[Homestead] Making tofu
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Feb 10 15:24:38 EST 2005
Mother Earth News: The Book of Tofu
Issue No. 41 - September/October 1976
*In MOTHER NO. 39, authors Shurtleff and Aoyagi introduced us to the art
of cooking with whole soybeans. Below, we are taught how to
THE BOOK OF TOFU
WILLIAM SHURTLEFF & AKIKO AOYAGI
From /The / / Book of Tofu,// /copyright 1975 by William Shurtleff and
Akiko Aoyagi. Excerpts used by permission of Autumn Press, Inc.
*MAKING TOFU AT HOME *
If you find that fresh tofu is not available at a nearby store, try
preparing your own at home using either whole soybeans or powdered
soymilk. It's as enjoyable as baking bread ... and considerably faster.
We have found the following recipe, based on the traditional Japanese
farmhouse method, to be easy to follow and virtually foolproof. The tofu
will be ready 50 to 60 minutes after you start. One pound of soybeans
yields about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds of tofu at a cost about one-third to
one-fourth that of commercial tofu and less than one-half the cost (on a
usable protein basis) of hamburger. Solidified with /nigari/ (the
mineral-rich mother liquor that remains after salt is extracted from
seawater ... also known as "bittern"), made from soymilk simmered over
an open fire (rather than steamed), and served at its peak of freshness,
homemade tofu contains a fullness of flavor and subtle sweetness seldom
found in even the finest store-bought varieties.
To make fine homemade tofu, you will need the following common kitchen
tools (see Fig. 1) and ingredients:
An electric blender, food or grain mill, or meat grinder.
A "pressing pot" with a capacity of 1-1/2 to 2 gallons, or a
basin of comparable size.
A 2-quart saucepan.
A wooden spatula, rice paddle, or wooden spoon with a long handle.
A shallow ladle or dipper about 1 inch deep and 3 or 4 inches in
diameter, or a large spoon.
A rubber spatula
A sturdy 1 -quart jar or a potato masher
A 1-cup measuring cup
A set of measuring spoons.
A large, round-bottomed colander (that will fit into the
A flat-bottomed colander ("settling container") preferably
square or rectangular.
A shallow fine-mesh strainer or bamboo colander.
A coarsely woven cotton dishcloth, 2 feet square, or a "pressing
A 2-foot square of cheesecloth, or a light cotton dish towel of
Two special pieces of equipment, both easy to assemble, will make the
work even easier:
 Make a "pressing sack" of the coarsely woven cotton dish towel
mentioned above, or use a piece of sturdy cotton cloth with about
the same coarseness of weave as cheesecloth. Fold the towel or cloth
end to end and sew up the sides to form a sack about 15 inches wide
and 15 inches deep. Or use a small flour sack with a fairly coarse
 The flat-bottomed colander listed above is for use as a
"settling container" which gives its shape to the finished tofu. If
a 1-quart strainer or small, round-bottomed colander is used in its
place, the tofu will naturally be rounded.
The three settling containers shown in Fig. 2 can easily be made at
home. Container A is prepared from a 1-1/2-quart wooden, Tupperware, or
plastic box with an open top and non-removable bottom. In containers B
and C the bottom is removable, allowing for easy removal of the tofu
without immersing the container in water. Good dimensions for the
container are 5-1/2 inches square by 3 inches deep, or 8 by 4 by 3
inches deep. Use a drill or heated ice pick to bore 3/8-inch-diameter
holes about 1-1/2 inches apart in the bottom and sides of the container.
Fashion a flat wooden or plastic pressing lid (with or without holes) to
fit down inside the rim of the box. Handmade wooden settling containers
in the above designs (kitchen or community size) can be ordered from
Ganesha, c/o Westbrae Natural Foods, 1336 Gilman St., Berkeley, Calif.
The soybeans now sold at almost all natural and health food stores, most
co-op stores, and many supermarkets will make good tofu. However, to
obtain the highest yield, try buying soybeans directly from a tofu shop
(if there's one in your area), for they have been carefully chosen by
the tofu maker.
