Monday, September 17, 2012
I'm a Vegan Cheese Snob
But the other inevitable query has gotten more and more fun to answer in recent years. When people ask "How do you live without cheese?," my answer is simple: "My cheese is better than yours." Of course that wasn't always the case. Remember the dark ages of Vegan Rella? But in today's Daiya-driven vegan world, the cheesy options are endless, and I really do believe many of them taste better than dairy cheese. VegNews Magazine even coined 2012 "The Year of Vegan Cheese." If vegans are susceptible to foodie trends, cheese would be ours this year.
After all, the hottest new vegan book is one dedicated to making your own cultured, gourmet cheese. Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner takes vegan cheese-making to a whole new level, and it's getting TONS of buzz right now in the vegan world. Gone are the days of processing some cashews and calling it a day. Miyoko shows us how to make our own rejuvelac using sprouted grains and how to culture a nut- or-yogurt-based cheese so that it has that same exact flavor that aged dairy cheese has.
So we can have all the taste of fancy, aged cheese without harming any cute little cows. That's why I think my cheese is better. It tastes as good or better, and I can eat it with a clear conscience. If omnis can be cheese snobs, so can us vegans.
When I first flipped through Miyoko's book, I wanted to make everything — sharp cheddar, brie, boursin, pub cheddar, and air-dried gouda. But I was drawn to the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo with Gruyere & Mushrooms, which called for Miyoko's Soft Gruyere. But first I had to make the rejuvelac.
Rejuvelac is a probiotic-filled, fermented liquid made from sprouted grains. In Miyoko's recipe, you can use brown rice, millet, oat groats, quinoa, and several other grains. But I went with brown rice since that's what I had on hand. It took about four days before the little grains sprouted these tiny tails. How cute!
Next, the sprouts have to be cultured in water for one to three days. The liquid takes on a pungent odor that smells like stinky cheese:
When the rejuvelac is cultured, you strain out the sprouts. And then the liquid is used in cheese recipes to add that special cheese flavor and texture. This Soft Gruyere was made from rejuvelac, cashews, miso, oil, nooch, and xanthan gum:
Many of Miyoko's recipes are for hard, sliceable cheeses. But since this gruyere would be the basis for a pasta sauce, the hardening step wasn't necessary. Instead, it's a spreadable consistency.
Easy peasy. It just took about a week to make the cheese, and the rest was a piece of cake. The recipe in the book for Fettuccine Alfredo with Gruyere & Mushrooms simply calls for melting down the gruyere with water and serving it over pasta topped with sauteed mushrooms:
Now, I've had a lot of vegan alfredo sauces over the years, and I've loved every single one. But most were tofu-based rather than cashew cheese-based, and none had that distinct tang of cultured cheese. But this did! And the thicker texture of melted cashew cheese was more on par with that of melted Parmesan.
I'm really excited about cheese-making, and I've already planned to make Miyoko's Fresh Mozzarella next week. The rejuvelac recipe makes a ton, so there's plenty for multiple batches of cheese.
I've seen a lot of great cookbooks this year, but for a vegan cheese-lover like me, I know this one has staying power.