One method of Making Soy Milk 

Since we have begun transitioning to a waste free lifestyle one of the more dramatic adjustments I’ve made in the kitchen is making our own vegan milks, and also tofu. I have attempted and succeeded making several different milks so far, our favourite being almond and soy; soy the most versatile in my opinion, and  what we are all used to the most as it is what we have predominantly drank In the past.

It was very important to me; a fundamental step in transitioning to waste free living, to stop buying tetra packs of long life vegan milks and plastic packaged tofu. Happily we have now reached the stage where I have been making our own milks for several months, and I have also begun making our own tofu, thereby drastically reducing our waste and recycling production. 

Making soy milk is very cost effective, and although more involved and time consuming than making nut milk, can be achieved quite easily every few days once you have practised it regularly and it becomes routine. I now use two different ways to make soy milk; the longer method I use predominantly for drinking as it is creamier and yields more milk, and the quicker method I use when I am using it solely for making tofu or in other cooking. I thought I’d share the longer method here first.

Soy Milk (This recipe is a slightly adjusted version of one found in How It All Vegan, a very much loved vegan cookbook in our home! I have also gained wisdom and knowledge from the wonderful Natural Tucker by John Downes)

(This recipe makes roughly 2.5 litres)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups organic dried soy beans, soaked overnight in plenty of water (they will swell up to approximately 4 cups when soaked), strained and rinsed well
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 7 cups cold water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract (optional)
  • 5-6 tbs rice malt syrup 
  • Nut milk bag or piece of muslin for straining

Method

  1. Begin by blending one third of the soy beans in 1 cup of the boiling water, and in a large pot add 6 of the 7 cups of cold water. Pour the pulp from the blender into the large pot, then repeat this process with the remaining two thirds of beans and 2 cups of boiling water. Use the last cup of cold water to rinse out the blender and add this to the pot also.
  2. Place the pot of raw gó puree (as it is called at this stage) over a medium heat on the stove and slowly bring to the boil, stirring often to prevent it from catching on the bottom. When the puree boils foam will rise to the top of the pot. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool until it is at a temperature you can handle with your hands. It is now called simply gó puree.
  3. When cool enough strain the gó through muslin or a nut milk bag (I made my own nut milk bag from cotton muslin, it is extremely helpful), squeezing as much of the milk out of the pulp or bean meal as you can. The remaining meal is called okara and is absolutely awesome kept in the fridge for up to a few days or in the freezer for several months and used in vegetable patties, soy loaf,deep fried balls or baking. When we have too much we sprinkle it over our garden beds, put it in the compost, or sprinkle it on the ground outside for our resident wallabies.
  4. Place your now strained soy milk back into the large pot (give the pot a wash first to remove any remaining pulp) and add the salt, vanilla, and rice malt. Place on a very low heat for half an hour, stirring often, you do not want the milk to catch or burn. Turn off the heat and the soy milk is ready! 

    I usually wait for the milk to cool a little, remove any skin that has formed on the top (another very useful and delicious by product of making soy milk called yuba), bottle, and place in the fridge. A creamy and delightful soy milk that will keep for up to a week in the fridge!

    Making Almond Milk

    As we have begun altering our lifestyle in accordance with living waste free there are changes I have made in the kitchen to meet our vegan needs and wants. One of these changes, which has been a dramatic one, is making our own milks.

    Preparing homemade vegan milks was an extremely important, and for me an essential part of getting closer to living waste free. The long life milk tetra packs that we were buying were a huge contribution to our weekly waste accumulation. I have always taken them to our local waste transfer centre where there is a recycling station, but as tetra packs require very sophisticated recycling equipment due to their multi layers, I always doubted they were being recycled and feared they were simply ending up in the tip pile with all the other rubbish. And, importantly, our goal is to reduce all waste including that which is recyclable, by preventing the need for its production in the first place, thus reducing energy consumption and lightening our footprint on sacred Mother Earth.

    Also, making any food from the raw wholefood ingredients, in my opinion, is always going to be the healthiest and most delicious option for my family. I can choose exactly what ingredients I use, how much to include, it is super fresh, and made with a lot of love!

    So, I thought I’d begin sharing the milk making journey that I embarked on several weeks ago; starting with almond milk.

    We discovered that Star loves almond milk whilst we were on our year long adventure, so this was one of the first milks I attempted. It is not one that I have ever made before, but thankfully it is very simple to prepare! It also tastes wonderful! I do not use it for all purposes, I do not think it works very well in hot drinks, but it has become our favourite milk to use in smoothies and milkshakes, and is perfectly fine as a milk replacement in other cooking. All the children enjoy it on its own, and I love that the almond meal you are left with after straining can be used in other recipes, such as vegetable patties or for baking.

    I have discovered though that it does not keep in the fridge as well as soy milk for example, and so have decided to just make it in small batches which we basically use in one or two days. This is totally okay though as it is so easy to make and there’s something very nourishing and holistic about using a milk you’ve just made to make your day’s smoothie!

    After some research and experimenting here is how I make it:

    Almond milk

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup organic (if possible) almonds, soaked overnight in water, strained and rinsed
    • 4 cups water
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup

    Method

    1. Place almonds, water, salt, and rice malt in a blender. Pulse to break up the almonds then blend on high for about 30 seconds.
    2. Strain almond milk through a nut milk bag (I made my own from muslin cloth that I already had) or a piece of muslin, squeezing as much milk out of the almond pulp as you can.
    3. Place the milk into bottles and refrigerate. Place the almond meal into a container and refrigerate for later use (it will keep for several days) or put it into the compost. 

