It’s high time I tell you about the handcrafted vegan cheese I’ve been making. My interest began five years ago when I read Renee Loux Underkoffler’s raw foods book titled, Living Cuisine. I tried her recipes for nut and seed cheeses and thought, Wow, that’s amazing. These non-dairy cheeses don’t suck. I blame my vegan cheese skepticism on my hippie-lifestyle roots (oh, they run deep) and the fact that back in the day, vegan cheese mostly did suck. I’m glad I was wrong.
Once I started making tangy chevre and feta style cheeses, a whole new realm of DIY kitchen craft opened up. I sprouted all manner of grains to make rejuvelac to jump start the cheese fermentation and moved on to make non-dairy yogurt as well using almonds and cashews. You know, I haven’t looked back.
Rejuvelac is a fermented drink made from sprouted grain and is rich in healthy organisms and lactic acid (specifically L. acidophilus and L. bifudus). Wheat is traditionally used although other grains like quinoa, millet, brown rice, rye, and whole oat groats can all be used in place of wheat berries. Mild with a subtle lemon tang, Rejuvelac is both a bubbly DIY health tonic and a natural “starter” for seed and nut cheese cheeses or yogurt. It’s also good to use in place of water or juice in your smoothies.
Rejuvelac is inexpensive and simple to make: place a handful of grains in a glass jar, fill with water, soak, drain (several times) rinse, sprout, soak. Okay that sounds like a complicated set of steps, trust me, it’s not. The whole process takes about 4 days and pretty much happens on its own. What’s even better is that the fermented tonic can replace expensive store-bought probiotic supplements.
A word of caution—don’t think of nut and seed cheeses as taste or texture equivalents to their dairy counterparts. They do, however, stand on their own and can easily be served in familiar ways: on a board with figs, pears, and nuts; crumbled in salads; rolled into a soft taco; spread on toast. Also, the rejuvelac recipe yields plenty so you can make several batches of cheese at once. Reserve the amount you will use right away and freeze the rest.
Have you made vegan cheese or yogurt before? If so, what are your favorite ingredients, methods, and recipes?
Plain Almond “Chevre”
adapted from Edible East Bay “Cheese Without the Cow”
2 cups raw almonds
1 cup rejuvelac
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
pinch of nutmeg
Bring 4 cups water almost to a boil and turn off the heat. Add almonds and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Drain and rinse the almonds in cold water, then slip off the peels.
Place the peeled almonds and rejuvelac in a high-speed blender and process until smooth, adding small amounts of rejuvelac as needed to form a smooth, creamy texture.
Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Allow to strain and ferment for 12 to 36 hours, until desired tartness is achieved. Remove from the strainer and add the nutritional yeast, salt, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and nutmeg.
To create a chevre-style log, place cheese as a ball in the middle of a large piece of wax paper. Roll inside paper and shape cheese into one large log. Leave wrapped and refrigerate 8 to 24 hours so it can set. Cut the cheese into rounds and serve as desired.
makes eight cups or 1/2-gallon
2 cups whole grains (wheat berries, quinoa, millet, brown rice, rye, whole oat groats, or other grains)
8 cups water
1/2-gallon jar, with a wide mouth
strong rubber band (the kind you get wrapped around broccoli, kale, and other produce)
Pour the grains into the jar, then fill the jar with water. Cover the jar with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band. Place the cheesecloth on top of the jar and secure it in place with a rubber band. Leave the grains to soak overnight (or at least 8 hours). Drain the grains, rinse them, and then drain them again.
Place the jar upside down at a slight angle so the water can drain and air can circulate (I do this in a dish draining rack).
Rinse the grains twice a day. After about two days, they will begin to sprout. When that happens, rinse and drain the sprouts well. Fill the jar once more to the top with water and let the sprouts soak for 48 hours (about two days). During that time, the liquid will ferment and become rejuvelac. Transfer the rejuvelac to a jar and refrigerate.
You can get two more batches of rejuvelac out of the same sprouts, but let the sprouts soak for only 24 hours for each successive batch.