Because I plan to experiment with a variety of culture and nut blends in my vegan cheese-making, I need an easy way to distinguish various successes from one another. My asthetic preference is not to name these vegan creations after a dairy cheese they most closely resemble, but to appreciate them as originals. Most dairy cheeses derive their names from the place where they were developed. I’m adopting that practice, except, in my haste to introduce a number of cheese varieties from one lonely kitchen, I’m using a twist on the traditional naming convention…
Each cheese will be named after a place from George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (or Game of Thrones, to those only familiar with the HBO series). Why? Because I’m a fan of the series and as far as I know, the world in Song of Ice and Fire exists solely within the imaginations of it’s author and it’s readers. So technically, that world exists in my mind, which is also where I create the cheeses. See? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, this cheese I’ve named Lhazar, after the sheparding town on the contenient of Essos. Like that town, this cheese is humble and simple. It gains complexity and pungency with time, although I’ve never aged it more than two weeks.
Raw Vegan Cashew Cheese
- 2 cups whole cashews or cashew pieces soaked 3 hours
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 capsule active probiotic Make sure to use the kind you keep refrigerated.
- 1 tsp sea salt (to taste)
- If you have not already done so, soak cashews: Rinse cashews once and then place in a container of water for 3 hours. The cashews will be absorbing water during this process, so make sure to use drinking water.
- After soaking, drain cashews and place in a high-speed blender or food processor. Slowly add the water until a creamy consistency is reached. More water may be necessary if you want a thinner consistency or if your cashews are less hydrated.
- About halfway blended, cashew pieces will still be visible and the mixture will start to get sticky. To ensure an even consistency, fold any large cashew pieces that have been pushed near the top of the mixture back into the more blended part.
- Add salt, a little at a time, until desired saltiness is reached. I like things pretty salty, so taste your mixture before adding all the salt.
- Once the cheese is fully blended, it will approach the consistency of a slightly gritty cream cheese.
- Fold in the contents of the probiotic capsule. I am using a capsule with the following active strains: B. lactis, B. bifidum, B. infantis, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. brevis, L. bulgaricus, L. paracasei, L. planatarum, L. rhamnosus, L. salivarius, and Streptocossus thermophilus.
- Line a small strainer with clean cheese cloth and place in a bowl. Straining will allow the cheese to thicken as it ferments.
- To achieve more tartness and a thicker consistency, transfer the cheese to a dehydrator at 115 degrees F for 5 hours. Can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Keep in mind that even in the fridge, the intensity of the flavor will increase with time.
- Spoon the mixture into the cheesecloth and cover with a towel to protect it from insects and other contaminants. Don't seal it - make sure the mixture can still breath.
- Allow the cheese to ferment for at least a day, preferably two. It should be form firm, almost crusty edges along the top and be a bit thicker after the fermentation is complete. Lhazar will increase in flavor and tang the longer it is kept out - it will even enhance in flavor when kept in the fridge!