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John Weiland
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Been making some quick vegan cream-cheeses using concentrated cashew milk and peanut milk, respectively. After slowly bringing the milk with a bit of salt to a low boil, it is removed from heat and allowed to cool to warm. Then a mesophilic culture (C101 direct set from New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.) is added and mixed in and the mixture allowed to sit covered in the pan at ambient temperature for 1-2 days. At that time, the thick culture is heated once again to near boiling and flavorings occasionally added here as well. Once the mixture cools (often the next day) the mixture is transferred to cheesecloth in a colander and allowed to drain......although my best draining occurs if the cheesecloth + cheese "ball" are placed onto a large cotton towel to allow the moisture to be wicked away.

Finally, the soft cheese ball is transferred to a dish for use. The problem comes soon after.....mold starts to appear on the outside of the ball, just like the molds you might find on store-bought cream cheese, only they seem to appear sooner on my homemade concoctions. Is it just a matter of being more scrupulously clean at the stove? Any other means to retard mold growth after I've "squeezed the cheese"? Thanks....
 
r ranson
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Sounds like a challenge. I wish I knew more about vegan cheeses, I still have a lot to learn.

Could you tell us more about what the mold looks like? What colour is it?

Is it possible that the starter culture is the source of the mold? Traditionally a cheese starter would contain a symbiotic ecology of mold, bacteria, fungus, and other beneficial invisible beasties. I'm not certain about the modern, isolated starter strains. Was the starter designed for vegan milk or is it a milk, milk starter? If it's a milk, milk starter, then it could be possible that the nutritional composition of the vegan milk is one that encourages the mold to take priority over the other invisible beasties in the starter.

If that were the case, one option might be to try a different starter.

Another possibility could be to create conditions that discourage mold growth. For example, a dryer cheese, or perhaps submerging in brine or olive oil.

Yet another thing that springs to mind, is perhaps since it's a room temperature starter, perhaps the milk needs to be cooler before adding the starter. Perhaps some of the ballance of invisible beasties are retarded by the heat and it allows the mold to upset the balance.

But like I said, I don't know much about vegan cheeses, so these are just some general thoughts. I'm looking forward to reading what others have to say on the topic.

 
John Weiland
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@R Ranson---Thanks for your comments, questions, and suggestions.

The starter culture is here: https://www.cheesemaking.com/store/p/135-Mesophilic-DS-5-packets.html

Why on earth am I using mammal milk-based cultures with vegan milk? Cuz I wanted to try.....and from my own microbiology experience, guessed that there may be enough growth of Lactobacilli in my nut milk to give it that special kick that you can only get (seemingly) from a cultured cheese product. I haven't tried but a few of the commercial nut-based cheeses that use a culturing step in their process, but have read that it really does add that je ne sais quoi to the final product.

Lots of experiments still to do and that have been missing from the attempts since I started trying this. For one, if I don't heat the milk after making it by grinding the nuts and water in a Vitamix, might the nuts/milk provide its own microbes for the fermentation? My reasoning for heating the milk was to kill or reduce any of the other microbes and replace them with the starter culture. I still need to test in a side by side comparison what the effect is of adding the culture packet.....does it make a big difference to the final product? If not, then maybe the added cultures are simply too unhappy being in a nut milk instead of a lactose milk.

What I *can* say if you've never tried it, is that the cashew version is AWESOME! as a cream-cheese. If you are a bagel and cream-cheese fan, I can't recommend it enough. The peanut version is better than I expected, especially given the fact that peanut milk does not suit my palate at all.....but peanuts are cheap and might be something I could grow locally. When the peanut cheese is mixed with a bit of nutritional yeast flakes, there is enough of a convicing 'cheddar' flavor to give it that peanut-butter and cheese on crackers type of taste....and subject to the taste buds and procedures of the experimenter, of course.

Finally, from having looked at quite a few different fungi in Petri dishes over the years, I would say that the fungus on top of the cheeseball looked like Rhizopus and the one growing on the other side looked much like the Penicilliums(?)...the blue/green beasties... that seem eventually to colonize most cheeses, including cow's-milk creamcheese. Didn't put them under a scope to look at sporse, but that would be my best guess.
 
