Outstanding Non-dairy Cheese

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This isn’t hard. I promise.

This is a stellar raw and vegan cheese recipe – seriously. It is a perfectly satisfying snack when  you’re looking for the taste and texture of traditional creamy cheeses made from dairy. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients or the number of steps as the entire process is actually quite straight forward. Once you have done it once, you’ll make raw, vegan cheese again and again.   All it takes is a little planning ahead as the rejuvelac takes time to ferment and needs to be made first, and the cheese itself takes time to ripen. That said, the rejuvelac freezes well, so you could make extra and save yourself some time that way.

The texture of this cheese is similar to commercial soft cheese, and if flavoured with garlic and herbs, tastes surprisingly similar to “Boursin.”  The cheese will be firm enough to hold a shape if molded, yet soft enough to spread on crackers.    

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The nuts suggested in the ingredient list all provide a creamy texture, mild flavor and will blend completely smooth. You can substitute with other nuts but be aware that different nuts impart different flavours, and almonds for example, may result in a slightly grainier cheese. Nevertheless, the recipe will produce an equally tasty cheese to be used in spreads and dips regardless of the types of nuts used.  My preference would be macadamia nuts except that it is difficult to find macadamia nuts that are not stale where I live. Therefore, I almost always use cashews, brazil nuts or a combination of whatever nuts on the ingredient list that I have on hand.  

The lemon juice and rejuvelac (recipe follows) create a wonderful cheese-like tang in this recipe and probiotics speed up the fermentation process. I have read that miso paste can be used instead of probiotics, but I have not made cheese this way. Nutritional yeast would also create a cheesy flavor, but I prefer not to use it for reasons mentioned here, and frankly, this recipe doesn’t need it. The flavor is excellent without it.

You will end up with about 1 1/2 cups of cheese but the recipe is easy to double. The recipe for rejuvelac yields about 2 cups, which is more than plenty even if you double the cheese recipe.

Now, scroll down, as you will need to make the rejuvelac first. 

Making the cheese:

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw nuts, (cashews, brazil nuts, or macadamias)
  • 1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt or Pink Himalayan salt
  • 4 cups filtered water, or enough to cover nuts, room temperature
  • 2 capsules of probiotics (I have used probiotics by Raw Primal Defense and Progressive, but other brands should work too)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup rejuvelac* (recipe follows)

Seasonings

Flavour Option One – Garlic and Dried Herbs

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp. dried herbs, such as parsley, dill, basil, chervil, chives
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Adjust to taste with extra salt and lemon juice.

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Flavour Option Two – Chipotle 

  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chilli pepper powder

Chipotle pepper powder packs quite a kick so tone it up or down to taste. You can add it to the cheese mixture or just sprinkle it on the bottom of your mold so that it will be visible when you unmold the cheese. Adjust flavour with extra salt and lemon juice.

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Soak the nuts for 8-12 hours in 4-6 cups of room temperature filtered water and a teaspoon of salt.

Strain and rinse the nuts and place in a high-speed blender. Discard the soaking liquid. (A Vitamix, or equivalent blender works really well here as it has enough power to make the nuts completely smooth).

Pull the probiotic capsules apart over the blender, and add the powder to the blender with 1/2 cup rejuvelac to start. Blend the nuts until smooth, adding more rejuvelac as necessary. You may not need all of the rejuvelac. You just want the mixture wet enough for the blender to do its job and blend the nuts until completely smooth. There should be no visible or textural remnants of nuts when done.

Place a nut-bag or double layer of cheesecloth in a sieve and place the sieve over a bowl. Using a spatula, scrape the nut mixture from the blender into the lined sieve. Fold the cheesecloth or nut-bag over the top of the mixture to enclose and then weigh it down with a can of beans or something heavy resting on top of a plate. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in a warm place to ripen for 12-14 hours.

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After 12-14 hours, the “cheese” will have thickened a little and formed a crust on the top. The crust formation is normal.

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Scrape the cheese into a bowl, and using a whisk, beat the crust back into the cheese mixture.

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It won’t taste like much at this stage. (At this point you can divide the mixture in half if you like and flavour each half differently). Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. Then add seasonings. Adjust to taste. 

To shape the cheese using a mold, line your mold with plastic wrap or a non-stick liner and spoon in the cheese. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula and cover with a piece of waxed or parchment paper, or loosely cover with the overhanging edges on the saran wrap. 

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Smooth the surface of the cheese and tap the cheese firmly on the counter several times to remove any air pockets. 

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If you like, you can line the mold with dried herbs or seasonings before spooning the cheese into the old. The photo below shows the mold lined with chipotle powder. 

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Leave the cheeses to set overnight. The cheese will continue to firm up as it rests in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, uncover the mold and flip it over onto a flat board or serving plate. Carefully remove the silicone liner or plastic wrap.

If you want to roll the cheese in chopped nuts or herbs, do it now, being careful not to disturb the shape of the cheese.  Serve with crackers or bread. Cheese keeps well in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days.

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Making the Rejuvelac

What the heck is rejuvelac?

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Rejuvelac is a non-alcoholic fermented liquid made from sprouted grains; such as, wheat berries, oats, rye, quinoa, barley, millet, and buckwheat. Rejuvelac is considered a digestive aid because it is a live food containing beneficial bacteria and active enzymes.

Rejuvelac can be used as a starter culture for other fermented foods such as raw nut and seed yoghurts, cheeses, sauces and Essene Breads. It is possible to make a second batch of rejuvelac from the same sprouted grains, and if you do, the second batch will take less time to ferment. 

Ingredients

  • 1-cup wheat berries
  • 4 cups water

Directions

This recipe makes more than you’ll need for a batch of cheese, even if you double the cheese recipe above. You can drink the extra, or freeze it for future use.

First, sprout the wheat berries.

Place the wheat berries in a large bowl with at least double the amount of water. Stir well and leave to soak 12 hours or overnight.

Strain the wheat berries and discard the soaking water. Refill the bowl with fresh water; stir vigorously and strain the wheat berries again. Continue rinsing and straining until the water runs clear. After straining the wheat berries for the last time, cover the bowl of wheat berries with cheesecloth and leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. The wheat berries should be sitting in only the water that clings to them.

Repeat the step above (rinsing and straining) 2-3 times a day for the next one or two days, until tiny tails begin to sprout on the ends of the wheat berries. The wheat berries are ready to use when the tails are ¼-inch long – they do not need to be longer.

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Make the Rejuvelac

Add 4 cups (I litre) of water to the sprouted wheat berries in a large jar or pitcher, cover loosely with cheesecloth and place in a warm place out of direct sunlight. As the wheat berries ferment, rejuvelac becomes cloudy and the colour of pale straw.You may notice tiny bubbles on the surface of the liquid – this is normal. Leave for 12-36 hours.

Rejuvelac is ready to drink or use in recipes when the aroma is mildly sour and earthy. The flavor will be faintly tangy with a hint of lemon. It won’t be unpleasant.

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Rejuvelac lasts for 3-4 days refrigerated, but it can be frozen too. If you are making a second batch using the same sprouted wheat berries, discard them after the second use.

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