Soy Milk, Tofu, and Veggie Burgers for pennies, anyone?
Those who are vegetarians, lactose intolerant, or just plain omnivores who like soy products know how much it can hurt the pocketbook. Staying stocked in soy milk, cooking with tofu, and grilling up veggie burgers can be downright financially painful, especially if you have a larger family to feed. But making your own soy products isn’t as difficult as you may think, and you can do it all for literally pennies on the dollar.
The last batch of soy beans I processed cost $1.50 and produced 24 meals. Want to know how? Read on...
Buy dried soy beans in bulk.
These days you can find them pretty much anywhere; bulk food stores, health food stores, and even pre-packaged in many grocery stores. You’ll need a fair amount, and will probably want to prepare this recipe in larger quantities, so don’t be afraid to stock up.
Soak your beans overnight.
Exact amounts aren’t relevant for these recipes. However for your first batch, try soaking three cups of soy beans in water. Be prepared for them to swell in size dramatically…a large container with lots of water is in order.
Grind up those beans.
Put the beans and water in a blender and go to town. You’ll probably find that you have to do this and the next few steps in batches, depending on the amount of beans you soaked.
You want your blender mix to be pretty watery, so don’t be afraid to add more water to the bean mixture. Once blended, it should be the consistency of a thin milkshake.
Squeeze those beans.
Line a large pot with a pillowcase (or cheese cloth if you have an abundance of cheese cloths lying around) and pour your blender mix into the pillowcase. Then, squeeze the pillowcase for all it’s worth! This is best accomplished with two people: one holding the pillowcase over the pot, and the other squeezing the soy – you’ll definitely need two hands and some elbow grease for this one.
You’ll notice a white milky substance coming from the ground up mixture (soy mash)…this is the first step to making soy milk. If you think that after squeezing you could get some more milk from your soy mash, then add more water to the soy mash in the pillowcase and keep squeezing. You’ll know you got everything out of the mash when the liquid coming from the squeezing starts to pale in colour.
Repeat this step until all your beans are ground and squeezed.
I did this the other day, and three cups of beans yielded three blenders full, and hence three squeezing sessions. It’s messy work, but fun too! (Another reason why it is best done with a friend. Kids will dig this too).
This is the basic work for all three recipes: soy milk, veggie burgers, and tofu. And now for the individual recipes:
The leftover soy mash is your base for veggie burgers. Season it to your heart’s content, add an egg and/or bread crumbs if you like, form patties, and grill them up. The consistency won’t exactly be like beef, but then again what veggie burger is?!
If you want to have some fun, add some finely grated carrots or other veggies to your patties for extra colour and flavour.
Or if you have lots of soy mash and a large family to feed, try making a veggie loaf! Add some canned diced tomatoes, bread crumbs, an egg or two, worstershire, seasonings, and bake it up! I actually prefer this to the veggie burger option; the consistency of the soy mash is more conducive to baking a loaf in my mind.
Now for the milk you laboriously squeezed into your large pot. Put that sucker on the stove, and boil it gently, stirring frequently for 10-15 minutes. This is not an exact science. You will notice the frothy bubbles on top will dissipate, which is a sign that the milk is coming along nicely. Remove from heat.
And whamo – you have soy milk! Feel free to add flavouring (eg: vanilla and sugar if you like the flavoured stuff), or leave it au natural for your enjoyment. Be sure to store it in the fridge once cooled.
Whatever milk you don’t wish to keep as soy milk will become your tofu. The entire batch (3 cups of dry soy beans) will yield about 500grams (18 ounces) of firm tofu, so it’s up to you how to divide your soy-squeezing efforts between soy milk and tofu.
Add flavour (optional).
If you like flavoured tofu, now is the time to add it. Simply mix your flavour in with the hot soy milk. I tend to skip this step (and add flavour when I’m cooking up the tofu instead), so I can’t be of much help here. But feel free to get creative; curry power, teriyaki sauce, or some fresh herbs would all make interesting additions.
Add something sour to the hot milk.
The choice it up to you: for the best results, use either Epsom salts or white vinegar. You can also use tamarind juice (which I like to use), or other types of vinegar, but be aware that the tofu will take on the flavour of what you use, so choose carefully. White vinegar is the most conventional and least expensive option.
Stir, then let sit.
The amount of sour to add to your milk is also not an exact science. Stir it for a minute, then let the mixture sit for a few minutes. As it sits, you will see the milk will separate and curdle. Once you see that the milk is fully curdled and the remaining liquid is clear, you have added enough. If not, then add some more vinegar, stir, and let sit again.
Drain and press.
Pour the curdled milk mixture back through your pillowcase, retaining the curdles and discarding the liquid. Squeeze the pillowcase gently to get the remaining liquid out (watch out: it’s hot!). Then set the pillowcase with your tofu-to-be on a flat surface where liquid can continue to seep out without ruining anything (a cutting board in the sink works well), and put something heavy on top to press the tofu into its firm and final form.
Allow to sit.
Let your tofu sit under the weight for 20 minutes or so. You will know it is done when you open up the pillowcase and discover a block of firm tofu inside!
Your tofu will keep best if stored in a tight container in the fridge. Cut it into pieces and add to stir frys, salads, or fry it up on its own with some seasonings. The consistency is firm, and it will absorb flavour nicely when you cook with it. You may even catch yourself eating it on its own…it is that good!
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