I spell it soymilk (but soy milk, soya milk, soybean milk are also accepted) and it is what I was raised on as a child. This write up will be a long one; so, if you’d rather just make the milk, go straight to the recipe, but if you are interested in a brief history of soymilk with a sprinkle of my awakening to this history, then read on!
My mother loved the book “Back to Eden” by Jethro Kloss, which devotes a whole section on this nutritious bean. I am not sure what recipe she used, but her milk was definitely on the beiger side. I don’t remember a beany flavor either, but I do remember that soymilk was my least favorite of all the milks she made.
Indeed, I was never a great fan of soymilk until I saw all of things it allows plant-based cooks to make. Because of its high protein content, it excels other plant-based milks in the making of plant-based mayonnaise. It is the easiest milk to make into yogurt (Yep, just add starter, put in a warm place, and 12-18 hours later — yogurt). It sets up as diary milk would. I regularly make cheese from my yogurt; so, I have been making this milk for a good while now, but rather exclusively the Asian version of soymilk because I never drink it.
I never even thought to make soymilk until after my mother died, which brings us back to Jethro Kloss. In his book, he has a general recipe on how to make soymilk, but I remember trying various versions and methods of making soymilk and liking none of the ones involving cooking the soybeans before straining the milk from the pulp (or okara). Why? Because I found it to be a “milking disaster.” The okara residue after cooking would be a “Samara Nightmare!” I would literally have to strain the milk several times through muslin cloth to use it. I generally do not like grit or residue in my milk. I found that I did not have to strain the milk multiple times when I did not cook the bean before blending, which became my preferred way of making soymilk. The process was simple. It was a very simple preparation! *smile*
Fast forward to last week, I received a request for how to make soymilk. I fulfilled the request by making a video, but I made the Asian-style milk. As my video-making skills are still in preschool, I had to make the soymilk two times before successfully getting the video footage I needed. Therefore, I ended up with a bunch of soymilk. I turned three quarts into plant-based yogurt for cheese. I made liquid cheese with about a pint. I also made two batches of mayo. I still had a pint left after all that and gave it to my brother, who would often proclaim his love for soymilk over almond milk [Backstory: I only make almond milk. If I buy milk, it’s almond as well]. I thought this would be a good treat for him, but instead his scrunched-up face said it all. After one sip, he refused to drink any more of the milk because it tasted “beany,” He said, “I only like Silk Soy Milk.” I said, “Well! …” I was was lost for words [Doesn’t happen often].
This presented a problem to be solved. I pondered how the Silk brand made their milk. I know that the store-bought almond milks are watered down, so I assumed they did the same to the soy. I experimented with watering down the remaining soymilk, but the taste only got worse. Then, I decided to research the taste of soymilk and how to remove the beany flavor.
This led me to the book “Back to Eden,” but Kloss called for boiling the beans a couple times before grinding (See p. 670). I knew I did not want to do this based upon my past experience of cooking the beans. So, then I ran into an article that related that soaking the beans in boiling water would remove the beany taste, which led me to an article on a fascinating history of soymilk, which I cite in brief below.
In Nadia’s Berenstein’s 2019 article “A History of Soy Milk: A history of the beige, beany liquid that was once predicted to save the world,” she gives a great summary of the contribution Harry W. Miller, a Seventh-Day Adventist who pioneered the modern production and mass consumption of soymilk. I include portions of her summary (paragraphs 10-15) below.
“Adventism’s soy-milk saint is Harry W. Miller, a doctor and medical missionary who spent decades in Japan and China, where he first became interested in soy foods. In 1931, Miller established an Adventist medical center in Shanghai, where cow’s milk was scarce and costly and where, though a handful of commercial soy-milk factories had recently begun operations, soy milk was usually not considered suitable for young children. In a series of feeding experiments, Miller and his medical staff showed that infants raised on soy milk were healthier than those given cow’s milk or Western baby foods; only breastfed babies did better. Cheaper and more nutritious than dairy milk, soy milk, Miller believed, was a perfect food—not just for babies, but for everyone—and he planned to build a soy-milk factory in Shanghai to make it more widely available.
There were just two problems: the flavor, and the farting. As traditionally prepared in China, soy milk often had a bitter taste and a peculiar flavor that soy-industry researchers call “beany.” “Beany” has variously been described as chalky, cardboard-y, or fishy; resembling sweaty feet; or reminiscent of licking a wet popsicle stick—all of which hint at its prismatic unpleasantness, particularly to Western palates.1 Soy milk also had a well-earned reputation for causing digestive distress, which was why Chinese parents did not typically feed it to young children.
According to Matthew Roth—who tells Miller’s story in his fascinating history of soy, Magic Bean: The Rise of Soy in America—Miller mitigated soy milk’s fartiness by extending the cooking time and tempered its bitterness by adding sugar, but the beaniness remained. Then, while he toiled over a hot cauldron of soy slurry, God took the ladle. As Miller recounted in his memoir, “I heard a divine voice behind me that said, ‘Why don’t you cook it longer with live steam?’” Steam distillation, God’s proposed method, was a processing technique commonly used to deodorize oils, and it swept off many of the volatile molecules responsible for the ugly flavors.
