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Cheesemaking Basics

Most vegan cheese recipes available nowadays are for quick cheeses with flavor enhancers like nutritional yeast or spices, made to be eaten right away. They taste great but they won't get any better than that.

In the search for a cheese that will develop its full flavor whilst aging, we looked at traditional cheesemaking for inspiration and developed fundamentlly new methods that will allow you to create vegan cheeses of a whole new dimension.

With the help of cheese cultures and enzymes, your cheeses will be constantly changing throughout the different stages of maturing - just like traditional cheese.

What do I need to make vegan cheese? 

The most important thing you need to make aged vegan cheese is patience. It may take a few trials before you have your first successful cheese.

Our recipes focus on simplicity and clear steps, but room temperature and humidity play such an important role that if anything differs, you may come up with a completely different product than expected, so be open to adapt the recipes to your local needs.

You can make cheese out of any high-protein seeds, nuts, and beans, however some have strong flavors and colors, which may not be a good fit for a cheese. Our selection of ingredients comprises cashew nuts, almonds, soy, blue lupin and white lupin.

When looking for lupin, buy the ones of the Sweet variety, which are low in alkaloids and don't need initial processing to be used.

Many types of cheese require extra fat for better mouthfeel or flavor development. To those, you can add macadamia nuts, pecan nuts, coconut cream or coconut oil.

From the left to the right, cashews, almonds, soy, blue lupin and white lupin. Back, pecan nuts and macadamia.

Whilst most cashew-based cheeses don't need any special measures to be turned into a cheese mass, for a curdled cheese made from nut or bean milk you need to add an enzyme called Transglutaminase.

It will take the place of rennet in traditional cheesemaking. Transglutaminase is made in a laboratory, in a similar way to how microbial rennet is made. That's how similar vegan cheesemaking is to modern cheesemaking.

Finally, for further flavor development, it's necessary to add cheese cultures and enzymes that will break down the fats and proteins. We suggest to use rice koji or papain.

How to make cheese

A different method is required to craft each of our many types of cheese. In our recipes, we will use the following terms: fresh, soft-ripened, mold-ripened and semi-hard cheese.

The first step in cheesemaking is creating the mass to be aged. As the cheesemaking method is dependent on the ingredients used, please take a look at our recipes for detailed instructions.

All water that is added to the cheese should be boiled for at least 15 minutes and then cooled down.

When adding cultures, the easiest way to measure the required amount is by using the tip of a fork. As the quantities are so small, even a gram scale will be imprecise. Unless otherwise stated, you can use about the same amount for all cultures in all our recipes.

Culture measurement with the tip of a small dessert fork.

Culture measurement with the tip of a small dessert fork.

After the cheese mass is prepared, you need to age them on a controlled environment of between 2°C and 16°C with 75% to 95% air humidity, depending on the stage and the type of cheese you are making.

The best way to achieve 10°C to 16°C conditions is with a wine fridge equipped with a fan, but a normal refrigerator with electronic temperature regulator may work as well. A hygrometer and a thermometer will help you to better control these conditions.

The final aging step of a cheese usually happens in temperatures below 5°C, with the cheese wrapped in special paper or foil which protects from outside humidity changes. This can easily be achieved in an ordinary refrigerator.

Health concerns

Sanitize the equipment

In order to protect your cheese and your health against the wrong microorganisms, make sure to boil every cloth, spoon, pot, cheese molds or any tool you will use for cheesemaking, for at least 15 minutes. With a clean cloth and alcohol or spirits, wipe all your working space, including sink, stove top and blender. Everything must be pristine clean.

That also helps to avoid cross contamination, you don't want your camembert mold to end up on your blue mold cheese, their maturation time is very different and you probably won't like the result. 

Make sure to use filtered boiled water in your cheeses and to blanch your nuts before using if they are not going to be pasteurized. Soaking cashews in boiling water for at least 5 minutes before making the cheese kills most common microorganisms.

Before touching the cheese at any time, wash your hands thoroughly or use disposable gloves.

Good mold and bad mold

This is a very important topic and a big health concern.

White and blue molds are the most common when cheesemaking. Any other color, unless you've added culture to it, must be removed from the cheese, or even the whole cheese discarded. The majority of the bad molds won't make you sick, they will just taste bad. But some may create very strong toxins.

A tip is that sometimes, a good mold will take longer to grow than a bad mold. A good mold will appear only after a couple of days in the high humidity environment (85 to 95%) and may take several days before it covers nicely your cheese. A bad mold, like mildew, can grow in a matter of hours. Black, red and yellow types of mold may appear and if that happen, it may be a good idea to discard your cheese.

A bad mold, like mildew, can grow in a matter of hours. Black, red and yellow types of mold may appear and if that happen, it may be a good idea to discard your cheese.

If you are unsure if it is the right mold that is growing, wait for a couple of days until it fully formed and you can better distinguish. 

After 5 days of mold growth, it should already look like a white camembert or blue mold. If that's not the case you may want to rethink your procedure, clean everything and start over.

 

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