Use the base soy milk recipe for either of the variations (savory or sweet). Nonstick pots are preferable, as scraping residue from cooking soy milk in a pot can be difficult. A blender and cheesecloth are required. Or, you can use a soy milk maker and follow its instructions for making soy milk, using the measurements below.
- Rinse the beans and soak in at least 4 inches of filtered water to cover at room temperature for at least 12 hours, or up to 2 days refrigerated. (When the beans are fully soaked, they should split into halves cleanly when pressed between your fingers.) 1 cup should also yield about 2 ¼-2 ½ cups once fully soaked.
- Combine the drained beans with 5 cups water in a blender (working in batches if necessary). Process for at least 2 minutes or until very smooth and foamy. Pour mixture into a nonstick pot and heat over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly after the first 3 minutes or so, or until the bubbles on top become very fine and foamy, like a meringue, and the mixture almost comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Drape a cheesecloth over a colander with ample room (about 8 inches) around each side and fit it over a large bowl. Pour the hot soybean smoothie-like mixture over the cheesecloth and let sit for several minutes to drain and cool. Press the solids with a spatula against the cheesecloth to drain; once cool enough to handle, twist up the cheesecloth and squeeze out over the colander with your hands. Once you cannot squeeze any more, open up the cheesecloth and spread the solids (called the lees) around in the cloth. Sprinkle ½ cup water around it, twist up the cheesecloth again, and squeeze once more.
- Pour the strained soy milk into a cleaned, large (preferably nonstick) pot again and heat over medium-low heat. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring constantly after the first 2 minutes to avoid sticking or burning at the bottom. Mixture should almost but not quite come to a boil, and cooking it for this amount of total time will help ensure the soy milk is fully cooked and therefore more digestible. If you'd like to cook it or keep it hot longer, just be sure to keep stirring it frequently so that it doesn't come to a boil or stick to the pot much at the bottom.
Cathy Erway is the author of the cookbook The Food of Taiwan and the memoir The Art of Eating In. She is the host of the Heritage Radio Network podcast Eat Your Words and the new podcast from Blue Apron and Gimlet Creative, Why We Eat What We Eat. She blogs at Not Eating Out in New York.