Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughts on Soy Milk Making

Andy and I have been playing with our soymilk maker for a few weeks now, and we seem to have come up with a relatively easy and successful formula which results in yummy milk.  We've reached this point through reading blogs -- Bryanna Clark Grogan & Steph Davis were particularly useful -- but mainly through trial and error.

Before I get started, I also want to say that we do consume soy pretty much daily, and no, this does not concern me.  Of course, any kind of mono-dieting is unhealthy, but I think that our diet is varied enough that even daily soy intake could never count as mono-dieting.  We eat plenty of veggies and grains every single day, and our weekly meals contain a mix of protein sources including non-soy beans, soy, gluten-based products, seeds & nuts, etc.  There are some scary reports out there about soy, but I take all science with a grain of salt.  The China Study is a really well-written book about the problems with animal protein, and to be honest I find that far more believable than any of the scary soy studies.  This may be me rationalising, and believing what I want to believe, but isn't that what we all do anyways?  If you want to read a bit more about this, I recommend Bryanna Clark Grogan once again.

Now, I will give you our recipes for our favourite soy milks and then explain the steps.

Soy Milk for Cereal, Baking, Sauces, etc.
100 g. soy beans
4 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Soy Milk for Tea
120 g. soy beans
5-8 almonds
4 teaspoons shredded coconut
4 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Step One - Soaking
Put the beans into a glass jar and add enough boiling water to cover by a few inches.  Let these cool, and then put in the fridge overnight.
When you add boiling water, the beans get all wrinkly.

Step Two - Skinning
This is the most annoying part, but it is really important for milk that doesn't taste like beans.  Drain the soaked beans and put them into a large bowl.  Add hot water and then grab handfuls of beans and rub them between your palms.  Be rough -- this is what makes the skins slip off the beans.  When most of the beans have lost their skins, fill the bowl up with water.  Swirl it around, and the skins should float up.  Then tip off the water into a colander.  Ideally, the skins should make their way into the colander while the beans stay in the bowl.  This takes a few goes before most of the bean skins are separated from the beans.  For this step, we often skin two batches at once and then separate them back into batches.  At this stage, we often put the beans back into the jars and soak them again, mainly so we're not in the kitchen making soymilk for such long periods; we'll skin on a Saturday and make milk on a Sunday, for instance.

Step Three - Making milk
This step is the easiest.  For our model of soymilk maker, we put the beans in the basket, with the almonds and coconut if we are making milk for tea.  The newer models of milk maker don't have a basket.  Close up the machine, plug it in, and press the button for soy milk.  The machine cooks for 10 minutes, grinds a few times, and then cooks again.  Ours takes 30 minutes for a soymilk cycle.

Step Four - Pouring and Straining
When the machine beeps, take off the lid and put it into a bowl.

Using a tea towel so you don't burn your hands, unscrew the basket and wash the heating/grinding part straightaway.

Now you need two bowls -- a big mixing bowl, and a smaller bowl lined with cheese cloth.  Tip the milky-okara sludge into the cheese cloth, and wash the basket.

Then we pour the milk from the jug through a fine wire mesh strainer.  Because it has sat for a minute while we wash up the machine, most of the sediment is at the bottom and doesn't clog up the strainer.

As soon as it starts to, we stop pouring.

Whatever milk is left in the jug gets tipped into the cheesecloth.

To the mixing bowl of well-strained milk, add sugar and salt and stir well.  Then when things have cooled down a bit, pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze it until most of the liquid is gone.

This can be added into the mixing bowl.  The result is between 1.3 and 1.5 litres of strained soy milk, depending on how much you squeeze (and how much you spill, sometimes).

At this stage, we let the milk cool in the bowl for a bit and then pour through a funnel into our jars.  And that's it!  It's not too time consuming, especially if you skin the beans on the weekend -- then when you make milk throughout the week the only real work is the straining.

Now, the cost.

We have paid between $2.75 and $2.90 a kilo for soy beans from the Asian grocery store in Townsville.  Almonds and coconut have also ranged a bit, so I have a range of calculations.  It's a bit un-scientific, especially because the amount of soy milk you actually get varies a bit as well.  But here it is:

Soy milk for cereal ranges from $0.40 to $0.42 per batch.  This includes beans, sugar, salt, and electricity (11.5 cents per batch).