Jan White
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I don't have much to say about your methods, as I've never tried them. I've made quite a few vegan cheezes and cheezey sauces, though. Maybe what I've done will help with your troubleshooting.

I generally use raw ingredients, although I've used the cheeze portion of this recipe successfully as a starting point for experimentation. When I want a quick firm cheeze I'll usually cheat and use agar and/or tapioca as thickeners, like in that recipe. Agar gives a good texture when solid and will melt when heat is applied. Tapioca starch gives a stretchiness to the melted texture. I haven't experimented much yet with getting a firm cheeze by draining the liquid out as you describe.

I inoculate my cheeze with a spoonful of sauerkraut brine or, for more strongly-flavoured ones, kimchi brine and let them sit at room temp for 1-5 days, tasting along the way. I've also used rejuvelac, but I don't have any use for the grain afterwards, so it's not my usual. If I've heated the ingredients, I always inoculate, but I don't know if it's necessary. I have a few times let blended, raw cashews (which aren't really raw as they're heated during processing) ferment with nothing other than salt and nooch added. No mold there either. I use clean stuff, but I'm not terribly worried about sterility when doing any of this. The only mold I've found was on a buttermilk-style dressing that I forgot about in the back of the fridge for a few months. I don't remember what that one was made of, but I forgot about another cashew and tofu-based one more recently. That one didn't get moldy, just bubbly. I didn't try it, so don't know if it was still good or not, but it smelled fine.

I've always kept my concoctions refrigerated after they taste the way I want, and used them up within a month or so.

I definitely agree with you on the cashew cream cheeze. Really really tasty. Never made a coconut milk cheeze that anyone disliked either. I hadn't considered peanuts as they're so strong-flavoured, but you've piqued my interest.

Check out Miyoko Schinner's book for ideas, if you haven't already.
 
John Weiland
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Jan W., Thank you much for your comments, references, and links....these look most helpful. As far as the mold problem per se, I'm thinking I'll just have to be a bit more cognizant of the introduction of contaminants along the way. In addition, I've seen reference to using salt, low pH (vinegar, citrus, etc.) as aids to reducing the mold on the exterior of the cheese. So I'll be experimenting with this with future batches.

I've seen the reference to tapioca flour and agar as firming agents and have some tapioca flour in storage for the day when I wish to give it a try. And in an effort to keep it simple, I'm keen to try to see what a raw-ground, non-inoculated nut milk would yield....what kind of fermenting microbes are already there and how might that complement change with either pre-soaking the nuts in water or giving them a quick boiling water rinse before grinding. Is there a good discussion somewhere on why mammal milk + rennet allows one to proceed to those nice large, firm curds and why this is not commonly achieved with nut milk? Maybe there's a reference on this I haven't come across yet, but was also interested in using a vegan-qualified rennet preparation to see what the effect would be on the final cheese.

I like the idea of the sauerkraut brine inoculum and also have shied away from (but not ruled out) rejuvelac for the reasons you mentioned. My current peanut creation is in the fridge just now. We get lazy in the winter with the decreased mold/spore presence and leave a lot of stuff on the counter that doesn't go bad, but in the summer....MUCH different story. So I'm going to see if the current batch will age and dry in the environment of the fridge and add salt/brine to the exterior of the cheesecloth-ball as needed. I agree that nooch can add a good cheesy, yeasty flavor to these recipes and may be the difference for some between a palatable peanut cheese or something that you would just end up using to repair cracks in your plaster walls. Upcoming attempts will also be done with sunflower seeds and also hazelnuts, again with an eye to things that grow locally. And I'll look into M. Schinner's book....thanks for that tip!
 
Jan White
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John Weiland wrote: In addition, I've seen reference to using salt, low pH (vinegar, citrus, etc.) as aids to reducing the mold on the exterior of the cheese. So I'll be experimenting with this with future batches.


Yes, I meant to mention that rubbing the outside with salt could help. That's one of the techniques in that book I linked to. More attention to temperature might help, too. Schinner, luxuriously, has a dedicated cheese fridge that she keeps at an optimum curing temperature. Room temp is too warm and regular fridge temp is too cold.

