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Soybean Series: Making Soy Milk

Ah, the wonders of soybeans! 

We will be the first to admit that we're a little late to the "let's make soy products at home" party. It's only after we realized how much we were spending on soy milk that we decided to try to make it for ourselves.

And it's pretty amazing the things you can make from a little more than a handful of soybeans. In the process of researching how to make soy milk, we came across recipes for tofu skin (one of our favorites), tofu, soy pulp and all of the things you can do to flavor or process tofu. So we're starting a soybean series all about our exploration of soybeans. To kick off the series, we start with soy milk, which is a crucial first step in making other soybean products. Our series will trace our experiments making the following:

- Soy milk
- Soy pulp (Japanese: okara  おから, Korean: kong biji  콩비지, Chinese: doùfǔ zhā 豆腐渣)
- Tofu skin (Japanese: yuba 湯葉 ,  Chinese: fǔ pí 腐皮 )
- Tofu (silken, firm...) 
- Flavored tofu & processed tofus (fried, fermented, dried, and so on)

soy milk ingredientsA Word on Store-Bought Soy Milk vs Homemade
To all store-bought soy milk afficianados out there -- a little wake-up call: your soy milk probably has sugar in it. Now, I have been the in habit of drinking "Soy Dream" soymilk (original flavor), which I thought was sugar-free, but upon inspecting the ingredients, I was a little surprised to see "organic evaporated cane juice." Which, by all accounts is certainly better than refined sugar, but nonetheless not ideal if you are trying to avoid hidden sugar. In any case - just another advantage of making your own soy milk. 

That said, the flavor is certainly different. While some swear by homemade soy milk, I actually prefer the store-bought variety.

Homemade soymilk is a bit more of a commitment -- it's thicker, and nuttier to me than store-bought soy milk, which is thin and slightly sweet. It's akin to the difference between whole milk and skim milk. That said, Asian-brand soy milk, however, seems more consistent with the homemade batches that I came up with. 

What You'll Need to Make Soy Milk
- Dried soybeans (try the bulk aisle of your grocer)
- Filtered or distilled water 
- Cheesecloth
- Colander
- Blender
- Large bowl
- Stock pot 

A Little Digression on Ingredients ... 
Like New York bagels, many say that water is the key ingredient to tofu (or soy products in general).  And given that there are basically two ingredients in soy milk, there's probably some truth in that. Bearing that in mind, we chose to use distilled water (which removes impurities in water) for our soy milk. But feel free to report back whether your city's tap water produces some amazing tasting soy milk! 

As for the beans themselves, it's hard to trace provenance when you're getting your ingredients from the bulk aisle, but chances are your beans are from the US or South America -- quickly becoming a top producer.

soybeans

The One-Sentence Soy Milk Recipe
There's really no need for a recipe, though we have added it here.

In short, you soak the soybeans, puree them, cook them with water, then strain. That's it!

But for those that crave a little bit more detail: 

Prep the Soybeans
Soak 1 1/2 cups of the dried soybeans overnight in a generous amount of the distilled water. This is fine to leave outside, but if you're doing this in the middle of the summer, you might want to put this somewhere cool or in the refrigerator. 

The next day, massage the soybeans around so that most of the skins are removed or float to the top. If this is too troublesome, you can skip this step although this is a way to improve flavor. 

Now, to puree the soybeans: add half of the soybeans into a blender with about 1 3/4 cups distilled water. Puree until very smooth. Repeat with the remaining half. 

Cook the Soybeans
Put 3 cups of water to boil in a large stockpot. Add the soybean puree into the boiling water and cook on medium-high heat for 20 minutes or so, partially covering it with a lid. You'll have to tend to this carefully, frequently stirring and monitoring as this will foam up, bigtime.  
homemade soy milk

Strain the Soybeans
While the puree is cooking, layer the cheesecloth (at least 2-3 times) over a colander. Set the colander inside a larger bowl. Pour the cooked soybean liquid through the strainer. When it's had a little time to cool, use a spatula to press the remaining juice out of the strainer.

When it's cool enough to handle, slowly squeeze the cheesecloth until all of the soy milk has been pressed out and all that remains in the cheesecloth is the soy pulp (save this! very nutritious and you can make a lot of stuff with it). 

What's remaining is the bowl is soy milk! You can add sugar and salt if you wish, or as I prefer, enjoy it hot and fresh with a little honey. This can be refrigerated for a few days, but you should try to consume this fairly quickly. 

Coming next in the soybean series: what to do with soy pulp...

 

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