The solidifiers; most readily available in the West are Epsom salts,
lemon or lime juice, and vinegar. All make delicious tofu, although they
are not used in Japanese tofu shops. Japanese-style solidifiers are
available from many natural food stores, local tofu shops, Japanese food
markets, chemical supply houses (check your phone directory), or your
local school chemistry lab. Usable seawater can be retrieved from clean
stretches of ocean. Natural nigari is available at some salt refineries
and can be ordered from Japanese natural food distributors ... or it can
be prepared at home using natural salt. We recommend the use of refined
nigari unless the natural nigari is certified to have come from a clean
source of seawater. While we believe the nigari-type solidifiers are the
easiest to use and result in the best tasting tofu, Epsom salts and
calcium sulfate seem to give somewhat higher bulk yields and a softer
end product by incorporating more water into the tofu. The yield of tofu
solids or nutrients is about the same regardless of the type of
solidifier used, except that lemon juice and vinegar give rather small
yields. (*NOTE:* Calcium sulfate, a fine white powder, is sometimes
mislabeled in the West and sold as nigari. The latter usually has a
coarse, granular, or crystalline texture ... natural nigari is beige and
refined nigari is white.)
The recipe below calls only for solidifier Your choice of solidifier
depends upon the type of tofu you want.
*FOR SUBTLY SWEET, NIGARI TOFU * USE: 1-1/4 teaspoons magnesium chloride
or calcium chloride, or 1to 1-1 /2 teaspoons granular or powdered
natural nigari, or 1 to 1-3/4 teaspoons homemade liquid nigari, or 1-1/4
to 3 teaspoons commercially prepared liquid nigari, or 1 cup seawater
* FOR MILD, SOFT TOFU USE:* 1-1/4 teaspoons Epsom salts (magnesium
sulfate) or calcium sulfate.
FOR SUBTLY TART OR SLIGHTLY SOUR TOFU USE: 2-1/2 tablespoons lemon or
lime juice (freshly squeezed), or 2 tablespoons (apple cider) vinegar.
*HOME MADE TOFU
** (MAKES 22 TO 26 OUNCES) *
1 cup soybeans, washed, soaked in 4 cups water for 10 hours (see
graph, MOTHER NO. 39, page 40), rinsed, and drained
11 cups water, approximately
Prepare in advance:
Place pressing pot in sink and set colander into pot. Moisten pressing
sack lightly and line colander with sack, fitting mouth of sack around
rim of colander. Or line colander with a moistened 2-foot-square dish
towel (Fig. 3).
Moisten cheesecloth or thin cotton dish towel and use to line bottom and
sides of settling container. Place container on rim of large bowl or pan
placed in sink.
Fill a 2-quart saucepan with 2 cups water and warm over very low heat on
a side burner.
After making the above preparations, proceed as follows:
Heat 5 cups water over high heat in cooking pot. While water is heating,
combine beans and 2-2/3 cups water in a blender and purée at high speed
for about 3 minutes, or until very smooth. (if using a grain mill, food
mill, or meat grinder, grind beans without adding water and add 2-2/3
cups more water to cooking pot.)
Add soybean purée (gô) to water heating (or boiling) in cooking pot,
rinsing out blender with a little water to retrieve any puree that may
cling to blender's walls. Taking care that pot does not boil over,
continue heating on high heat, stirring bottom of pot frequently with a
wooden spatula or spoon to prevent sticking (Fig. 4). When foam suddenly
rises in pot, quickly turn off heat and pour contents of cooking pot
into pressing sack (Fig. 5). Using a rubber spatula, retrieve any
soybean purée that may still cling to the sides of the cooking pot and
transfer to pressing sack. Quickly rinse out cooking pot and replace on
top of stove.
Twist hot pressing sack closed. Using a glass jar or potato masher,
press sack against colander, expressing as much soymilk as possible
(Fig. 6). Open sack, shake /okara/ (soybean pulp) it contains into one
of its corners, close and press again. Now empty /okara/ into the 2 cups
warm water in saucepan on side of stove ... stir well, then return
moistened okara to pressing sack set in the colander. Close sack and
press well as before; squeeze by hand to express the last of the soymilk
(Fig. 7). Empty okara into the 2-quart pot and set aside.