John Weiland wrote:Is there a good discussion somewhere on why mammal milk + rennet allows one to proceed to those nice large, firm curds and why this is not commonly achieved with nut milk?


I don't know for sure, but have always been under the impression it was due to the amount of protein in dairy vs. non-dairy milks. It occurs to me it could also have to do with the type of protein rather than the amount; I've noticed that many soy cheeses are not vegan because they have casein in them. I'd always assumed it was there because it was cheaper or more easily available than a vegan equivalent, but there may be more to it than that.

Non-dairy yoghurt has also always had thickeners added, but I was interested to read about a woman in, I think, NY with a business selling coconut milk yoghurt. It's as thick as dairy yoghurt and it sounded like getting that texture was just a question of finding the right combination of bacteria to inoculate it.
 
Lisa McMahon
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I am by no means a cheese expert, but I do like to ferment. I think the issue with your vegan substitution is that you're removing almost all the carbohydrates. The carbs are what the culture uses. There is very little carbs in comparison to cow/goat etc. milks. And simple sugars at that. Nut meats have more complex carbs. The culture has nothing to eat, or very little. The cultures are also specific to the food source and often changing it up will not result in the correct final product. Mold often takes a week or more to grow to the point of reproduction, usually the outward manifestation of mold that you can see (the spore producing fuzzy stuff) is not happening for quite some time. What you're seeing is quite likely bacteria going crazy. Without a photo, that's what i'm guessing, but maybe where you are, temps and climate, it's mold. To stop mold/bacteria, you must create an environment they do not like. It was already mentioned, salty, acidic, etc. However, adding lactobacteria would defeat the whole purpose of boiling/culturing your material. You're not doing yourself a favor mixing all those bacteria into the mix.

 
John Weiland
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I'm learning a lot in this thread....thanks for great comments.

@Jan W: "Non-dairy yoghurt has also always had thickeners added, but I was interested to read about a woman in, I think, NY with a business selling coconut milk yoghurt. It's as thick as dairy yoghurt and it sounded like getting that texture was just a question of finding the right combination of bacteria to inoculate it."

I first got the idea to try peanuts from a yogurt recipe that I found: http://blog.veganosaurus.com/2013/04/peanutgroundnut-mylk-curdsyogurt-howdo.html
It does seem like there is a lot of playing around one can do with the starter cultures and cool desiccation to vary flavors and product consistency.

@Lisa M: " The carbs are what the culture uses. There is very little carbs in comparison to cow/goat etc. milks."

Yeah, that's probably not helping. I guess I would have to do an enumeration study to see how much growth of the culture is actually occurring in the milk that I've inoculated. Just to be clear, I'm inoculating pre-boiled, cooled nut milk, letting the mixture set for a day or two, and then bringing back to a low boil which, yes, would kill the inoculum but hopefully any molds that had crept in. If it indeed turns out that *not* killing the culture is both safe and even more antagonistic to the molds, then all the better...I would prefer not to do the second boil. Let me know if I've somehow misinterpreted what you said with my writing here. At any rate, it's nice to see that it's relatively easy to come up with vegan solutions to the culture of the Lactobacilli: http://functionalfoodscenter.net/files/58725630.pdf
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I think the final boil might actually be part of your problem. As I understand it, lactobacillus competes with molds and helps keep them in check. The boil would kill most of that culture, but since, as you say, it's just a quick boil, I think most of the mold would hang on. The mold then has a huge advantage in colonizing your cheese and taking over.

This is just based on what I think I know as an adventurous self-taught home cook. It's an easy hypothesis to test, at least.
 
Denise Kersting
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Hi, Just a wild stab here, but have you tried to incorporate any lactic acid? (By fermenting wheat berries or some other grain and using the liquid after several changes-still vegan) I would wonder if you are needing the lactic acid that would be found in cow's milk to retard the mold growth, that is missing from the vegan milk. That would also help to give a slight tang to the end result.
 
John Weiland
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@Roberta W: " ....it's just a quick boil, I think most of the mold would hang on. The mold then has a huge advantage in colonizing your cheese and taking over."

