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Enciby Enci

Vegan Cheese-Making

After my article came out last month, I received an email from a reader who doesn’t eat dairy products and who addressed the issue about animal cruelty. This opened up my eyes to this new world which really isn’t strange to me since I have many friends who are vegetarian and vegan and I even have some friends who are raw foodists.

I never really concerned myself with my friends’ lifestyles, however, I’m often inspired, especially when I taste my friends’ here homemade dishes or when I go out to a vegan restaurant and the food tastes delicious. I played with the various ideas of going raw and vegetarian, especially when I make a dish that takes so much energy (electricity) and time, that I wonder why I didn’t eat the dish in its raw form. It would have been faster, healthier and definitely more efficient.

So I found this non-dairy comment interesting and it inspired me to write some vegan cheese making recipes. I have not tried any of these out, but I challenge you to organize an “everything homemade” party and experiment making these and last month’s recipes with your friends. Remember to bring with you glass jars and glass or ceramic dishes, so you can avoid using any plastic containers. The food will keep longer and will taste better.

One interesting thing I realized when looking up non-dairy cheese recipes was that people are dairy free for many reasons. Allergies, intolerance, animal cruelty, religion, etc. I also noticed that there were quite a lot of dishes out there that didn’t require milk products and we have now in the city in nearly every supermarket soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, flakes, etc. to choose from. And they are delicious.

The very basic of cheese making seems to be fat and flavor, no matter if it’s with milk or without. I noticed that a lot of vegan foods include nuts. That’s because of the protein and the fats that we need to eat to stay healthy. Look at this simple list of vegan foods and you’ll realize it’s not that difficult to become vegan. One could start with one day a week and we all could make a huge positive impact on our environment.

One of the simplest vegan cheeses you can make at home is the Vegan Nut Cheese that I found on Recipe Zaar. You only need 100g margarine, 175 ground mixed nuts and 1 tsp yeast extract. Melt butter, stir in nuts and yeast extract, pour in a glass container, chill and that’s it. Now this seemed a bit too fatty to me, so I started looking into something that is not made with melted fat.

I came across the Macademia Pine Nut Cheese. Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups macadamia nuts, soaked for 8 hours and drained
  • 2 cups filtered water (or rejuvelac)
  • 1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup pine nuts, soaked for 8 hours and drained

Blend macademia nuts, water, salt and lemon until smooth, then add the pine nuts and blend again. Pour in a dehydrator or an oven on low temperature and dehydrate for 6-8 hours or until it resembles cream or ricotta cheese, stirring periodically to avoid crust from forming on top.

If you like the traditional way of making cheese, with the curd and whey, then the soya cream cheese might be your perfect fit.

  • Heat a liter of soya milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit/32 degrees celsius (use a themometer to measure the temperature accurately.
  • Add the strained juice of one lemon (no pips!) and 15-20 drops of vegetarian rennet (you can get Vegeren from Just Wholefoods of Cirencester).
  • Stir and leave to cool until it separates into ‘curds’ and ‘whey’.
  • Place a large flour sieve over a bowl or pot and cover the sieve with a yard square piece of muslin folded in half twice
  • Pour the curds and whey on to the muslin and allow to drain.
  • Pull up the sides of the muslin and twist together to squeeze the rest of the liquid from the solid.
  • Open the muslin and you got your vegan creme fraiche!
  • Scrape it off the muslin into a bowl for serving or storage.
  • Add salt to make cream cheese.

If you like pudding, I suggest you make the tofu pudding which I discovered a few years ago and I was so impressed. It is now one of my favorites.

Get some silken or medium or firm tofu, depending on how soft you want your pudding. Put in a blender with 3 Tbsp of maple syrup, or sugar (fine sugar, so it doesn’t end up crunching between your teeth) and add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract or organic cocoa powder. Blend until smooth and serve cool in glass or in ceramic. Decorate with your favorite fruit and that’s it.

One thing I love about making my own dishes is not only that I avoid the plastic containers, but also that I know exactly what I put into my body. Don’t use food coloring, unnatural preservatives, or stuff that you can’t pronounce. The more natural the products are, the healthier you will be. And as performers, we need to stay healthy and keep our skin radiant and fresh. With good food from the garden or from your Farmer’s Market, you are one step ahead.

And to add one more recipe, I like to give you a Kefir recipe. I’ve been using Kefir for years and I love it. You can get water and/or milk kefir and make all kinds of delicious drinks out of it. Here is the Ginger Ale Kefir Soda from Whole Traditions:

  • 4 to 5 tbsp sucanat, rapadura, agave nectar, maple syrup, or other crystalized sugar
  • 1 tbsp water kefir grains
  • about 1 quart filtered or spring water
  • 3 to 5 slices peeled ginger
  • 1 slice lemon or squirt of lemon juice (optional)
  1. Add water kefir grains and sweetener to a non-airtight quart sized jar or bottle.
  2. Add enough water to fill up the jar or bottle while leaving about 1 inch of space at the top.
  3. Shake or stir until the sugars are completely dissolved. Add ginger slices.
  4. Cover with a non-airtight lid and allow to brew at room temperature for 24 to 48+ hours.
  5. When it’s done to your liking, strain out the grains, discarding ginger slices. Add lemon if desired, and store covered in the fridge.
  6. For an especially fizzy brew, strain out grains and decant water kefir about 1/2 day before it’s done into airtight bottles and allow to ferment at room temperature for another 1/2 day before storing in the fridge. Open with caution as the drink may be strongly carbonated.

Read the Vegan Reader for some inspirational recipes and find some more fun stuff on Enjoy the cooking, ride your bike more often and don’t forget to take your canvas bags to the store when you do your grocery shopping.

Enci is a working actress and also a writer/director at her company Rebel Without A Car Productions.

Enci is the publisher of the theatre site Bitter Lemons, the Co-Founder of the Bike Writers Collective, she’s on the board of Bikeside, on the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force, on the SAG Conservatory Committee, and she works with government entities to make Los Angeles more bike-friendly and bike-conscious.

Contact Enci with article suggestions or find her on Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites to connect. When contacting her, please introduce yourself and tell her you read her column in the Networker.