Measure solidifier into dry 1-cup measuring cup and set aside.
Pour soymilk into cooking pot and bring to a boil over high heat,
stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Reduce heat to medium and cook
for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off heat.
Add 1 cup water to solidifier in measuring cup (unless using seawater)
and stir until dissolved. With a to-and-fro movement, stir soymilk
vigorously 5 or 6 times and, while stirring, pour in 1/3 cup solidifier
solution. Stir 5 or 6 times more, making sure to reach bottom and sides
of pot. Bring spoon to a halt upright in soymilk and wait until all
turbulence ceases. Lift out spoon (Fig. 8). Sprinkle 1/3 cup solidifier
over surface of soymilk, cover pot, and wait 3 minutes while curds form.
Using a measuring spoon, stir remaining 1/3 cup solidifier solution,
uncover pot, and sprinkle solution over surface of soymilk.
Very slowly stir upper 1/2-inch-thick layer of curdling soymilk for 15
to 20 seconds, then cover pot and wait 3 minutes. (Wait 6 minutes if
using Epsom salts or calcium sulfate). Uncover and stir surface layer
again for 20 to 30 seconds, or until all milky liquid curdles.
(White "clouds" of delicate curds should now be floating in a clear,
pale-yellow liquid . . . the whey. If any milky, uncurdled liquid
remains suspended in whey, wait I minute, then stir gently until
curdled. If milky liquid persists, dissolve a small amount of additional
solidifier—about 1/4 of the original amount—in 1/3 cup water and pour
directly into uncurdled portions. Stir gently until curdled.)
Place cooking pot next to settling container in sink. Gently press
fine-mesh strainer into pot and allow several cups whey to collect in
it. Ladle all of this whey into settling container to re-moisten lining
cloths (Fig. 9). Set strainer aside.
Now ladle curds—and any remaining whey—into settling container one layer
at a time. Ladle gently so as not to break curds' fragile structure
(Fig. 10). Fold edges of cloth neatly over curds (Fig. 11), place a lid
on top of cloth (a small board or flat plate will do), and set a 1/2- to
1-1/2-pound weight on top of lid for 10 to 15 minutes, or until whey no
longer drips from settling container (Fig. 12).
Fill pressing pot, a large basin, or sink with cold water. Remove weight
and lid from atop tofu, then place container holding tofu into basin of
water (Fig. 13). Slowly invert container, leaving cloth-wrapped tofu in
water. Lift out container. While it is still under water, carefully
unwrap and cut tofu crosswise into halves. Allow tofu to remain under
water for 3 to 5 minutes, until firm. To lift out, slip a small plate
under each piece of tofu. Drain briefly (Fig. 14).
Store tofu in a cool place until ready to serve. (if not to be served
for 8 to 10 hours, store under cold water.) The remaining 6 to 7 ounces
(1 firmly packed cup) of okara can be used in various other recipes, or
refrigerated in an airtight container. Use the 6 to 7 cups whey in
stocks and/or for washing your utensils.
/EDITOR'S NOTE: In next issue's installment of excerpts from this great
book, we'll present various recipes that'll show you what to do with
your tofu once its made. / / /
*---more about tofu* ---
Just as the word "bread" is used in reference to a wide variety of baked
goods, the word "tofu" in its broad sense refers to a number of
different soybean foods.
"Tofu" is also used in a more limited sense to refer to "regular tofu",
the simplest, least expensive variety and the one most widely known in
the West. This tofu has no exact equivalent in Western cuisine and does
not quite fit the English terms "soybean curd" and "soybean cheese"
often used to describe it Tofu is made /from / soybean curds just as
cheese is made /from / dairy curds: after ladling off whey from the
soymilk curds in his curding barrel, the tofu maker scoops the curds
into two cloth-lined wooden settling boxes and tops them with a pressing
lid and heavy weight for about thirty minutes. During this time the
curds are firmed and made into tofu. Similarly, although the finished
tofu, stored under water in deep sinks, has the color and shape of a
light cheese, it is not fermented, aged, or ripened ... hence the name
"soybean cheese" is also inappropriate.
