Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm a Vegan Cheese Snob

When I tell omnis that I'm vegan, I get asked one of two questions. The first one goes without saying because, if you're a vegan or vegetarian, you've heard it a million-and-one times. Okay, okay, I'll say it. "How do you get your protein?" A co-worker recently called that question the vegan equivalent of the drunk guy in the bar screaming "Play some Skynyrd!" at the cover band. It's gonna happen. Nothing you can do but grin and bear it.

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.


  1. Really happy to see this book out now!! Do hope that more people find cheese subs that they like and will use. Seems to be the thing that wanna be vegans just can't quit sometimes.

  2. I knew this day would come! However, I would prefer to buy the stuff- I hope that this book means specialty vegan cheese shops opening up on every corner!

  3. Sounds delicious.

    There are a couple of recipes from this book in VegNews magazine and I want to try them, but I find them rather intimidating with the rejuvelac.

    I hope you also review the fresh mozzarella!

  4. The dark days of vegan rella...ha ha, so true! And ever since I first heard of this book, I've been meaning to order it - I've seen other bloggers review it too and the recipes look gorgeous. And come on, who doesn't want to make aged cheddar that has to age in the fridge for months? (Maybe that's just me but still).

  5. I like that Rejuvelac is making a return. It's actually quite shocking to me that a lot of people think of this as a new thing. I went raw when i was 19 (11 yrs ago...WHOA) and we made raw vegan cheeses with rejuvelac then. It smells so awful. haha.

  6. My plan was to go on a vegan cookbook 'no-buy' after I received my copy of Vegan Crunk (last week!! woo hoo!) But, umm, now I NEED this cheese book! I would also like to add that my omni husband now prefers vegan cheese and requests grilled cheese sandwiches on a regular basis! :) Vegan cheese is takin' ova!

  7. This book looks AMAZING! I've added it to my wishlist along with your book..

  8. your blog is my favorite. that book looks so amazing and i love the idea of having a cheese "project" to work on. i ditto the above post, now i want YOUR book and this one :)

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  10. That looks amazing, I can't wait to get my hands on this book!

  11. Thanks for explaining the process of making rejuvelac, sounds a lot less weird than I expected! Cheese was my biggest concern when going vegan, and while I love lots of recipes out of the Uncheese Cookbook, I can't wait to try out some of these!

  12. I've been hoping to make the fresh mozz ever since I got my copy of VegNews! I had to order the agar powder (no big deal) but can't find soy yogurt anywhere.:-( My local whole foods has been out for weeks: maybe ever Vegan in Durham is trying the recipe? Wish I could come to your book signing!

  13. My brown rice didn't sprout as nicely as yours did! I'm making the rejuvelac right now, as per this book. The only cheese I've made from it otherwise was the cream cheese, which is cultered with soy yogurt. And let me tell you, it is really damn good. Far better than some Tofutti whatever. I'm going to blog about it very soon.

  14. I have never tried vegan cheese as it's not available locally. I hear it's pretty yum. Your book sounds really relatable to me as I feel like I would be mocked if I even brought up the word vegan/vegetarian in this gulf coast town.

  15. I love this new cook book. The air-dried Gouda and cheddar I made were excellent and surprisingly easy. don't expect the cheese to be as firm as commercial cheese, it's not, butvthe flavor is good and even non-vegans like it. One tip : when making the rejuvilac, make sure to rinse twice a day while it is sprouting; once sprouted, and after you have added the extra water, check a couple times a day to see if it has turned milky and has a slightly tart taste, then strain it and refrigerate immediately.

    My first batch turned moldy so I had to start over. Either I didn't rinse it enough, or I left it out too long on the counter after it had started to culture when I should have refrigerated it.

  16. I love this new cookbook. I have made the cheddar and Gouda, both were wonderful. I have tried vegan cheese from the store and it is terrible. The cheese I made was truly artisan like the title of the book. Don't expect it to be as firm as store bought, but it has a great flavor and looks good.

    My first batch of rejuvelac (base to culture) became moldy; I didn't keep a close eye on it after it sprouted. It should have been rinsed and the refrigerated within 24 hours after the 3 cups of water were added.


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