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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tofu - A Nutritionally Rich Food You Can Make at Home

While the main protein sources in Western diets are meat and dairy products, soybeans have for centuries served the same function in the East. And tofu is an important part of the Easterner's diet. Actually tofu is made from soybean curds, which are pressed and drained to be made into tofu.
Tofu is cholesterol-free and low in saturated fats. It has more protein than beef, more calcium than milk, and more of a fatty substance called lecithin than eggs. Soybeans also are rich in vitamins, minerals, and acids. They rank among the highest in plant food protein, and since tofu is made from soybeans, it is an excellent source of protein.
How Can It Be Used? Tofu is mild, delicate, and almost tasteless. Therefore, tofu can be used in a wide variety of ways. Tofu enhances dressings, sauces, salads, soups, egg dishes, dairy substitutes, casseroles, and, of course, Oriental cuisine. It can be parboiled, fried, pressed, squeezed, crumbled, drained, or reshaped, eaten raw or frozen, substituted for cottage cheese in some dishes, and used as an ingredient in Oriental recipes calling for bean curd. Its use is limited only by the imagination and inventiveness of the cook preparing a meal.
Would you like to put it on your menu? Tofu is readily available in Japan and other countries in the East. And in the West, more and more stores are selling the finished product. Nevertheless, you may not be able to find it near you. So why not try making it? It is not too difficult. Of course, you will need the proper utensils, though you may be able to improvise for some of them. Following are the steps necessary in making tofu.
Recipe for homemade Tofu
You will need the following utensils: a blender, meat grinder, or mortar to crush the soaked soybeans so as to form a puree. Two large cooking pots of at least six to eight-quart capacity, with lids. A colander that will fit into the cooking pots. Cheesecloth or clean dishcloth about two feet (60 cm) square. A settling container, although the cheesecloth can be used, making the finished product ball-shaped. (If you want to, you can make a special settling container four inches (10 cm) by four inches (10 cm) by seven inches (18 cm) (inside measurements) with drain holes and a lid that will fit inside and can be weighted to press the tofu into a rectangular block.) A wooden spoon, a rubber spatula, measuring cups and spoons, a ladle, and a potato masher or strong glass bottle for pressing will round out your set of utensils.
Wash and then soak one and a half cups of soybeans in six cups of water for ten hours. Rinse and drain them.
You will now need 16 cups of water and a coagulant. In Japanese it is nigari, or bittern. Other commonly used coagulants are: calcium sulfate; calcium chloride; magnesium chloride. The first is the most common. Lemon or vinegar can be used, with the result that the tofu will be slightly tart. Experimenting with the different coagulants will enable you to find what suits your taste.
Heat seven and a half cups of water in a cooking pot.
Divide the soybeans into two portions and blend each into puree with two cups of water (using blender, grinder, or mortar) and pour into water being heated. Continue heating, stirring frequently until foam rises in the cooking pot. Remove from heat and pour into pressing cloth (cheesecloth) in colander placed in other cooking pot. Rinse the first cooking pot.
Folding over the pressing cloth and using the potato masher or bottle, press out as much of the soymilk as possible. Return the pulp to the cooking pot and add three cups of water. Stir well and empty into pressing cloth again, and squeeze out all the soymilk. Put the pulp into the cooking pot and set aside.
Measure two teaspoons of coagulant and put this into a dry one-cup measuring cup and set aside. If you use lemon juice or vinegar, it should be four and three tablespoons respectively.
Bring the soymilk to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook it for five to seven minutes. Remove it from heat.
Add one cup of water to coagulant, stirring to dissolve it. Stir the soymilk five or six times and at the same time add one third of the coagulant and give the mixture one more stir. After it has settled, sprinkle one third cup of coagulant over the soymilk. Cover the cooking pot and wait three minutes. Sprinkle the final third of the coagulant over the soymilk. Stir slowly the upper one-half-inch (1.3-cm) layer of thickened, curdling milk for 20 seconds. Cover the pot and wait another three minutes. Finally, stir the surface layer for 30 seconds or until all the milky liquid curdles.
Place the pot next to the settling container. Carefully ladle curds one layer at a time into the settling container. Fold the edges of lining cloth over the curds and place lid on cloth. Weight it with a one-half to one and one-half pound weight for 10 to 15 minutes or until the whey no longer drips out.
Fill sink with water. After removing weight, immerse settling container holding tofu into water. Remove from container while in the water, and set container aside. Keeping it under water, unfold cloth from tofu. Allow tofu to remain under water a few minutes until firm. You can cut it into serving pieces under water. If you do not plan to use it right away keep it in the refrigerator-but change the water every day.
Michelle Alleyne is passionate about cooking unusual and interesting foods and also trying recipes from many different countries.

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