Miller’s Vetose Soya Milk factory began producing a bland, un-beany soy milk in Shanghai in 1937—a terrible time and place to start a new business. When the Japanese military invaded, Miller and his family fled, and the factory was destroyed in the ensuing fighting.
Alongside his eldest son, Willis, Miller started over in Ohio, manufacturing Soy-A-Malt for adults and Soyalac for children, and trying to persuade Americans to give soy milk a chance. Miller beat the drum in pamphlets and lectures: Soy milk was safer than milk; it was a complete protein source; it was alkalinizing; it was far easier to digest than cow’s milk. It was purer, healthier, better than milk.
It didn’t catch on. Postwar America hankered for giant strawberry milkshakes, spilling over the brims of frosty frappé glasses, and gave its children cartons of milk with their school lunches. The 1950s were the century’s peak decade for milk consumption, and soy milk remained a beverage for people with special needs—the lactose-intolerant, diabetics, Adventists, health faddists. In 1950, Miller abandoned his company and the country—passing the torch to Loma Linda, another Adventist food company—and traveled the world evangelizing for soy milk and advising on the creation of soy-milk factories in Japan and Indonesia.”Berenstein, Nadia. A History of Soy Milk. serious eats, Nov. 2019, https://www.seriouseats.com/a-brief-history-of-soy-milk-the-future-food-of-yesterday. Accessed 21 May 2022.
This history I had never known. I knew that the milk I drank as a child wasn’t so beany and it was beiger than the milk I was making, but I didn’t know an SDA was a pioneer in the history of soymilk. You’ll also be interested to know that SDAs are also responsible for the mass production of almond milk too.
The Bible says that on at least two witnesses shall every word be established (Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1 KJV). Kloss also related that babies thrive on soybean milk in his book “Back to Eden” on p. 667:
“…Chinese babies are dependent on the soybean for food, dairy products being rare in the Orient. Those babies that must be fed artificially are given milk made from soybeans. It is a scientific fact that physical development on a soybean diet is perfectly normal. History proves the value of soybeans as a food.”Kloss, J. (1939). Back to Eden. (1995 Edition). Back to Eden Publishing Co.
On that same page, Kloss goes on to say that soybeans may be substituted for more expensive articles of food and they are among the most economical sources of nutritional foods (at least at that time).
The main reason I thought I’d share this recipe is because later in the Berenstein article, she relates that soymilk was once touted as a solution to world hunger… and no wonder: It has nine essential amino acids that the human body needs (i.e., histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine). We are now on the brink of famine (as it is one of the signs of the beginning of sorrows for the last days in Matthew 24:3-8 KJV); so perhaps this is a recipe for our time. A passage in paragraph 19 of the article states that by the 1960s soymilk had gained great commercial success:
“…Its success attracted worldwide attention, including from international aid organizations, such as USAID and UNICEF. These groups saw soy milk as an inexpensive and tasty source of protein, and a weapon in the global war against hunger. Beyond those humanitarian goals, they saw geopolitical gains: In Cold War calculations, the oppressed were potential recruits to anti-capitalist ideologies. Feeding soy milk to the world’s hungry was thus a hedge against global Communist domination.”Berenstein, Nadia. A History of Soy Milk. serious eats, Nov. 2019, https://www.seriouseats.com/a-brief-history-of-soy-milk-the-future-food-of-yesterday. Accessed 21 May 2022.
Here again, Kloss, as my second witness, in his book “Back to Eden,” p. 666.4-5, relates the benefits of soy for the Chinese nation and states:
“China has survived five thousand years , its people have endured not only one, but hundreeds of severe economic depressions, floods, earthquakes, famines, and wars. … Their recovery from these calamities is due largely to the use of the soybean, as it is a food which perfectly takes the place of disease-producing meat, milk, and eggs.”Kloss, J. (1939). Back to Eden. (1995 Edition). Back to Eden Publishing Co.
You may be wondering why I am taking the time to talk about a bean that some say is bad. I’ll admit that there are more than a few negative things said about soy, but that is in effort to deter folks from consuming it. It is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and may enable your body to remain healthy. The write up in Kloss’ book on soy is worth reading and contemplating. None of negative press concerning soy hold any true foundation when using organic soybeans, which is free from chemicals and pesticides. The article “The Truth about Soy – Busting the Myths” explains these myths, citing numerous researched studies to back up how great soy is for us. We are living in an age where evil is called good and good evil (See Isaiah 5:20 KJV). Woe unto us who do not search things out for ourselves.
Well, back to the process of making the milk … So, I decided to boil water and soak the beans in it. After all, I wasn’t cooking the beans, just soaking them for about 8 to12 hours. Well, I soaked my soybeans for about four hours in the boiling water in a closed jar, then I poured out the water and refilled the jar with more boiling water, closed up the jar, and left it on my stove overnight. In the morning, I performed the exact same process as I do with my Asian-style soymilk until it came to cooking. I increased the cooking time and made sure the the beans came to a boil before turning the heat down to medium. Turned out perfect. My second batch I soaked at an hour interval three times with boiling water, leaving the last soak to sit overnight.
