Image via Ffffound
2014 UPDATE 2: Miyoko Schinner, of Artisan Vegan Cheese fame, has opened a commercial nut cheese making facility, to enable her to make her game-changing cheeses available for purchase. Miyoko’s Kitchen delivers throughout the USA. Needless to say, I am well jealous of anyone with an American post code right now. I mean goddamn.
2014 UPDATE 1: Rejoice, New Zealanders! All is not lost! We finally have some positive store-bought vegan cheese progress. It was only a matter of time: there is cashew cheese sitting on the shelves of Commonsense Organics. BOOM. Also, Auckland based Kaiaroha are bringing aged vegan cheese to market stalls all around AKL.
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I hear in some wonderful parts of the world, there exists store-bought vegan cheeses that are truly amazing. Dr. Cow, for example. They are fermented, they are handcrafted, they do not look or feel like plastic. They actually taste incredible.
If you live in New Zealand and want to buy the bomb-ass, awesome-tasting, vegan cheese you so deeply deserve, you are shit out of luck. Whatever you see on the shelves here, run a fucking mile. Basically, our options are Scheese, Cheezly and sweet fuck all else.
Do both brands taste just as worrying as their names imply? Yes, yes they do.
Argh! This frustrates me. Eating should be all about fresh, amazing flavours, not settling for an ill-conceived imitation of the real thing, right? Fuck yes, it should. Food rules. I defy Scheese and all of the processed nonsense it stands for! There needs to be a lot better on the shelves before it will be worth throwing your money in that direction. So is there a solution for people who drop the dairy and only have access to what I think of as the “Yellow Plastic Range” of vegan cheese products? Of course! DIY, baby.
Homemade vegan cheese is a whole different, next level game these days.
I tried my hand at dairy-free cheesemaking for the first time yesterday! I made the Fresh Moxarella Cheese from Somer at Vedged Out, which is a superthick, spreadable take on mozzarella, made from a handful of basic ingredients, and using a fast (and brainfail-proof) two-step method. This is a really good recipe for anyone looking to dip a toe into the world of dairy-free cheeses.
Homemade vegan mozz, sliced tomato and basil toasted sandwich; yusssss ♥ ♥ ♥
It was so easy to make and tastes soooooooooo good. Mmm. I actually had a little mindfuck moment and had to remind myself that I wasn’t eating dairy. Last night we made margherita pita pizzas for dinner: A wholemeal pita, a thick smear of homemade tomato-garlic base sauce, a few dollops of mozz and a couple of basil leaves. We’re gonna try it in a lasagne tomorrow.
I am swooning a little.
The mozzerella success has kinda given me cheese on the brain – I am gearing up to try a little more cheese making in the next week or two and have an armful of good leads recipe-wise, which I’m gonna run you through below. Get to experimenting, you might just discover your new favourite thing!
Some recipes require a few irregular ingredients (for example, some of the aged cheeses in Miyoko Schinner’s revolutionary Artisan Vegan Cheese; kappa carrageenan, anyone?), but a lot of them are easy as hell. Cashews are the key. Cashews, and a blender with a little muscle.
If you raise an eyebrow at the inclusion of things like agar agar, xanthan gum and rejuvelac in many of the ingredients lists, don’t worry, agar and xanthan gum you will find no problem at any natural health store or organic supermarket a la Commonsense Organics. Rejuvelac, a probiotic tonic that is often used as a starter in plant-based cheese recipes, is very easy to make yourself; if the idea of sprouting a grain has you running for the hills, word through the grapevine is that pre-made rejuvalac is available in some cities, so check your local purveyor of all things eco and wholesome, just in case.
Another good beginner’s recipe might be a simple cashew cheese like this one from Ann Gentry at Real Food Daily, or Betty Rocker’s Boursin Cashew Cheese. Kathy at Healthy Happy Life has a 3 ingredient Cashew Baked Cheese that looks super-easy and awesome (she makes a rad-looking harissa version, too).
Caprese salad with vegan buffalo mozzarella, photo by Chris Carlozzi, via Vegansaurus
Over at the very cool Vegansaurus, Vi Zahajsky wrote about her – wildly successful! – experience making the Fresh Mozzarella di Bufala from Artisan Vegan Cheese (pictured above and below) along with the recipe. There are only a handful of ingredients needed and they are all easily procured. Miyoko Schinner, the author of Artisan Vegan Cheese, has posted an updated buffalo mozzarella recipe on her blog that uses probiotic soy yoghurt instead of rejuvelac; apparently the texture and taste of that one is pretty damn spot on!
Vegan buffalo mozzarella balls, photo by Chris Carlozzi @ Flikr
There really are a whole big bunch of anything-but-bland lookin’ recipes online. It’s a vegan-cheese-filled world out there in Internetland. This Smoked Coconut Gouda from Somer at Vedged Out looks rad (and if her vegan mozz is anything to go by, it will be 200% rad). Vegetarian Times have some sage advice as well as recipes for almond feta cheese, pepper-crusted cashew goat cheese and good old pine nut cheddar.
Sandra at Kitchen Apparel has posted her spin on a recipe of Miyoko Schinner’s that featured in Veg News late last year, Aged Chèvre with Horseradish, and she begins with her recipe for rye rejuvelac. Over at Art & Lemons, you’ll find an awesome-looking Plain Almond Chèvre as well as another recipe for rejuvelac.
Kay Stepkin at the Chicago Tribune has posted a recipe for Vegan Brie that I bet is delicious. C’est La Vegan sings the praises, and offers the recipe, for a Pepper-Crusted Cashew Goat Cheese, adapted from Vegetarian Times. I also really like the sound of this Cashew Ricotta from The Simple Veganista.
As you can see, there is a lot of exploring and experimenting to be done.
Meanwhile, I am crossing my fingers that foodies around here will get turned on to the awesomeness of dairy-free cheesemaking, and we will reach a point where fresh, nut-based cheeses are available at the local markets, and sit happily on cafe & restaurant menus alongside the usual suspects. There will be a whole lot of very happy bellies in NZ when that happens.
Vegan Cheesemaking Resources
♥ Veg News proffers 3 Rules for Stellar Homemade Vegan Cheese
♥ Kappa carrageenan, one of the crazier sounding ingredients in the vegan cheesemaking world, is available online from Modernist Pantry.
♥ This thread for Artisan Vegan Cheese over at the PPK forums is 49 pages and counting. It is a treasure trove of advice for budding vegan cheesemakers, including a lot of the PPK community’s questions being answered by the author herself. Miyoko gives tips and tweaks on recipe techniques from the book, so it is a really good place to dive in.
Books to investigate: