DIY Cultured Cashew Cheese

Hi everyone – its been a while since I blogged. The busy-ness of life has got in the way. A few months ago I tracked down Reece  – a member of our food coop – as he had published this amazing recipe for cultured cheese in our local co-op magazine. Reece is a hard core fermenter who does all sorts of very cool stuff with lactic acid bacteria and its my honour to have him as a guest blogger here. As a bonus – there are some cool other links to pursue at the end. 

Burns

First of all, thanks to Burns for inviting me to write a guest post on his blog. My name is Reece. I’m a college librarian, cooking, baking, and fermenting/brewing enthusiast, and a fan of listening to podcasts and audiobooks on long walks. I met Burns through Karma Food Co-op in Toronto, and occasionally write a zine, and on my blog peakes.wordpress.com.
I’ve been making cultured cashew cheeses for a few years now, and appreciate this type of fermentation for the ease of achieving really tasty, quick (for a fermentation), and varied results with easily available ingredients.
Cashew cheese, actually a fermented nut paté, is dairy-free and simple to make at home with natural ingredients and basic kitchen equipment. Culturing the cheese increases the nutritional value of the raw ingredients, adding probiotics to your diet, and adds complexity to the flavour.
The instructions below provide the basics for making a spreadable cashew cheese. It’s just a beginning, though: by adjusting the recipe and adding ingredients, you can make a wide variety of cashew cheeses. By changing the nuts, you can get an even wider variety of nut cheeses. You can also air dry cashew cheese to make a sharp, hard, salty block. More about ways to be creative with this recipe at the end.

Materials Required

  • Large wide-mouth jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Elastic band that will fit around jar mouth (a wide elastic will hold the cheesecloth best)
  • Food processor or powerful blender
  • A container/containers with lid(s). These will be your cheese molds – choose plastic, silicone, or glass. If using the latter, it’s easiest to remove the cheese from the mold if you line it with plastic wrap or parchment paper first.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 4-8 hours
  • ⅔ cup nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
  • ½ cup rejuvelac (see instructions on making rejuvelac below): requires ¼ C dry whole raw grain or pseudograin
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Make Rejuvelac (Days 1-6)

Rejuvelac is a cultured sprouted grain beverage that is used to provide beneficial bacteria to the cheese (the miso does as well). If you have sprouted grains, seeds, or legumes before you may already have a process for sprouting – feel free to use that method for the first part of the rejuvelac-making process. My method is below. This makes enough rejuvelac for several batches of cheese, and it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for months at a time.

Rejuvelac

Ingredients

¼ cup dry whole raw grains or pseudo grains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, spelt groats, millet)

Water

  • Put the grain in your wide mouth jar and fill the jar up to the top with water. Cut a 2-layer piece of cheesecloth big enough to cover the mouth of your jar and use the elastic band to secure it in place. Let the grain soak over night.
  • In the morning pour the water out of the jar through the cheesecloth. Then rinse the grain by filling the jar up with fresh water and dumping it out a couple of times. This prevents the grain from going moldy. Set the jar upside but on an angle so that excess water can drain out. A dish rack works well for this.

Rejuvelac2

  • Repeat step 2 two-three times per day until the grain begins to sprout (about 3 days). For some grains you must look closely to see the tiny white tails begin to emerge. Grains will sprout more quickly when it’s warm, and need to be rinsed more regularly in very hot weather.
  • After the grains have sprouted, add 1.5 cups water to your jar. Set the jar aside at room temperature for 3 days, keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from sources of high heat. After 3 days, the water should be somewhat cloudy, and smell a little earthy. It may taste tart as well. Now you have rejuvelac! Compost the grains (their nutrients have leached into the water), and save the liquid.

Step 2: Combine Ingredients (Day 7)

  • Add all ingredients to your food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape the sides a few times.
  • and cover. Now the fermenting process continues!

Step 3: Fermentation (Days 7-9/10)

  • Leave your covered container(s) of cheese in a warm area for 2-3 days. Sample the cheese as time goes by, if you like. After maximum 3 days transfer to the fridge, and let firm for 6 hours before eating. The cheese will continue to slowly sharpen in the fridge. It will last in the fridge for a few weeks, or in the freezer for months.

