Review: Artisan Vegan Cheese

Artisan Vegan Cheese & cheeseboard

I still remember being seven or eight and standing in Kmart looking over a tall stack of dolls in boxes.  I was looking for the perfect gift for a birthday party I was attending the next day when my mom gave me this advice:  Give a gift that you would want yourself.  (Perhaps that’s why my Dad gave me a buzz saw for my birthday that year.  I kid, I kid.  It was for Christmas.)

While it may be good advice, it can be much harder to give a gift away when it’s something you’d like to keep for yourself!  I remembered this nugget of wisdom when I was deciding on what to get a friend of mine who is also vegan.  I’d read so many glowing reviews across the blogosphere about Artisan Vegan Cheese (from Kittee, Andrea, Tami, and so many more).  So I decided to pair the book with a cheeseboard and to-do list (to remember to pick up cashews, soy yogurt, and carageenan).  Once it was wrapped and ready to go, it was the kind of gift I would want to open.

Luckily I didn’t have to question whether or not I’d like to keep the present for myself since I had a brand spanking new copy of Artisan Vegan Cheese in my cookbook cupboard I’d already purchased for myself.  I’ll admit I’d been a bit intimidated by what sounded like a drawn out process of soaking and sprouting in the making of the cheeses, and so I decided to start with a couple that didn’t require much in the way of planning ahead.

cashew cream cheese and marmaladeI started with the Cashew Cream Cheese, which is made with cashews that have been soaked for eight hours and drained.  It’s then cultured with plain, nondairy yogurt and left at room temperature for 24-48 hours, depending on how sharp one prefers one’s cheese.  I let the cream cheese culture for 48 hours until it had developed a good, tangy bite.

I used the cream cheese on crackers with lemon and rose petal marmalade, as I wrote about a while back.

cashew cream cheese on tacosMy favorite way to use it has been on tacos or burritos like a non-dairy sour cream.  It has the same tanginess about it and adds a cooling addition to spicy tacos.

My husband’s favorite use of the cream cheese is by making a simple blueberry cream cheese and spreading it on bagels.  I just added about one-quarter to one-half cup of cream cheese with a couple handfuls of blueberries in a food processor and blended.  I look forward to trying it out with strawberries and raspberries in the future!

The cream cheese continues to sharpen over time in the refrigerator, but for us, it seems like it just gets better and better.  It will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator or in the freezer for four months.

easy cheesy sauce nachosNext I made the Easy Cheesy Sauce, which required no planning at all since I went with the option of not culturing the cashew cream.  (It can be made either way.  Culturing the sauce gives it more depth.)  It just involved blending raw cashews with water in a blender, transferring it to a saucepan, and adding nutritional yeast flakes and lemon juice.  (For a stretchier consistency, xanthan gum can be added, but I skipped that part.)

nachos in cheesy sauceThe cheese sauce has a cheesy, neutral flavor that would be quite good over pasta or steamed vegetables.  Instead, I wanted to use it for a nacho platter.  So I added cumin, paprika, and chili powder to the sauce and poured it over tortilla chips.  I then topped it with spicy black beans, tomatoes, avocado, and jalapeno peppers for a cozy movie night.

making rejuvelacFinally, I felt ready to dive into one of the more involved recipes that required rejuvelac.  Rejuvelac is a fermented culturing agent filled with probiotics.   It can be found commercially in some natural food stores; although, I couldn’t find it in my area.  Luckily, it isn’t hard to make your own.  It simply involves soaking and sprouting grains (or seeds in the case of quinoa) in a jar, culturing it with fresh water, and then waiting a few days until the water is tart like lemon juice.

The cookbook author, Miyoko Schinner, is very active and helpful on the Post Punk Kitchen forum, and so if you want to study up before you begin or if you’re having troubles, she’s been incredibly helpful.  I’d read on the PPK forum that the easiest starter for making rejuvelac is quinoa and so I went with that.  Sure enough, the quinoa began sprouting tails overnight.  I replaced the water and had rejuvelac about three days later.

