water to the cooking pot). Rinse out blender and add rinsings to cooking pot.

Continue heating on high heat. Stir frequently (to prevent goop sticking to bottom of pot). When foam suddenly rises in pot, turn off the heat (fast!) and pour contents of cooking pot into pressing sack. Clean out goop in pot and add to pressing sack. Rinse out pot and replace on stove.

Twist hot pressing sack closed. Press out as much soymilk as possible. Shake out the pressed bean mash and empty into bowl. Add 3 cups water and stir well. Repress to get the last drop of soymilk out. The mash is called okara. Empty it into 2 qt saucepan and set aside.

I use 2 teaspoons Epsom salts dissolved in 1 cup water as solidifier for the above quantities.

Stir soymilk to and fro vigorously. While stirring, add 1/3 of solidifier solution. Stir 5 or 6 times more. Include sides and bottom of pot in your stirring pattern. Bring stirrer upright in center of pan and hold there while all turbulence ceases. Lift out stirrer. Sprinkle 1/2 solidifier solution over surface of soymilk. Cover pot. Wait 3 minutes. Uncover pot. Sprinkle rest of solution over surface of soymilk.

Very slowly stir the upper 1 1/2 inch layer of curdling soymilk for 15 - 20 seconds. Cover pot and wait 6 minutes. Uncover and stir surface layer once again for 20 - 30 seconds or until all milky liquid curdles. (If any milky liquid remains, as contrasted to the white clouds of curd, wait a minute, then stir again. If it still won't come down, add about 1/4 of original amount of solidifier, dissolved in 1/3 cup water and pour directly on uncurdled portions. Stir gently until curdled.)

Place cooking pot next to settling container in sink. Gently press fine mesh container into cooking pot and allow several cups of whey to collect in it. Ladle all of this whey into settling container to re-moisten lining cloth. Set strainer aside.

Ladle curds gently, one layer at a time, into settling container. Fold edges of cloth neatly over curds. Place lid on top of cloth. Press under about 1 - 1 1/3 pounds for 10 - 15 minutes, or until whey no longer drips from settling container.

Fill a large basin or pressing pot or sink with cold water. Remove weight and lid from tofu in container. Place container holding tofu upside down in cold water. Remove container and gently unwrap tofu block. Cut block crosswise into two halves. Allow to rest under water for about 5 minutes. Slip a plate under each block in turn to remove from water. Allow to drain briefly.

The whey is one of the most beautiful bath additives I know. Allows a wonderful polish to be given to the best glasses, too. Great shampoo. The Okara can be used to make cookies (great with coconut). You can also put a little in a bag and use it as a wooden furniture polish (!). Just rub the cloth bag over the furniture. The natural oils get squeezed out of the okara, and bring up the wood real nice.

You can slice this tofu with a thin (Japanese-style) chopstick. I eat it straightaway with English mustard (hot!), wasabi (hotter! = Japanese horseradish), a soy sauce and sherry dip, or any other dip I fancy.

There are many other ways to make and enjoy tofu. And many ways to process it after it has been made. If it's still in print, I can do not better than recommend a book: The Book of Tofu -- Food for Mankind, by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi, Autumn Press, 1975.

I want to thank Ian and Ineke Priestnall of Assendelft, Netherlands for this recipe.

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