Yes,...I'm going to try my next batch based on your suggestion, without boiling after the fermentation. I may do a parallel batch where I lightly boil before adding culture just to see what kind of difference this makes to not boiling at all. My wife is going to love the fact that I've absconded with all of the pots, pans, crockware, colanders, etc for all of these tests....not to mention taking up all of the refrigerator space! But I'm looking forward to testing this....

@Denise K: "... but have you tried to incorporate any lactic acid?"

Actually, yes...but I can't recall now if I used it with the last batch. When I started in on the project, I bought (vegan-sourced) lactic acid, citric acid and calcium chloride, all with the mind to mix and match and experiment to see what could be produced rather easily that we both liked. It's been pretty encouraging how it's turned out so far. A pretty small amount of nuts ground in water will, upon either or both boiling and fermentation, lead to a product with more thickness than the original milk, probably due to many factors including protein denaturation, bacterial growth, water reduction from the heating, etc. When then adding calcium chloride, there can be greater precipitation/coagulation, but not always with the best flavor. Adding lactic acid as you indicated gives both that "cheesy tang" and a lower pH that will aid in retarding fungal growth. In the last batch, I noticed it was already a bit acidic, giving me hope that (a) the culture had indeed grown and changed the pH of the mixture and (b) I might possibly reduce one more component (added lactic acid) in the production stream. As an aside, I have not come across any reference to vegan-sourced lactose. The fermentation gurus are actually pretty good at coming up with microbes that produce novel compounds and since lactose is composed of glucose and galactose, both of which can be obtained from non-animals sources, it would be interesting to see if lactose could be produced in a novel way. This might be added directly to the fermentation to stimulate the Lactobacilli to go about their normal business....

Thanks for added comments....looking forward to trying the next batches this weekend. By the by, any good way to tell if the nuts one is buying are fresh? Is it just a matter of sticking with a trusted supplier? Thanks.
 
r ranson
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It's late at night, but I couldn't sleep because vegan cheese is running around my head.

I'm almost a week into my very first (milk milk) aged cheese. I'm encouraging mold to grow on it so that it will age and become delicious. It's an aged chevre. This made me think, perhaps there is something delicious that can be made from mold aged vegan cheese... Probably not, but I thought I would toss the idea out there in case it could be useful to anyone.

As I was looking for something else, I found this kit for dairy free cheeses made with nut milk.

Dairy Free Mozzarella & Ricotta Kit, Vegan and Paleo Friendly - NO Gluten, Carageenan or Soy

Make DAIRY-FREE, melty Mozzarella from your choice of cashews, almonds, white beans or even zucchini in just 20 minutes! This kit is Vegan, Paleo friendly and great for many special diets.

Nut or seed based Ricotta is creamy, yummy and super easy too.

Choose not to eat dairy but miss cheese? This kit is Urban Cheesecraft's response to customer questions about using nut milks with our dairy-based kits. While that is not possible, I created this kit for an impressive alternative. It makes at least 10lbs of cheese total. You can control the batch size.

As a cheesemaker, I have high standards for any cheese so it took years of testing and recipe development to get to this point. I'm so excited to finally share this with you! Like my tasters- you won't believe your taste buds. In addition, the processes are inspired by my cheesemaking practices to give you an artisanal experience. Super fun!
...


Don't know if that helps or not.

Making a cheese like product from white beans sounds interesting to me. I worry it would taste too much like tofu. But, if it didn't taste like tofu, then I think I would want to give it a try.

 
Roberta Wilkinson
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Wait.

Stretchy zucchini cheese?

I am not vegan, but I might be compelled to buy this kit for that alone.
 
r ranson
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Roberta Wilkinson wrote:Wait.

Stretchy zucchini cheese?

I am not vegan, but I might be compelled to buy this kit for that alone.


Please give us a review if you do.

I don't know if it's the insomnia affecting my brain but I thin I read in the description that the vegan motza made with this kit actually melts like cheese when cooked on a pizza. I may have misread it, so I'll have to check again in the morning.
 