Get Creative

There is no reason to stick to this exact recipe – I’m offering it for guidance, and to get you started. Get creative by replacing the cashews with hemp seeds, or add sun-dried tomatoes or fresh or dried herbs to the cheese. Sage, smoked paprika, chives, peppercorns, etc. are all great options, just add to taste. A small amount of additional cultured food will also enhance your cheese and make the flavour more complex – try sauerkraut, brine of kraut or pickles, kimchi, additional miso, or yogurt (dairy or non). Just make sure to check and see that what you are adding is unpasteurized, live cultured and contains no preservatives, sulphites, etc. (which could prevent the cheese from fermenting). Enjoy, and feel free to contact me at reeceaxl@gmail.com.

 

More Information

Wild Fermentation http://www.wildfermentation.com This site is full of information on making and using all sorts of fermented foods, and on the benefits of fermented foods.

Punk Domestics http://www.punkdomestics.com A site of recipes for fermented foods, including dairy and cashew cheese.

Fermented Vegan Cheese http://fermentedvegancheese.blogspot.ca A blog of fermented cashew cheese instructions and a cheesecake recipe. Includes information on making harder cheeses in molds.

Post-Punk Kitchen http://www.theppk.com If you don’t have time to make fermented cheese, the recipe section of this site offers several non-fermented nut and seed cheese dishes.

Fermented vegetables #2: wild onions

A brief note: I first drafted this blog entry in May 2015, though the posting of it comes in August 2015. Its been a busy time for me and the blog seems to be the first thing that goes in the general triage of life.

I’ve decided to keep it unchanged as its a great reflection of my very initial understanding and approach to fermented vegetables at that point.

 

Ever gone foraging for wild onions? A wonderful experience. The earthy smell of spring as the early green of buds is on the trees, the promise of a rich summer to come. The reaping of the year’s first crop.

We were at our place up north first week of May at the height of the wild onion season. This is nature’s  yearly event where all the wild onions are up – their earthy garlicy pungent air – both sublime and yet not so subtle either.  

I picked what I could but for the short term I really had too much and I did not want to throw any of it away. I knew those lovely leaves probably had about a week in the fridge before they were compost material.  I did not want them to go to ruin. What to do? I wondered about making them into a fermented vegetable product.  I had heard about this that very day at the market. One of the vendors was selling a fermented vegetable condiment.

I thought, “Let’s check this out” and looked on the web. Essentially the process involves soaking the vegetable in a brine,  leaving it out of the fridge for 3 days and then putting it into the fridge for 3 weeks. That seems simple enough.

Here then is the recipe

Ingredients:

wild onion leaves

salt

water

a large leaf of a tough vegetable like kale or cabbage

Equipment needed

2 pots: 1 large pot and a smaller one to prepare the brine

a couple of jars. I use a 500ml widemouth mason jar

A rock that will fit inside your jar

A pestle to pack down the leaves.

Method

The leaves before processing

The leaves before processing

  1. Identify the jar and rock to weigh things down
  2. sterilize jar, rock and pestle.
  3. make a brine: 1litre of water, 50g salt. (20:1 solution) Heat the water and add the salt until the salt is dissolved. Take off the stove and let cool. The instructions that I saw gave volume measurements but I’ve made a ‘typical’ 20:1 brine 1 liter of water: 50g salt.
  4. Clean and cut the leaves. I decided to cut them very small because it would be likely I’m using this as a condiment so I’d want it in very small bits – almost a paste.
  5. Place the leaves in a very clean jar  – in my case a wide mouth 1L mason jar and crush/mash them with a pestle.  

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

    After cutting them, they are crushed with a pestle.

  6. Take a large leaf of cabbage or kale as an additional barrier between the wild onion leaves and the air. NONE of the leaves can be in contact with the air and at this stage they need to be pressed down. For this purpose I used a combination of a small mason jar lid and a rock (I I subsequently realized that a small mason jar lid with a 250 ml mason jar filled with water acts as an effective press for such a little amount.)
The brine added, they will be pushed belwo the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

The brine added, they will be pushed below the surface with the weight of the rock (or jar of water.

  1. Leave the jar at room temperature for  3 days and then refrigerate for 3 weeks although it  could be eaten at this point.

What to do with it?

  • Think Umeboshi plum paste: as an addition to a rice or vegetable dish
  • Mustard flavoring – either subtle or not so subtle
  • a condiment on the side – be careful – its strong!
  • as part of the flavor palette of a viniagrette
  • a BBQ rub in place of garlic
  • a flavoring ingredient in a sauce.

