As any survival oriented person knows, protein is essential to one’s daily diet in order to maintain good health and to carry out the many tasks of day to day existence. In a survival situation where anxiety and physical exertion will be greater, it is even more important to fuel our bodies with good protein, minerals, and vitamins.
In a survival situation, good quality protein may be hard to come by. Ideally, our protein should be easily digestible, easily prepared, inexpensively procured, and the raw materials easy to store over long periods of time.
A little bit about Tofu
Tofu is, I believe, the ultimate survival food. Tofu, pronounced toe-foo, with the accent on the second syllable, has been around for some two thousand years. It originated in China where it was and still is necessary to feed an overpopulated country, inexpensively.
The Japanese have been making tofu for about 1,000 years, making them relatively new corners. Tofu is made from soybeans and is also known as bean curd. Here in the west, tofu is mostly popular in the vegan communities, and few Americans would replace a nice, juicy steak with a piece of tofu.
Tofu is white in color and has the texture of a firm yogurt, but dryer. The taste?
Well, it is even harder to describe the taste, but it could be said that it is rather bland and gets its flavor from other ingredients in the dish it is used in. This quality makes it ideal for upping the protein content of any dish.
Tofu or steak?
Most Americans visualize a choice cut of beef, say a Porterhouse steak cut about an inch thick, weighing in at about a pound and a half, as being rich in protein and necessary at least twice a month to stay virile and maintain good nourishment.
But hold on! What about all the calories, cholesterol, and fat content? What happens when red meat becomes nonexistent, or the price becomes prohibitive?
There is protein in other types of food, of course, but there are few with as much digestible protein as can be found in tofu. Unlike the aforementioned thick juicy steak, tofu doesn’t have any cholesterol, has very few calories, and contains all of the eight essential amino acids. If all this isn’t enough, it is very easily assimilated by our bodies.
The protein content of soybeans is about 35 percent making it higher in protein than any other unprocessed foodstuff available. Using the steak as a basis for comparison, we would find that five ounces of beef would give us the same amount of usable protein as a half cup of soybeans!
Tofu is also very rich in calcium, making it an ideal milk substitute should milk become unavailable.
The United States is projected to produce 98.9 million metric tons of soybeans, and it’s the second-largest producer in the world, but exports most of it. The portion we keep is most generally used for the production of livestock in the dairy, beef and pork industry.
This is unfortunate because the ratio of retrievable protein from meat, to that of using the bean as a direct protein source is disproportionate. That is, the protein value put into a steer will never be retrieved from the consumption of the meat produced.
Tofu can feed the entire US population
It has been estimated that a year’s bean crop produced in this country could fulfill the protein needs of every man, woman, and child in the United States for three years if the protein was consumed as tofu. It has been further estimated that 75.80 percent of all other grains grown in the U.S are used in the raising of livestock.
Dairy production would quite naturally fall into this usage too. For some reason, there is still a seemingly misguided reliance on red meat in our country. Grains could be used for feeding more people for less cost. Therein may lie the problem; the greed factor.
Past articles on this website have emphasized the need for having “hands-on” experience, or at the very least, a practical knowledge of skills to aid us in day to day life should the present way of life be disrupted by calamity of the natural variety or that of the man-made variety. A small selection of articles you should check out:
The knowledge of making tofu should be high on your list of skills to learn. Soybeans are quite easy to acquire as they can be bought or bartered for from growers, purchased from health food stores, or can be found in food co-ops. They can also be purchased from companies specializing in nitrogen packed survival foods, should you want to stock them for long-term.
Types of tofu and storage info
There are basically two kinds of soybeans grown in the U.S. There are “fodder” type beans for livestock and for commercial purposes, and there are vegetable beans (soy), bred for more taste for human consumption.
I used the fodder type bean with very good results. When buying beans, make darn sure they aren’t sprayed with any insecticides or other chemicals used to prolong their life in the grain elevators!
These wonderful little round beans can be stored from one to three years if they are dry, are stored in air-tight containers, and are stored out of direct sunlight. These are the requisites for the long term storage of any legume.
Things you need for making tofu
The equipment needs for making tofu are quite modest and inexpensive. Most homes have many of the items needed.
You will need a large flat bottomed colander (strainer) about 21/2 inches in diameter, one long-handled wooden spoon (it must be wooden), a one and a two-cup measuring cup, at least a two-burner stovetop, blender or food processor, potato masher, and two large pots with lids.
These pots should have a capacity of about 12 cups. A third pot is also needed but can be smaller, with a capacity of about six or eight cups. A forming box with a removable bottom and a cloth to line it with are also necessary.