    When we have an overabundance of almond or other ‘meal’ from milk making we either sprinkle it onto our vege garden beds or put it in the compost, so nothing is getting wasted! And there it is, an easy to make, delicious, and healthy milk that is now in regular rotation in our waste free, vegan kitchen.

    Why Waste Free, and Our First Steps

    Why now? Is probably the more appropriate question. This is not the first time Scott and I have thought about living waste free but it is the first time we are doing something about it. Many a time I have stood staring at the plastic wrapped something on the supermarket shelf, thinking how this one thing, possibly just this one meal will leave behind such a heavy, toxic burden for Earth and our future generations to bear. How is that okay? How is it justifiable? Well, in the past we have had to justify it. We have children to feed, we live on a low income, and importantly it is so bloody hard NOT to buy plastic packaged, wrapped, sealed, stickered, contained, bagged, tagged, tied everything within this system that has been forced upon our lives.

    So, why now? Firstly, we have been triggered into action by our mainland journey. Whilst away we stayed at some breathtaking places, some lovely places, and some quite mundane and trying places; some were large, some small, and some we were the only people there. But we were always connected with Earth; the cycles of day and night and the seasons, the elements, the land, water, plants and trees, and the animals and insects. And everywhere we went we left behind our rubbish. Bags of it. Lots of it. It was impossible not to. We were, of course, responsible with our rubbish but it was created nonetheless and that can never be undone.

    Secondly, simply, now is better than later and it is the right thing to do. I don’t have lots of facts and statistics about how messed up Earth is becoming, or has already become, I actually find the truth too scary to dwell on, but I have my intuition. I know what is acceptable, respectful, and healthy for our Earth in all her forms, and our bodies, and plastic is none of these. Plastic is not needed.

    We have now been transitioning to waste free living (or as close to waste free as our family can be) for about 5 weeks. It will be an ongoing journey and we still have a long way to go to be at a place where I’m content. It is a challenging journey that takes commitment and discipline, and I know that we will not always be perfect but we are doing this, and we will do our very best. And, it’s exciting! It takes guts to go against an ingrained system but it is so rewarding to know you are living by your own standards, morals, and ethics, not just blindly following the often misguided convention, which is too often there to largely benefit those at the top.

    Our first steps have mainly been in the kitchen and the bathroom.

    In the bathroom I am now making our own toothpaste and I have implemented a system of family cloth. We were already using natural, plant based, locally made soap that we are continuing to use, and for cleaning I am buying eucalyptus oil from a naturopathic apothecary where the bottle can be refilled. We were also already using the most earth friendly, waste free, biodegradable toothbrushes that I could find so will be continuing to buy these. I have made Strong some cloth nappies for night times (he does not wear a nappy during the day as we have been practicing elimination communication on and off for a few months and are now consistently), and I plan on making my own moon pads.

    The kitchen is big for us. It is our main waste producer and we are very much food lovers, Scott being a chef, and I a very enthusiastic vegan! Being unschoolers we are home a lot and with our children all the time so there’s a lot of food preparation going on! So, firstly we began to be much more prepared for our food shopping trips, and where and how we shop has changed quite dramatically. I now make sure we always take our reusable bags when shopping, we have increasingly been taking our own jars, containers, and cloth bags for nearly all our food items, and we now mostly shop at farmer’s markets for fresh and locally made food and a wholefoods shop for nearly everything else. The supermarket has thankfully now become a shop that we only purchase a few items we are still relying on, the most important of these being Scott’s cow milk in plastic bottles (which we recycle) until we can hopefully find a dairy where we can purchase milk in affordable, reusable bottles, passata in glass bottles (which we are reusing) until we make our own tomato puree when tomatoes are in season (very soon, Yay!), and tofu in horrid plastic packaging but this will not be for much longer as I have ordered nigari (an ingredient needed to curdle soy milk) from the wholefoods shop and will begin to make our own very soon. And when we need a food item that we can’t buy using our own container we look for the best option available and buy as large a quantity as we can afford.

    I am now making our own soy milk and almond milk, cashew cheese and cream, and vegan parmesan. Scott is making a lot of our own bread and otherwise we are buying bread from the local organic bakery using our own bags. We have always made most of our food from scratch but now we are endeavouring to be as self responsible as we can possibly be, making as much of our food from raw, whole ingredients as we are able. I have also just purchased a kombucha culture and stater tea and am super excited about making our own delicious kombucha!

    In addition when we go out we are making sure to remember our water bottles, and containers if we think we might be buying any food to take away. Recently I bought Star some take away sushi when we were out all day; I had a container for the sushi but forgot about the horrid little soy sauce fish! I am now taking a small travel bottle of tamari with us if we are going out on one of our big shopping days in Hobart. We have also and very importantly stopped buying any spontaneous packaged snacks and treats when we are out.

    In essence, we have begun to be very mindful of everything we buy. When it comes to non food item purchases we are buying secondhand whenever possible. We already bought our clothes from op shops and love the tip shops for other household items, and of course online local trading of secondhand goods is a great option.

    Lastly but not in the least, we have got back into our garden since arriving home, giving it some love and energy. It is not a huge garden, we have actually scaled down it’s size so we are not overwhelming ourselves with responsibility and upkeep that we cannot maintain (which has happened before) but we hope that it will provide us with a small tasting of our vegetable needs over the coming seasons.

    And, we have lots of plans! Summer is a time where we look towards preserving and whatever we can do to prolong Earth’s beautiful bounty of fresh fruit! There are so many exciting opportunities!

    We have only taken our first steps but we are already noticing a drastic reduction in our waste accumulation, and I hope in the near future that I can look back and see how we have moved towards a waste free life in huge bounds!