Making your own tofu, the cheese of soy milk, is easy but it takes a lot of time. It’s a good idea, therefore, to set aside the better part of a morning or afternoon, at least 2 hours or more, to make it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– dry soy beans: at least 2 cups

– lemon juice: fresh is preferred but bottled is okay if you’re in a pinch

– water: in addition to room temperature water, you’ll also need about 2 cups of refrigerated water or water that has been made icy cold

For cooking equipment you’ll need:

– stock pot or soup pot

– large sauce pan

– cheese cloth

– colander

– cooking spoon

– cup measure

– blender or food processor: it you don’t have either of these, an old-fashioned potato masher will work but it will take extra time

– at least two bowls: one of these should be heat-safe

– a wire sieve

The evening before you make your tofu, soak the soy beans overnight in water. To do this, rinse the beans first in a colander under cold water to get them really clean. Then put the beans into a pot or large enough bowl and fill with water until it covers over the beans by about two inches. Cover and leave overnight on a counter or the kitchen table.

When you’re ready to begin making tofu the next day, follow this step-by-step process:

1. Drain your soaked soy beans into a colander and rinse them thoroughly under the tap with cold water; let drain and then put the beans into a bowl.

2. Using your cup measure, begin putting the soaked beans into the blender or food processor. For every cup of beans, you’re going to add 1 cup of water to the container. Depending on the size of your blender or food processor, add just a cup or so of beans followed by an equal amount of water.

3. Turn your blender or food processor to the highest setting until the beans are thoroughly liquefied; the beans and water should be a smooth mixture. Pour this mixture into another bowl and continue steps 2 and 3 until all the soaked beans are done.

4. Next, fill the bottom of your stock pot with about 2 inches of water and place it on high heat uncovered; bring the water to boil.

5. Get your cold refrigerated water ready next to the stove.

6. When the water in the bottom of the stock pot is at a rolling boil, pour your liquefied beans and water mixture directly on top of the boiling water; keep the heat setting on high.

7. After a minute or so, you’ll begin seeing the mixture foam up. Let this happen until the foam reaches the top of the pot. At this point, sprinkle, with your fingers or a teaspoon, the cold refrigerated water directly on top of the foam until it goes down, which should be almost immediately.

8. When the foam is completely down, give the mixture a stir or two, especially along the bottom and, still keeping the heat on high, wait until mixture foams again.

9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 three more times with the final time ending with the stirring; then remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture settle for a couple of minutes.

10. Meanwhile, place a triple layer of cheesecloth into your colander. Place the large sauce pan beneath the colander.

11. Carefully pour the soy mixture from the stock pot into the cheesecloth and let the liquid drain through into the sauce pan.

12. The grainy material in the cheesecloth is soy bran and can be put into a container, refrigerated, and used as a meat substitute.

13. The liquid in the sauce pan is soy milk and this is what you’ll be using to make the tofu! Put the sauce pan containing the soy milk on the stove on high heat. Bring just to boiling and then remove it immediately from the heat.

14. Pour the hot soy milk into a heat safe bowl.

15. Add lemon juice as a curdling agent. The juice of a quarter lemon or a little more than 1 teaspoons is good if you started out soaking about 2 cups dry beans; use more lemon juice accordingly.

16. Let the bowl sit undisturbed for about an hour or so. You’ll know when it’s tofu because there will be a clear liquid floating on top.

17. To prepare the tofu, skim off and discard the clear liquid by gently pressing down with the wire sieve; the liquid will be inside the sieve where you can spoon it off and discard it, and the tofu will be isolated and untouched outside the sieve.

18. Rinse your colander and then line it with more cheesecloth; place a bowl or pot under the colander to catch the liquid; it doesn’t matter what container you use beneath the colander because you’ll be discarding this liquid later into the sink. Pour the tofu inside the cloth to drain.

19. Press down with the back of a cooking spoon to squeeze out all of the liquid.

If you want soft tofu, you’re done; just remove the tofu from the cheesecloth. For firm tofu, wrap the ends of the cheesecloth over the top of the tofu and then place a clean heavy object, like a jelly jar, on top to apply firm pressure for an hour or so; the longer you apply pressure, the firmer the tofu will get. When ready, remove it from the cheesecloth and refrigerate until ready to eat!