Miyoko Schinner's landmark cookbook 'Artisan Vegan Cheese' came out in 2012, to wild excitement from vegan cheese enthusiasts.
Because every vegan secretly (or not so secretly) lusts after 'real cheese'. And Artisan Vegan Cheese teaches vegans how to make 'real cheese'!
So we can have pizza, grilled cheese, mac'n' cheese and other cheesy comfort foods dear to our hearts. And we don't have to put up with expensive super salty fake cheese which has almost no nutrition and doesn't resemble 'real cheese'.
I've had a copy of AVC for about 18 months. First my daughter Sarah took it home and was experimenting. Then I got it back from her and I've been playing with it. So far my experiments have worked and I've become a true believer in vegan cheese.
I discovered that making 'real cheese' from plants is a bit more complex than I thought it would be, and at the same time, simpler and more straightforward than I thought possible.
First I had to get past the idea that 'real cheese' couldn't successfully be made from nuts and soy.
What nonsense! Cheese is a cultured food, and any food can be cultured, e.g. miso, soy sauce, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough bread etc. All you need are live enzymes and bacterial cultures, simple to make with ordinary plant foods.
I learned how to make a liquid potion called rejuvelac, which I had never heard of. Daughter Sarah made it sound mysterious and difficult. But no big deal. Rejuvelac is just sprouted grain that's soaked in water, producing enzymes, probiotics, etc so you can culture cheese from nuts and non-dairy milks.
It works! It's magical! But it's a process. First you sprout - I use brown rice. That takes 3 days. Then add water and leave the jar in a warm place for 2 - 3 days, until the water is cloudy and bubbly and tart tasting. That's rejuvelac, a.k.a cheese starter, which keeps in the fridge for a few weeks.
After that I soaked cashews overnight and blended them with rejuvelac in my ancient food processor. That took a LONG time, and the cashews didn't ever get completely smooth. I tackled them with my stick blender, which helped. But my Ordinary Blender wasn't up for the job.
Then I put the blended cashews + rejuvelac + pinch of salt in a glass container, put the lid on and set it up on a high shelf to keep warm for 24 hours. Ta Da! Creamy tangy cashew cheese! Every time.
So far I've resisted the urge to go for a super power blender or food processor, but it's at the top of the wish list.
Meanwhile, I find that I can live with a little graininess for the bliss of basic cashew cheese. I make it all the time. Can't live without it. I get about 3 cups from 1/2 lb of cashews, a bit of brown rice, not much work, and a little waiting. Seems like a heckuva deal to me!
The basic cashew cheese recipe on pg. 7 is a starting place for more complex cheeses and cheese dishes in Artisan Vegan Cheese. But, the truth is, I'm perfectly happy with basic cashew cheese, with its tart, fresh taste. I spread it on crackers and tortillas, stuff celery with it, add it to cream sauces. It's perfect with avocado, cucumber, sprouts - well it is cream cheese after all!
I still want to try the Garlic-Basil Cashew Ricotta, made with cashews, tofu and fresh basil, and the super simple farmer's cheese, make with soy milk, vinegar and salt. Yes, that's it!
Next I went for vegan yogurt cheese, and for that I had to make vegan yogurt with cashews and soy milk. I had tried making vegan yogurt before without success, but Miyoko's recipe has worked every time I've made it.
The right temperature is critical for yogurt making, but I used to make dairy yogurt, so I knew what the right temperature felt like and didn't have to get a candy thermometer. I don't have a yogurt maker, but set the jars in a warm water bath in a dutch oven inside my oven with the light on. The warm setting on a crockpot also works.
I made the yogurt cheese and it was tasty, but I was perfectly happy with the basic cashew cheese. So I just continued to make vegan yogurt and now I always have some in the fridge for smoothies and lassis, sauces and dips, drizzling in soups and over veggies.
I'm ECSTATIC about that, since I haven't ever found a decent plain vegan yogurt that didn't cost an arm and a leg - that's if I could find any at all.
I discovered I could make greek yogurt just by hanging the vegan yogurt for six hours. I used an old bird's eye cloth diaper (fully sterilized!), but cheesecloth or a cheese bag would also work. I also want to try the sour cream recipe with cashews and rejuvelac.
I tried making an air dried cheddar cheese but it didn't quite work out. The rind didn't firm up like I thought it should, and it was too salty for me. I'm planning to move on to meltable Munster Cheese or Monterey Jack.
Chapter 6 on cheese sauces and fondue starts off with three quick and easy cheese sauces which don't call for rejuvelac or vegan yogurt. I can do a lot with those!
Chapters 7 - 9 contain the recipes which show off the all the cheeses in the first chapter and they look so delicious, I can't wait to try them all. Starting with the chocolate cheesecake on pg 118, using the Cashew Cream Cheese.
When it comes right down to it, Artisan Vegan Cheese is a Serious Cookbook. I know I'll be using and experimenting with it for many years until it falls apart. By then I should have it memorized.
And I really think I'm going to need that Super Power Blender or Mega Food Processor! Soon!
Artisan Vegan Cheese: Highly recommended for serious vegan cheese lovers!