There were about two things I noticed that were different. I did notice that there was less foam after straining into the pot. The oligosaccharides must have significantly diminished in the beans. I also noticed more settlement, which wasn’t completely noticeable until I drank the milk the next day. Therefore, I recommend straining the milk once it cools down before it is jarred and refrigerated. There wasn’t a great deal of grit, but any grit or residue is a bit off-putting to me. I love my milks fairly clean and smooth.
Let’s talk about flavoring. I prefer to use one teaspoon of vanilla and 2 tablespoons of natural sweetener per quart of milk (but you can sweeten to taste), and a hint of salt to bring out these flavors. I typically only use unsweetened milk because it is more versatile in my recipes. However, this recipe makes two quarts of milk. One I would sweeten and the other, I’d leave plain. If you do not feel you would be able to use both quarts in 3 to 5 days, then make one quart into yogurt, which lasts at least two weeks to a month in the refrigerator. Soymilk does not freeze well; so, that is never an option. However, if you make it into a homemade ice cream, it will freeze wonderfully! Experience is a good teacher! Don’t be afraid to try various recipes.
Now, without further ado, let’s make some neutral-tasting soymilk! …
Samara’s SDA-style Soymilk
- 1 cup organic soybeans (+ water for soaking overnight)
- 9 cups pure water (divided, 5 cups for blender, then 3 cups with foam, then 1 cup in pot)
- The night before, soak 1 cup of soy beans in at least 3-4 cups of boiling water. I always soak my beans in a closed jar. This will help retain the heat. I modified Kloss’ method of boiling the beans three times and discarding the water by just soaking the beans multiple times. The jar is generally cool enough after one hour to pour out the water and refill with boiling water. Though you may do a third soak, I usually am fine with two, and on the second soak I leave the beans to soak in that water until the morning (or soak 8-12 hours). Though I generally do two boiling soaks, I’ve found at even one boiling soak should greatly reduce the beany flavor for those who are short on time.
- Preheat oven to its warmest setting to sterilize jars for milk … and lids.
- In a medium bowl, crunch hydrated beans between fingers to remove skins. Process takes 5-7 minutes. You’ll see the skins will just seem to slip off.
- Remove skins from bowl by running water in bowl and draining through a sieve, allowing the skins to run off. Repeat a number of times until the skins are mostly gone. I usually end up with about 1 cup of skins.
- Have a heavy bottom pan on the stove eye with a milk bag to strain the milk.
- Add 5 cups of water to blender and add all of the de-skinned soybeans and blend on high for 2 minutes.
- Pour a bit more than half of the milk through the milk bag in the heavy bottom pot. A bit of milk and foam should be in the blender (about 2 cups left in blender with the foam).
- Add 3 cups of water to the contents in blender and blend on high again for about 30 seconds.
- Pour the entirety of the blender contents into the milk bag on the stove.
- Milk or remove the liquid from the milk bag into the pot. Some foam will form on top of the milk in the pot during this process.
- Remove as much foam as you can from the top of the milk with a spoon, scooping the foam into the designated foam holder (I rinse and use my blender for this purpose. Also don’t forget to rinse the milk bag — holding out the dried pulp for later use in another recipe– because if you do not rinse it at this stage, in 30 minutes it will be harder to clean).
- Once foam is off of the milk, pour the last cup of water into the pot.
- Turn the stove dial almost on high and set the timer for 30 minutes. Let the milk heat a simmering boil, which may take about 7-10 minutes, then turn it down to MEDIUM (I said to turn it on low in the video, but that was a mistake. If you look, I turned it to medium). Please pay attention and make sure that your milk never comes to a raging boil, which will be a mess. As soon as it reaches a simmering boil, turn down the milk! Remember, you’ll be stirring the entire time, so it will be hard to see any simmer bubbles, but your milk should be simmering until the end.
- Throughout the 30 minutes, constantly stir up and down and side to side, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure no milk burns at the bottom of the pot. You may continue to remove the any bubbles forming on top of the milk, as these tend to be gas forming. At the end of the 30 minutes, discard the foam and rinse/clean the blender (or foam holder) immediately. ALTERNATIVELY, you can leave the foam to cook and remove close to the end. This works well too.
- Once the 30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat and set timer for 20 minutes to allow a skin (yuba) to form on top (this may happen before 20 minutes, but I always wait for the entire 20 minutes). I remove this skin, especially when making the Asian version soymilk, but with this one, the yuba is usually so thin, you can stir it back in, but if it is thick enough, you may remove it.
- Remove jars and lids from the oven and pour milk into them. You may desire to strain the milk first to make sure any residue or grit is removed from the milk. Refrigerate for 3-5 days.
BONUS: For soy yogurt: Leave about 1/2 cup of room at the top of each jar once you pour in the milk. Wait for the milk to cool to warm and put at least 1/3 cup-1/2 cup starter in them. Put these jars in the oven (be sure oven is off) with the light on for 12-18 hours. Put jars in the refrigerator!
Note: bold and emphasis added in all of the paragraphs above by the blogger.