A three to four-pound weight is needed to weigh down the lid of the box. A squeeze bag made from a coarse weave muslin fabric is essential. Good dimensions for the two large pots are 11 inches diameter and seven inches deep. These can be found in most department and discount stores .
The ingredients for making a batch of 20-32 ounces follows:
- One and a half cups of dry soybeans,
- Four tablespoons of Epsom salts
- At least 18 cups of water.
The Epsom salts can be found at your friendly pharmacy or in the health care section of a department store. The smallest quantity I have been able to find has been one pound.
Begin the process the night before by soaking the one and a half cups of beans in water. The water should cover the beans by several inches because the beans swell as they absorb moisture. They should soak for about 12 hours at room temperature (about 65-75 degrees F.).
Bring to a boil eight cups of water in each of the large pots. Meanwhile, wash and drain the beans in cold water and divide the beans into two equal halves.
Puree half of the beans with one cup of warm tap water and one cup of boiling water. Half is preferred because most blenders do not have the capacity to handle all of the beans and liquid.
Pour the first batch of puree into the boiling water and cover.
Puree the remainder and do likewise, but now, turn off the heat.
Now is a good time to rinse out the blender in COLD water as the puree is very sticky and will be hard to clean off later.
Place the colander over the smaller pot and fix the muslin bag to receive the puree from the big pot. This step is where it is helpful to have someone to help. The bag is now wrung tight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Thin is done over the colander so the liquid can be saved. Now use the masher to further extract juice from the bag. At such time as you can’t get any more juice out, open the bag and stir the pulp.
The pulp is called okara. The juice is soy milk.
Now add three cups of the hot water from the water pot and repeat the squeezing process. After this is complete, empty the bag and save the okara for future use.
The soy milk is now brought to a full boil and allowed to simmer for 15 minutes. It must be stirred constantly, so it doesn’t scorch. The simmering is essential to cook out a potentially harmful byproduct of soy milk.
The Epsom salts are used as a coagulant to curdle the milk. This is accomplished by mixing three teaspoons (use an actual measuring spoon, NOT a teaspoon from your silverware set), of the salts with a cup of warm water, stirring until dissolved. The coagulant is added about a third at a time to the milk.
Gently stir the top of the milk with the addition of each third. It should take about three to seven minutes for the milk to coagulate. Most of the milk should be coagulated, but if not, mix up half as much salts and water, add it to the milk, and apply low heat and try again.
Prepare the cloth liner for the forming box by soaking it in water and then wring it out. Place the cloth in the box, so it clings to the sides, then moisten with the liquid from the curd.
Carefully strain the curd and place it in layers in the box until almost full. The cover and weight are placed on the box and allowed to sit for 20-30 minutes. The liquid will be forced from the box, so place it over a suitable receptacle.
The next step is to get the tofu out of the forming box. This is accomplished by placing the box on its side in a sink full of COLD water and gently teasing the cloth containing the firm curd out of the box. At this point, it is helpful to put a plate under it for support and permit it to sit underwater to firm up a bit more.
In approximately five minutes, your first attempts at making tofu may be sampled. If there is any left after sampling, put the curd in a rigid plastic sandwich-type container, cover with cold water and refrigerate. Change the water daily, and it should last from three to five days.
The first time through this process will probably take two hours, but with practice, will take less time as the technique is perfected.
The okara can be used as flour after it is dried. Drying is accomplished on a dry griddle or by baking in a low oven on cookie sheets. Remember to stir it around a bit so it won’t burn. When we make tofu in the cold months, I like to dry the okara on cookie sheets over the woodstove.
Ways to enjoy tofu
Your tofu may be enjoyed in any number of different ways. Our family started cultivating a taste for it by putting it in omelets. Raw fried potatoes are very good with the curd as well. It can be deep-fried, stir-fried, baked, or cooked.
You are bound only by your imagination as to how to use this truly remarkable food in your daily meal preparation.
Given the nutritional value and the relative ease of making tofu, I think it should be seriously considered as a prime survival staple. It has a flavor that is easily acquired by the pallet and is very inexpensive to make.
I would recommend trying some commercial tofu to see if you and your family like it or could learn to like it. Making your own is far better as the commercial variety is not as fresh nor as flavorful and usually has preservatives and or additives in it.
As you can see, the cost per ounce is very minimal. If you have been looking for a substitute for meat or a nutritious complement to your everyday cooking, look no further. Bon appetite!
Useful resources to check out: