Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cream Cheese

Many times I hear people say that they could be vegetarian but not vegan simply because they couldn't give up cheese. 

Truthfully since I have been vegan, I have not missed cheese. Seriously! Sure you might crave it the first month or two, but you would be surprised how the cravings disappear!

After I realized that my migraines had disappeared overnight and that it was the dairy products (along with sugar and eggs) that had caused my migraines – NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING was going to get me to try dairy cheese again! EVER! As in NEVER!

Recently I was looking at a package of non dairy cream cheese in the health food store and cringed reading the ingredients. I wanted something a lot more natural, not full of ingredients that have no business being in food.

So what to do? Well each winter I try something new and the time had come, this was my winter to make CHEESE. 

Having tasted several different 'cheese' dishes made by the hostess at the monthly supper gatherings that I try to attend, I was more than ready. Especially since I had just made a paté following a similar recipe from a friend and couldn’t believe how good it tasted! 

The paté had a cashew/walnut cheese base that intensified the flavors perfectly! And when hubby sneaks one of my creations more than once – I know it has to be good! He thinks everything ‘vegan’ is ‘VEGANY’ – his word, not mine.

My local library has some great vegan cookbooks and there are many internet sites and Youtube videos available to make just about anything. 

Having read The Non-Dairy Formulary by Skye Michael Conroy and Artisan Vegan Cheese by MiyokoSchinner more than a couple of times in the past year, I realized that making cheese was not difficult. Some cheeses could be time consuming because the non dairy cheese has to age but some non dairy cheeses were more ‘instant.’

I started with an easy cream cheese following Miyoko Schinner’s recipe for Cashew CreamCheese. It doesn’t get much easier! 

A few simple ingredients (soaked cashews, water, yogurt) pureed in the blender, the cashew cream is ready to rest in a warm spot to 'work' or 'culture'  for 24 - 48 hours depending on how sharp a flavor you want and the ambient temperature.

It is important to allow the cheese to grow undisturbed in covered containers with room to expand. The cheese becomes airy and will grow over the next several hours. Much like the 'Herman' that is used in baked goods.

Once cultured, store the cream cheese covered in the refrigerator. The cream cheese will become thicker and the flavor improves. It can also be frozen for later use. This is good especially if you make the cream cheese when the weather is warm.

Miyoko rarely measures as she combines ingredients. She also states that you have to taste the cheeses as they are aging and that the humidity and temperature of your home will affect the culturing and/or aging process.

My cream cheese turned out great; I was quite pleased and looking forward to trying it in an Alfredo Sauce and a dessert!

Now to make fermented Rejuvelac . . .

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