19 October 2009

Wintermilk: making soymilk and tofu

Well, I suppose we're not totally out of things to blog about, on the homefront...

Since we will be leaving the farm in the spring, and winters are a hardship on animals up here, we won't be keeping any livestock this winter. And since dairy and egg production are on hold through the dark and extremely cold months of January - March, we won't be missing much. Last winter we purchased rice and soy milk, in bulk, to carry us through the goat's milk drought, since the only other option within our range is commercial cow's milk. But we got to thinking about making soy milk and tofu this year instead.

Now, we have each been through the spectrum of diets, from vegan to vegetarian to Weston A. Price traditional-meat-and-dairy based diet. For the most part, veganism and vegetarianism grew naturally out of an urban environment, and we got interested in Weston Price and the well-known cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, as we started raising our own livestock.

We now have a hybridized diet. Since raising meat, eggs and milk is still resource expensive in the North, requiring large amounts of land, and grain/hay supplies to last at least 7 months a year, we do not entirely rely upon meat and dairy to supply our protein. In fact, to raise these products out of season, we need to grow high-protein legume feeds for the animals... legumes we could just as easily grow for ourselves. I enjoy the milk and egg glut that comes with the spring and early summer, but treat these foods as seasonal items. And for meat, we consume 10 lbs a month, for two adults, plus as much gelatin rich broth as I can put away. Legumes make up the rest of our protein requirements.

Along with learning about such nutrient rich foods as a good bone stock, and lacto-fermented vegetables advocated by the Weston Price foundation, we also became weary of soybeans. And in the process, did some in-depth research for myself. From what I have read, on both sides of the issue, and even from the livestock perspective, I understand the dangers of a heavily soy-based diet to be primarily from improper preparation, or from an imbalance of calcium when replacing soy for milk. Soy, along with other legumes and grains, is heavy on the side of phosphorous, and low on the side of calcium, the opposite of milk. So as we phase out dairy products, and begin using more properly prepared soy-based foods, my main concern is fulfilling our calcium requirements. Especially in the winter months when our "green" foods are at the lowest.

So I did a calcium "audit" of our typical winter diet, and found that the base-line is at about half of a recommended daily intake of 1000mg. In further researching calcium rich foods, sesame seeds and poppy seeds pack the highest boost of calcium, way above the alfalfa sprouts I had expected to close the gap. Another great surprise was that many of the spices I use in our winter foods, the kinds of spices often found in curry or gharam masala, are also some of the most calcium rich foods. These spices are mostly of the umbrelifa family: cumin, caraway, anise, fennel and coriander. It seems that calcium comes in small packages.

Well, after a lengthy pre-amble, here's some of the delicious foods we prepared with our bulk sack of soybeans...

First of all, here's a link to some tofu and soymilk recipes, since I won't be giving detailed instructions here. Basically, the beans are soaked and blended with water, then the slurry is boiled for 15 minutes to destroy the enzyme that makes raw soy indigestible. When it is filtered, the liquid is soymilk, and the pulp is called okara.
One pound of raw soybeans, which I bought in bulk for 75 cents a pound, made 3 Quarts of soymilk (in later processing I was more careful not to let the soymilk reduce like it did in my first batch below), along with about 4 cups of okara. I added a touch of sweetener and a pinch of salt to each Quart of soymilk, and I'm really pleased with the result. More about the okara below.

In my next batch, beginning again with one pound of raw soybeans, the filtered soymilk is re-heated and curdled, very similar to cheese-making, to form tofu curds. There are a few curdling agents, including calcium sulfate which would fortify our tofu with calcium, but I couldn't find it locally and used the more commonly found magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salts (be sure to use the salts made for internal purposes... read the label).

The curds are pressed in a cheese-press type of contraption, forming a nice firm tofu. One pound of raw beans produced 1 1/2 pounds of pressed tofu. The whey is mild tasting and makes a nice soup base or bread making liquid.
First tofu fry... tossed with a kale, red pepper and onion stir-fry... yum.

Now back to that okara. It retains most of the fiber and carbohydrates, and about half of the fat and protein from the beans. Here's a link with some really inspired recipes to use and enjoy this unfamiliar by-product of soymilk/tofu making. The patties below are made from the UnChicken Nuggets recipe in the link above.
Since the okara is high in soy-oil, it can be used to replace some of the fat in baked goods. It is also a fluffy type of grain, and can replace eggs for a slightly firmer texture in cakes or muffins. I tried the toasted okara recipe, which has a lightly nutty/coconutty flavor that can be used to replace toasted coconut in recipes, and it smelled so good, I decided to try a granola. I mixed half rolled oats and half cooked okara, omitting oil/fat, sweetened to taste, spiced to taste, added sesame seeds (for calcium!), and toasted in the oven as granola. It's absolutely delicious, better than traditional oat granola. I have no doubt we will find many ways to incorporate this new ingredient in our diet. Okara can even be dehydrated and ground, for easy storage, or to make your own soy protein powder.

Making tofu and soymilk at home requires about the same amount of time as dairy milk and simple cheeses. But the cost-return is higher than dairy products. 75 cents worth of soybeans yielded $6 of soymilk or $8 of tofu, not counting the okara and whey by-products. Soy milk can also be made into soy-yogurt, using the same dairy yogurt starter. Growing our own soybeans would no doubt, require less time and land than maintaining a single dairy goat, year-round, in our bio-region and climate. So for now we have soymilk next to the goat's milk; tofu 2-3 times a week and goat's meat 3-4 times a week. A happy hybrid.


Amanda said...

That is amazing what you've done and how far you've come for self-sufficiency. I'm in awe.

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Thanks Amanda! :)

La La said...

This is awesome!
Thank you much for the advice and recipes!
The only thing I would add is that it might be better to sprout the soybeans prior to making soy milk and the like.. this would take care of some of the synthetic estrogen that fresh/dried soybeans contain; I don't think it would effect the taste too much (and it would make it easier to cook).. This might also go towards breaking down the enzyme that creates the "beany" flavor. I guess I have something to try now! (PS I have a recipe for Miso, if you'd like it..)

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

La La, you know, I was kind of wondering myself, what would happen if we sprouted the soybeans. I've been doing the second best, which is fermenting them a little bit with some of that handy kraut juice, for 24 hours. But I'll have to try a batch sprouted, it would definately make soymilk, but I'd be curious if it would still make tofu? Probably.

I have been really wanting to make miso, and tempeh, but I haven't been able to find a source for the starters in Canada... can you start a batch of miso from the storebought miso, like yogurt? I'd love to hear your miso recipe... either here on the blog, or send it to the email address at the top of the page. Thanks!

La La said...

You'd have to have someone send you the starter I think; It's called Koji. (There is a great book by Eli Katz called Wild Fermentation; he has some recipes for tempeh, as well as miso)

I can get some koji here locally; it's about 6$ it's called Cold Mountain, I believe. I'll look into seeing if it can be imported into canada.. there are a few websites I know that can ship this and other cultures accross the border... I send the sites when I find them. (or i could just ship you a container... once you have it, you just have to make sure you innoculate more rice with it...)

I'll send/post my miso and tempeh recipe a little later... little short on time right now.