Lisa McMahon
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John, here's what you said: "Yeah, that's probably not helping. I guess I would have to do an enumeration study to see how much growth of the culture is actually occurring in the milk that I've inoculated. Just to be clear, I'm inoculating pre-boiled, cooled nut milk, letting the mixture set for a day or two, and then bringing back to a low boil which, yes, would kill the inoculum but hopefully any molds that had crept in. If it indeed turns out that *not* killing the culture is both safe and even more antagonistic to the molds, then all the better...I would prefer not to do the second boil. Let me know if I've somehow misinterpreted what you said with my writing here. At any rate, it's nice to see that it's relatively easy to come up with vegan solutions to the culture of the Lactobacilli: http://functionalfoodscenter.net/files/58725630.pdf
"

Ok, so I have not had a chance to read the PDF, but yes, the issue I think is that you're killing off the bacteria which die at a relatively low temp compared to mold spores. You're providing the mold a head start and the bacteria are not there to compete. The other issue is also pH and environment. Molds need dryness to grow, and air. Lactic acid bacteria need anaerobic conditions and moisture. You can foster the growth of one or the other by changing the conditions on your food. So, consider that. Others have suggested submerging it in a brine, that could work. Or, if you salt the outside, but that would ruin the taste, I think. You would need a LOT of salt. You might wax it, if it needs to be aged more. I guess the main question I have is, why are you boiling your stuff a second time? If it's part of the recipe, then you need to preserve the food you've created just like any perishable (ie, as we stated, with salt, salt water, acid medium, no oxygen, etc.). If it's just something you're experimenting with, i would try NOT boiling it. see how that works. You might even consider culturing your OWN lactobacteria by making a sugar/nut milk mixture that sits out and cultures. You can capture natural bacteria and yeasts and they would be ones that are local and like your nut food you are giving it. Then you have an almond lacto starter to make your stuff with. I bet Sandor Katz would be interested in your experiments and if you haven't read his books, give them a whorl.


 
John Weiland
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@Lisa M: "I bet Sandor Katz would be interested in your experiments and if you haven't read his books, give them a whorl."

Serendipitously, I'm visiting my sister this weekend.....who gifted me with Katz's books this past Christmas season. I've poked through them a bit, but clearly now is the time to dig into them in earnest. Sis also is a hazelnut grower.....so you may get my drift as to where this is going. [...And see this link for artisan hazelnut cheese: https://avellana-creamery.com/ ] I may have to start a batch with her and find out over the phone how it turned out!

All of this discussion is pointing to my error with the second boiling, so that is where I will focus first. Secondly, as you noted, I'm going to try a few batches (hazelnut, cashew, almond, and peanut, separately) by just blending the raw nuts with water and letting nature take the next step at inducing a culture within the mixture. One other aspect as I'm thinking about it---since I'm doing this in small batches in saucepans, the mixture is ~1.5 - 2 cm deep with a rather large surface area exposed to air (lid loosely covering the pan) which clearly is not so anaerobic. Since I will try some batches without boiling, I'm wondering if I should have these cultures in a more 'columnar' vessel to maximize the anaerobic environment of the culture....thoughts? As an aside, with our climate, we have a very closed house in the winter and a very (!VERY!) open house in the summer, so the microbe complement in the air changes drastically with the seasons. It will be interesting to compare winter versus summer batches of cheese and measures that may contribute to consistency if I find a final product that I want to reproduce again and again.

R. Ranson: Thanks for the link to the mozzarella kit. I would much like to get a handle on the "stretchy" and/or "curdle" factors, with or without adjuvents like tapioca and agar. And note my link immediately above for the hazelnut cheese....although BC's crop seems to have been clobbered a bit as of late by hazel blight, at least you know that there would a local source of nuts if you wish to go that route.

Good discussion here....much thanks!

