Shade Market Cooking: Soy Milk

An alternative to using a blender to extract soy milk is this stone grinder.

Whole soybeans are extremely nutritious; one cooked cup contains 43% of daily omega-3 fatty acids, 49% of iron, 41% of fiber, and 57% of protein as well as a host of other beneficial nutrients.  For all of that nutrition, one cup of cooked soy only contains about 15% of daily calories.  For vegetarians, whole soybean consumption is a must, but they can also be a great source of protein and nutrients for meat eaters.  Soy is not a meat alternative, it's a delicious legume all its own. Whole soy products include: tofu, soy milk, and fermented soybean products such as miso and tempeh.

Soy being blended for milk

Unfortunately, in the United States, the majority of the soy products on the market are not whole foods.  Soy is considered an "oil-crop" in the U.S.  The majority of the beans are pressed into oil.  A great deal of the leftover from the oil extraction is mixed into animal feed.  What's left of that defatted soy product is rinsed with water to extract a soy protein concentrate.  This soy protein concentrate is then processed further to become textured soy protein, what is marketed as tofu.  The protein can also be processed so it becomes water soluble.  This can be mixed with water and sold as low-fat soy milk.  It's no wonder why mass produced tofu and soy milk are so bland.  After processing, barely any of the soy is left in the finished result.

We at Shade Market, however, don't believe in just presenting you with the doom and gloom.  The solution comes from some simple recipes we learned at the PunPun Center for Self-Reliance. The first step is making your own soy milk.  It's astonishing how cheap and easy it is to do, not to mention the flavor of fresh soy milk is far beyond that of the mass produced.

Squeezing out the last of the soy milk

Because soy is a commodity crop and the United States is the largest producer of soy, it is no surprise that 90% of soybeans in the states are genetically modified. Be sure to use organic soybeans to avoid these GMOs.  They can be purchased in the bulk aisle of many natural markets.

1 cup dry, organic soybeans
Roughly 3 cups water for soaking
3 cups additional water to purée
Additional Water for dilution
Large sauce pot.

1. Soak the dry soybeans in the water for soaking for 4 hours. Make sure they are completely covered, if they are not, add more water.  They should be soft enough to break apart with your fingers, if they are not soft after 4 hours, soak until they are.
2. After soaking, drain the soybeans and add them to the blender with the water to purée. Purée until they are as smooth as possible, probably a few minutes.
3. Line the strainer with cheesecloth, the cheesecloth should be hanging a few inches over the edges of the strainer, so it can later be bunched up into a pouch. Set the lined strainer over the sauce pot to collect the soy milk.
4. Pour the purée into the cheesecloth lined strainer. Using a spoon, gently press as much liquid as you can through the strainer. After most of the liquid has been passed through, gather the edges of the cheesecloth into a pouch, and squeeze out the remaining milk with your hands.
5. Once you have all of the liquid gathered in the pot, set it over a medium high heat. Stir very often until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer.  Here there is a risk of scorching, so be a diligent stirrer.  The reason we heat it is to cook the soy.  Raw soy is very hard to digest. As Krit, our thai cooking instructor put it, "eating raw soy will make you very unpopular."
6. What we have now is very concentrated soy milk, a little soy goes a long way.  The milk can be diluted, to taste, with clean water.  Start by adding a few cups and tasting.  1 cup of soy beans can yield as much as 20 cups of milk.
7. The milk can also be sweetened by dissolving sugar in it while it is hot.  If you would like to make tofu out of it, don't sweeten it.

Cooking the soy milk

The leftovers

There will be some leftover soy solids after straining.  These can be used by mixing with flour, egg and seasoning.  The resulting batter can be fried and is quite tasty.  In Thailand sweetened soy milk is served with fruit or tapioca pearls as a desert. Next recipe: Tofu.