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cheddar - is plant-based possible?  RSS feed

 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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Welcome here, Karen, and I look forward to your posts and Q&A.

In a nutshell (no pun intended):  "My kingdom for a nut/plant-based reliable cheddar!..."

In sharp or extra sharp.....Is it possible?  I would take flavor and texture over "meltability".  And I don't mind 'cheating' a bit with vegan-approved lactic acid.

Good to have you and your insights here....Welcome!

 
Karen McAthy
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Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Hi John,

So, before I address the 'reliable cheddar' issue ( a common common request, query from both my students and my customers), I thought I would preface my comment with a bit about what the objective and focus of the book is.
The book, is not designed to be a collection of recipes only, with the singular intent of a recipe. This book is a bit of an introduction to a longer more in depth follow up on which I am working, that is trying to establish some principles and concepts in plant-based cheesemaking, such as there is in 'traditional' or dairy cheesemaking.

The book focuses a bit on trying to identify where things are at now within plant-based cheesemaking, and what core or essential elements there may be, as vegan cheesemaking has very much evolved from the DIY level (much like the history of dairy cheesemaking).

As my particular interest is not in creating copies of dairy based cheeses (I've been allergic to dairy for a long time, and well before I became vegan), so, perhaps I am not quite a nostalgic about specific cheeses in the way that others might be. My goal is to try to make cheeses that are cheeses in their own right, just without animal products, and to focus on understanding culturing processes, microbes and what they do in creating flavor and texture.

The book does focus quite a bit on creating plant-based lactic acid forming cultures (rejuvelac, water kefir, using other plant-based starters), as a starting place for the home user to get familiar with culturing nut based mediums.

With respect to cheddar or other sharp cheeses, and only with respect to how I approach plant-based cheesemaking (others will have different approaches), I focus on the acidification of the curd, and then on the aging time, as well as pressing to eliminate moisture. Sharp flavor comes from duration of aging time and allowing the cultures to do their work of digesting proteins and carbohydrates, so the trick has been in finding a nut base that has a good mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat, so that the length of aging time does not produce rancid or other unpleasant results.

As I personally do not use agar or carageenan in my cheeses (I do write about them a bit in the book, and how they are used in some vegan cheesemaking), I have focused much more on flavor and overall texture than meltability .... plant-based bases not having the same protein structure as dairy, and do not coagulate the same way during the curd forming process.

Anway, I feel that I am rambling quite a bit, but, in short (hahahaa)... I am hoping the book will give folks some tips for experimenting themselves and though there is a cheddar process in the book, as with many of these things, it will come down to time and patience.

I am hoping in my second book, to provide deeper information ( as I am currently working to have more of the processes I use lab tested for reliability etc).

If you have been making plant-based cheeses at home, I would love to hear about your experiments.
 
John Weiland
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Location: RRV of da Nort
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Thanks for the in-depth and wonderful response, Karen.

My own ventures in nut cheeses are pretty rudimentary.  The most common one I make is a soft cheese made by making almond/cashew milk from scratch, bringing to boil to induce a bit of thickening, then (after cooling) adding some lactobacillus cultures from whatever source I have on hand....a vegan yogurt, a pro-biotic tablet, a mesophilic culture purchased online for cheddars.  The mix sits on the stovetop (unheated) for several days, then is transferred to a colander lined with cheesecloth.  The edges are folded over, the colander placed into a bowl with plenty of clearance below, and a weight put on top of the cheesecloth "ball".  After several days of 'pressing' in the refrigerator, the creamcheese-like mass is transferred to a bowl and mixed with veggies or flavorings for the desired taste.

I've also tried the quick mozzerella recipes that are okay, but as you say, one may need to cultivate a new palate and leave some of the desire for dairy-based cheese behind.  I'm glad to see that some of the culturing methods are making there way more thoroughly into the plant-based cheese community and have had a chance to sample some of the more visible names in marketed cheeses of this type.  And I understand the difficulty in trying to replicate casein-based curd chemistry with plant proteins.....I even once used the Genbank protein sequence database to see if plant proteins existed with any similar properties to casein (didn't find one in a cursory investigation) that might provide a short cut in testing different plant sources for cheesemaking. Bits of information like this>>>"Sharp flavor comes from duration of aging time and allowing the cultures to do their work of digesting proteins and carbohydrates, so the trick has been in finding a nut base that has a good mix of protein, carbohydrate and fat, so that the length of aging time does not produce rancid or other unpleasant results."....help the novice greatly in figuring out where they can cut corners and maybe where they can't.

At any rate, thanks again.....with a birthday approaching, I know what my book present request is going to be!

Thanks!
 
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