In retrospect, and several months into fermenting,  I would not change a lot about this. I would add a little salt and massage the leaves before cutting them to bruise the leaves and begin the fermentation process, but I still think its a vegetable that needs the brine liquid added to it (as opposed to only massaging with salt). The 20:1 (5%) brine is, I believe correct  – but who am I to say?  

Fermented vegetables part 1

brined slaw (1)

A brined slaw I’m fermenting

20150815_105032

My new crock pot. I’m so excited!

 

Eric Satie, that eccentric Parisian who penned a couple of our most haunting tunes once said, “Show me something new and I’ll start all over.” I feel a little like that concerning fermented   – or cultured – vegetables.

Its now been several months that I’ve been experimenting with  cultured vegetables. Its high time I chronicled it all on the blog. But so much has happened that I’ve decided to break it down into more ‘digestible’ chunks.

It all started this spring……and the annual wild onion harvest…. Vegetable fermentation had been on my back burner for several years. Michael Pollan’s chapter in Cooked still unread, a friend at my coop who said she’d show  me not yet called. A combination of wondering what to do with an immense pile of wild onion leaves, and my butcher’s first release of cultured veggies got my ball finally rolling on this.

I thought I’d start off with how fermentation works with vegetables and why these things are good for you. I’ll credit the sources as I go.

The fermentation process

All vegetables have small amounts of lactobacillus bacteria – among many others. Once exposed to water, they begin to feed on the sugars and starches on the vegetables, and do as all living things do: reproduce and excrete. In this case, they produce lactic acid and carbon dioxide. They are also very tolerant to salt – which is good, because the harmful bacteria which would lead to molds and spoilage, really can’t tolerate a high acid, high salt environment.

In making fermented vegetables,  you are either going to add a brine (2-5% salt per weight of water) or add salt (2-4% by vegetable weight) then massage and pack down the vegetables, ensuring they are fully covered in the brine juice, then leave them at room temperature for a few days. That’s it, basically.

But not quite – though you don’t need to do much else. In the fermentation process, 3 different species of lactobacillus eat, reproduce, release and finally die off. They succeed each other as the acid level rises and they can no longer live in that environment.The first lactobacillus that goes to work is Leuconostoc mesenteroides. Once it raises the acidity to .3% it dies off and in its place, Lactobacillus plantarum  carries acidity to 2%. Finally Lactobacillus brevis kicks in until its final acidity level of between 2.5%-3.4%. It would carry on fermenting and developing stronger and stronger tastes – so this is when it goes into the fridge to slow it all down to a more dormant state.

What happens when it hits your tummy: You are what you eat

Our stomachs – indeed our whole digestive system  – functions as a microbiome that is home to thousands of microbial species. Many of them are in the lactobacillus genus and are responsible for secreting chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine which affect our moods, appetite, sense of fullness and well being. Clearly what we introduce into our digestive biome is going to affect and alter it – for better or worse.

In the case of our fermented vegetables, its for the better. The lactobacillus interact with and complement the digestive work of our own bacteria – improving digestion, regulating mood, and generally getting our whole system in balance. Claims  have been made that fermented vegetables help with conditions such as diarrhea, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, colitis, food addictions, autism, and addictions.

The expert resources

This has been but a very brief layman’s overview, and does not truly do it justice. I would strongly recommend reading these sources for more detailed and expert information:

https://www.facebook.com/notes/wild-fermentation/how-vegetable-fermentation-works-/10151520254610369

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/03/fermenting-veggies-at-home-follow-food-safety-abcs/#.VdXW-vlVhBd

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-790-lactobacillus.aspx?activeingredientid=790&activeingredientname=lactobacillus

http://www.wildfermentation.com/whats-so-wild-about-fermentation/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/can-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-explain-your-mood.html?_r=1

Also check out the Wild Fermentation Facebook page – its very active and has a mine of information. https://www.facebook.com/groups/WlidFermentation/

And… Definitely buy Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation book

My thanks!

To a couple of market vendors who got me really rolling on this journey. These weren’t really long conversations – but enough to get my own internal fermentation going on this.

  • Cathy at http://www.countrymeadowmeats.com/ who rolled out her first cultured vegetables the same weekend I did my first go at fermented wild onion leaves. If you are up in Owen Sound – definitely visit them.
  • Dina who runs Mighty Fine Brine who turned me on to brined pickles, and to the wild fermentation facebook page!