Soy milk for tea ranges from $0.51 to $0.70 per batch.  This includes beans, almonds, coconut, sugar, salt, and electricity.

So even our most expensive batches cost less than 50 cents per litre, which is pretty good compared to the $1.50 we paid for the cheapest possible soy milk in the shops.

The pros and cons of making your own soy milk...

Pro - the cost, obviously.
Pro - We use a lot of soy milk, which was very wasteful in terms of the cardboard cartons.  Now we have a lot less trash each week.
Pro - We know exactly what goes into each batch -- no chemicals, no excessive amounts of sugar or salt.
Pro - Each batch of tofu comes with a free batch of okara!

Con - We do have to plan ahead, to make sure there are beans soaked and skinned when we need a new batch of milk.  This isn't such a big deal, it just means that we always have jars of beans in the fridge.
Con - It is more time consuming than buying milk pre-made, but this is something we're willing to wear.
Con - It isn't the best ever in tea.  At first, Andy was sure he wasn't going to make the switch in his tea.  But the almonds and coconut help.  We've also adjusted our tea making to suit the milk -- the pot is a bit weaker, and each cup of tea has more milk in it.  This makes for a reasonable cup of tea that we are now used to and happy to drink.
Con - The machine is a bit noisy, and sometimes freaks out the cat.  But, this is only for the few minutes while it's actually grinding.  And the cat freaks out a lot anyways.

All up, I recommend homemade soy milk.  The machines are a bit of an initial cost, but in my opinion it's totally worth it.


Hannah said...

I don't know if I'll ever be as awesome as you and make the leap to homemade soymilk, but this post was fascinating. The cost breakdown is pretty enticing, as is the free okara...

I also love your dress, although there's the ubiquitous envy in me now, that you can wear dresses comfortably up there. I'm still in winter jackets. Boo. :P

Carissa said...

You go girl! Right on! I love seeing people make things from scratch like this. We all get lazy and never want to do it, but I truly believe that almost always, homemade is better.

Lucyna Wegankiewiczowa said...

I bought a soymilk machine a long time ago, because it's really expensive in Poland (it can cost about 4-5 times more than cow's milk!) but, I have to admit, I only use it for cooking & baking. I hate the taste, the texture, everything. Maybe I'll try soaking and straining and sweetening, but I'm already skeptic. Thanks for your advices anyway!

Susan said...

Very cool. :)

Theresa said...

Hannah - Andy actually got that dress for me in Thailand. I never knew he had such good fashion sense!

Azzahar - soaking and skinning makes a *huge* difference. Our first batch, we put in dry beans and it tasted so yucky. Adding fatty items like nuts helps the texture, too!

blessedmama said...

Just found your blog and really like it. Thanks for the thorough explanation on making soy milk.

cristy said...

Thanks for the recipes. We have been experimenting a lot since we bought our machine about a year ago. We also find that rice syrup is a nice addition (instead of sugar) and vanilla essence (we make our own by soaking a couple of beans in vodka for a few months - its heaps cheaper that way).

We are also able to buy 20 kilo bags of Organic Australian soybeans from our food co-op. Do you have a local co-op or health food shop that might be able to order bulk for you. It works out a lot cheaper and they are organic & local which is nice...

TB said...

The DIY-er in me has always wanted to give this a try, but I know in the long run, my partner and I wouldn't find the time to do this often enough to make the purchase of a maker worth it. I love that you guys are doing it, though - so inspiring. We're actually almond milk people, and I think you can do that with time and just a blender, so maybe I'll take your cue and give it a go some day! Homemade is so much more awesome, always!

Vaala ◪ said...

Hmmm, I'm definitely tempted. We actually had a conversation about maybe getting one at our flat the other day but we'll see.

herwin said...

here is a neat article about the soy scary stories.

Leigh said...

I am looking at getting a machine for my fiance for christmas, as she is a rice milk addict. Have you tried making rice milk in it? It sound like it is much easier with the machine than by hand.

Please let me know if you've tried it (or if you want to try it now :) )



Theresa said...

Hi Leigh, I made rice milk in it once, as my very first batch, before I realised that you need to strain the milk before you drink it. So my experience was that it was VERY thick, in a sticky kind of way. However, it was also nicely sweet, tasted like rice, and was a snap to make. Maybe I'll try another batch tonight!