Mel here again. Super awesome announcement time: M’s Vegan Cheese-making posts will now be our Meatless Monday feature (til we run out of cheeses to try). Come back every week for a new cheese!
Ok so I lied. This isn’t Brie. Or Mozzarella, Parmesan or even Gouda. So what is this then?
The alterna-culture: non-dairy yogurt! Aka, the other live culture we can use to create the sharpness and bite our vegan cheeses require.
While creating Rejuvelac was very informative and crucial to the finding of a realistic “cheese,” it was only the first of 2 methods we must learn and apply in our search. The second is making non-dairy yogurt. Yes, like in all those weird Activia commercials, yogurt is all about live cultures too. It can be used in the same way our Rejuvelac is, and in some cases alongside it. Non-dairy yogurt is a common phrase to our west coast writers and readers but is as easy to find in the old school northeast as steam beer and boiled peanuts. So, like in our last excursion, we are going to have to do this for ourselves. Luckily this is an easy process.
We start with the cashew; this is the protein we will need to give us body and something for the “culture” to grab hold of. Raw, unsalted, and unroasted cashews are advised here, and, well, everywhere that we talk about cashews in the next few posts. They should be soaked for anywhere between 8 and 24 hours. This soaking period seems to be directly related to the strength of your blender- if you have a Vita-Mix don’t even bother to soak, but if you have an Hamilton Beach you might want to plan a day or two ahead (I personally use a 5-speed KitchenAid which required the minimum soaking time, though I never did try it using less).
The first conundrum is that you need a little non-dairy yogurt to start making your own. You have no idea what a chore this can be to find in Scranton, PA. Yes, “The Office” is pretty correct in how cosmopolitan we are here. Non-dairy yogurt isn’t just hard to find here it’s nearly non-existent. I am lucky that I work not far from a Wegman’s. I’m also not the only vegan to figure this out. As you can imagine the healthy/vegan section of this store is picked barren regularly (veganism is a fad, I heard) or just not well stocked to begin with. Anyway, Miyoko describes using soy yogurt but i was unfortunately never able to find any so I went with the second best option I came come across. Coconut yogurt (that was only stocked bi-weekly on Mondays).
That takes care of our primary variable but there is a second one that is not very obvious. That would be milk. Obviously as vegans, or vegetarians, we use alternatives to dairy milk. But for this exercise not all milk alternatives are made the same. I went through several different combinations until i found what worked for me. This is not as bad as I make it out to be, Silk is very easy to find here. It would seem second nature to use plain Silk but, I didn’t. My first attempt was with Silk Unsweetened and went quite well but the following several attempts were made with Silk Pure Almond and never went anywhere. Its not that the substance never sharpened but that it never thickened to an acceptable level. The last batch, and most successful, was made of simple Silk Plain.
I should note that once you have made yogurt once it becomes almost self replicating, as long as you leave a few tablespoons aside for the new batch. The whole process, again, is described below in the recipe and is taken pretty much exactly from Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese book.
Once you have made some Rejuvelac and some non-dairy yogurt, you are ready to move on to the big leagues- actual vegan cheese-making.
Next Monday, we finally make our first cheese – Cashew Brie!
- 4 cups plain or vanilla soy milk or almond milk (use plain if the yogurt will serve as the base for cheese)
- ⅔ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 hours and drained
- 3 tablespoon plain, unsweetened non-dairy yogurt (preferably homemade)
- Put 1 cup of the soy milk and the cashews in a blender and process until smooth and creamy.
- Heat the soy milk. Transfer to a heavy saucepan and stir the remaining 3 cups of soy milk with a whisk.
- Warm over low heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture reaches 110 degrees F or until a few drops placed on your wrist feel slightly warm. Remove from heat.
- Culture the yogurt - Add the non-dairy yogurt and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Pour into a clean 1-quart glass jar and cover.
- Let rest in a warm place for 4 to 8 hours, until set and the desired degree of tartness has been achieved.
- Refrigerate the yogurt, it will thicken even more as it cools