According to ancient Chinese references, as well as to popular
tradition, the method for preparing both soymilk and tofu was discovered
by Lord Liu An of Huai-nan in about 164 B.C. A famous scholar and
philosopher, ruler and politician, Liu An is said to have been
interested in alchemy and Taoist meditation. A close friend of many
students, he may have undertaken his experiments 'With tofu as a way of
introducing nutritious variety into their simple meatless diet.
Historians believe that Liu An's tofu was probably solidified with
either nigari or seawater and had a firm texture similar to most of the
tofu made in China today.
About 900 years passed from the time of the discovery of tofu in China
until its arrival in Japan. (As tofu became a part of the language and
culture in Japan it came to be used in proverbs and sayings. When
someone wants to tell a person to "get lost", he may say "Go bump your
head against the corner of a cake of tofu and drop dead." Or when
speaking of something as being hopeless he might say "It's as futile as
trying to clamp two pieces of tofu together.")
Up until the start of World War II, virtually all Japanese tofu was
prepared in small household shops from gô /(EDITOR'S NOTE: /see The Book
of Tofu excerpts in /MOTHER NO. 40. /cooked over a wood fire in an iron
cauldron and soymilk solidified with natural nigari. Only after World
War II did* *new solidifiers (such as calcium sulfate) and ways of
cooking (such as with pressurized steam) come into vogue. In recent
years, large shops and factories have begun to mass-produce tofu: each
10-1/2 ounce cake is water-packed in a polyethylene container, thermally
sealed with a sheet of transparent film, and pasteurized by immersion
for one hour in hot water to give a shelf life of up to 1 week.
Distributed over an area of several hundred miles in refrigerated
trucks, this tofu is sold in supermarkets and neighborhood grocery
stores at a price slightly below that of the tofu sold in most
Another 1,200 years passed before tofu made the leap from Japan to
America ... where there are now more than 50 tofu shops, the oldest of
which has been in business since the turn of the century. The history of
tofu in the West, therefore, has only just begun.
news from bill *shurtleff
---AND AKIKO AOYAGI---*
Bill Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi-talented authors of /The Book of
Tofu/-recently wrote to MOTHER and asked us if we'd pass along the
following two announcements.
First: In response to a gratifyingly large number of invitations, Mr.
Shurtleff and Ms. Aoyagi will tour the U.S. this fall, giving special
lecture presentations to natural food centers, student body
organizations, clubs, etc.... and they'd like to hear from any such
groups that would be interested in having them come and talk. According
to Bill Shurtleff, "At a typical two-hour program, we prepare a number
of our favorite tofu and miso recipes for people to sample, teach others
how to make tofu at home for 13¢ per pound, talk about the highprotein
nutritional value of these fine foods, and discuss the important role
they can play in helping to solve the world food crisis." All Bill and
Akiko ask of sponsoring organizations is a donation of one dollar per
person-in-attendance, to cover expenses. Interested parties are
encouraged to write to the address below.
Second: Authors Shurtleff and Aoyagi are putting together a new
/volume-The Book of Sea Vegetables/—/and/ would like very much to
contact folks in this country who've [A] developed good sea-vegetable
recipes or [B] gathered and/or cultivated edible seaweeds extensively.
If you've got such recipes, or info on foraging seaweed (name of
variety, habitat, season to harvest, flavor, use in cookery, etc.), by
all means send what you know to Bill and Akiko. They'll acknowledge your
help in the book, and maybe list your name in the appendix under "People
Interested in Sea Vegetables in the West".
Write to Bill Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi at:
New Age Foods Study Center
790 Los Palos Manor
Lafayette, Calif. 94549
"We hope that /The / /Book / /of Sea Vegetables/ will long be the
definitive work on the subject," author Shurtleff tells MOTHER. All we
can say is, if the new volume is executed in anywhere near the
professional and thorough-going manner of /The / /Book / /of Tofu, /it
ought to be a classic.
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