 
John Weiland
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Still haven't looked into the mozzarella kit that R Ranson linked above, but wanted to provide an update so far. I have tried 5 different homemade nutmilks as a base for creamcheese--peanut, hazelnut, almond, cashew, and sunflower seed. In only one case with cashew did I simply grind, filter, and then leave the milk to produce its own culture. In all other attempts, the milk was brought to a low boil and then, once cooled, a purchased mesophilic culture noted above was used to initiate the process. The covered culture sat at room temperature for 2 days, then was tasted for salt content and tang (acidity). Although a bit of salt adjustment was done when needed, no additional acid was needed to be added to the cultures. The thickened culture was transferred directly to cheesecloth in a colander and upon squeezing, the clear (whey?) liquid could be somewhat expelled. I'm in the process of assembling a cheese-press right now which may make the process easier. Each nutmilk has its own unique flavor as might be expected, but overall an eye-opener on how easy it is to get a homemade, dairy-free cheese product into the kitchen. The sunflower milk cheese just went into the cheesecloth yesterday and is still curing a bit, but tasted great and I'm glad that this crop is abundantly produced in our region. Am planning to get more bold down the road and experiment with home-captured cultures.

PS--This thread started with concerns about molding....no mold at this point on recent products that have *not* had the post-culturing, secondary heat treatment. So keeping the culture alive may be preventing the mold growth as suggested.
 
Deb Rebel
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John Weiland wrote:Yes,...I'm going to try my next batch based on your suggestion, without boiling after the fermentation.  I may do a parallel batch where I lightly boil before adding culture just to see what kind of difference this makes to not boiling at all.  My wife is going to love the fact that I've absconded with all of the pots, pans, crockware, colanders, etc for all of these tests....not to mention taking up all of the refrigerator space!    But I'm looking forward to testing this....


Gotta love this. Do all your dishes and I'm sure she'll forgive you....

John Weiland wrote:Thanks for added comments....looking forward to trying the next batches this weekend.  By the by, any good way to tell if the nuts one is buying are fresh?  Is it just a matter of sticking with a trusted supplier?  Thanks.


Cashews... slightly yellowish not chalky pale appearance, they should be slightly oily appearing and have an aroma that sort of lightly smells like fishsticks. I buy Vietnam source from Znatural Foods. Food to Live has been erratic on supply, the 'regular' are either India (and those were chalky dry pale and flavorless) or Vietnam, and their organic are Brazil (between the other two in quality). I order 50# bulk every three months.... for $75 or more Znatural ships free. I have no problems with that.

Same for other nuts. The meats should be oily (not drippy but not chalky dry) and not all busted up unless you bought broken/ground/chopped. The nutmeats should be on the oily side. Finding a supplier and source you trust is the best way to get good nuts. Plus look at when the crop comes in and buy in the month or two after that then store properly. If left open to the air, they oxidize and dry out.

Tropical Traditions are very good for coconut.  ...  And they have an occasional ship free day.

Edit to add, when I brew cheese I put it into a taller container (widemouth quart jars or gallon wider-than widemouth pickle jars) to reduce surface area) for the ferment. I'm still working on a really good 'pizza' cheese...  (hoping that you will update us further John Weiland)
 
John Weiland
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Thanks for the information and sources for the nut purchases, Deb.  This is helpful in falling into a veg-cheese making routine and further experimetation.

Due to time constraints and season-specific priorities, I dropped the cheese-making efforts in the summer.  I see that my last post was the middle of May which would coincide with the main gardening efforts and summer activities cranking up.  So with the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, I started a new batch of almond/cashew cheese last weekend.  Alas, this first effort after the summer break was left in the pan to incubate on the stovetop for a week, thinking that it could just sit there with the probiotic cultures doing there thing.  Unfortunately, when I started to concentrate the culture with cheesecloth, it developed spots of a pink yeast/mold, the "bouquet" of which seemed to permeate most of the cheese and was not so pleasant.  Perusal on the internet of pink molds of cheeses suggested it might be something not to ingest, so I discarded all but the most palatable remainder of the cheese.  To this was added some garlic power, turmeric, and a touch of (vegan) lactic acid.  The mixture was just this side of edible....strongly flavored and more suitable as a sandwich spread than a fine frommage.  So the experimentation will begin anew for the dark months of the year, but the search for a chewy/stringy pizza cheese as you noted is still in progress.

FWIW...can't recall if this link made it here earlier, but has some interesting tips and even more interesting looking cheese as the final product:  http://fermentedvegancheese.blogspot.com/p/basic-cheese.html
 
Polly Oz
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John, you might be interested in the Facebook group, VEGAN CHEEZE- Hits and misses!. They are pretty active and have nearly 10,000 members making dairy free cheese.
 
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