I used the rejuvelac to make basic cashew cheese, which is a neutral cheese with a texture like cream cheese.  It’s used as a base for several recipes, including Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Cheese, which used one whole batch of the basic cashew cheese.

I make notes in all of my cookbooks, so that I know which recipes I liked and didn’t and what I’d tweak in the future.  I’d like to share with you the words that I wrote at the top of the Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Cheese page:

cookbook entryThis garlicky, spreadable cheese tastes like a creamy bruschetta.  It’s delicious on crackers or spread onto collard leaves and rolled up with bell pepper and tomato slices.  Sprouts or pea shoots would have also been a tasty addition.

sun-dried tomato and basil cheese in a collard leafThe cheeses freeze well, and so I put the Cream Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Cheese into several separate glass containers.  I put one apiece in the refrigerator to enjoy right away, and I put the remaining ones in the freezer for future use.

frozen cheeses(As you can see, I just wrote on the glass with a permanent marker the name of the cheese and the date that I made it.  It will keep for up to four months in the freezer.  Then the permanent marker writing can be easily scrubbed off the glass with a scratch pad, soap, and water.)

I look forward to exploring more from Artisan Vegan Cheese.  Although some of the recipes do involve advance planning, it really requires very little time on task.  Most of it is just waiting for the fermentation and culturing to happen.  There’s a reason it’s called “Artisan” Vegan Cheese, and it’s because it requires more patience.

I look forward to filling my freezer with more cheeses, so that I can pop out a variety for gatherings and get-togethers with no fuss.  Or when I suddenly happen upon a recipe that requires just a tablespoon of vegan cream cheese (as happened to me this past weekend), I just have to thaw a small container from the freezer.  If you too enjoy feeling like a kitchen scientist, this is the book for you!

Disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

33 thoughts on “Review: Artisan Vegan Cheese

  1. love the idea of the rejuvelac with quinoa.. i am a bit scared to jump onto the rejuvelac based cheeses too. but you have made it sound easier and delicious! i love those notes in the cookbook:) Great Review Cadry!

  2. Great minds clearly think alike! I’ve just got my first batch of cheese culturing in my kitchen. I haven’t been able to try one yet, so I’m just having to drool at yours for the time being! I nearly made the tomato cheese too!

    I had real trouble getting my rejuvelac going – I tried brown rice, quinoa and something else I forgot, and none of it worked. It just went weird and mushy! It was only when I used wheat it actually sprouted.

    Really looking forward to my cheese being ready to eat now!

    • Oh, which cheese did you make to start? There are so many that I’m curious about trying! If you like garlic then definitely give the sun-dried tomato cheese a go at some point. Garlic is one of my top five favorite foods, and I was all over this one.

      That’s really interesting that you had to try so many grains/seeds until one worked for you! I’m surprised that the quinoa was also a flop. That seems to be the one that’s easiest for people. Now that you know what worked for you, hopefully it will be a lot more seamless next time around!

      I’m looking forward to reading how your cheese turns out! Happy tasting! :)

  3. Yes, quinoa definitely works best. My first attempt was with brown rice and ended up being a flop. I’ve only made a couple different things from the book so far, the gruyere was delicious! I haven’t made anything in a while as I didn’t think I could eat it all before it went bad. I had no idea you could freeze it! Do you know if it changes the texture at all? By the way, I love those jars, I ordered a bunch for Xmas gifts and have been hoarding the remaining ones.

    • I was glad that I’d read about quinoa being the easiest before I had my first go at making rejuvelac. I couldn’t believe how quickly it sprouted! The gruyere is on my list of things to make! Good to know that you liked it!

      I’ve frozen the cream cheese & sun-dried tomato cheese, and freezing didn’t change the texture at all. It also thawed really quickly. It took just a few hours, and you couldn’t tell it had been frozen. I’ve read about other people freezing their cheeses too with good results. I totally agree that with raw cashew prices being what they are, it’s not the kind of thing a person wants to waste!

      I love the jars too! Whenever we visit a city that has a Crate and Barrel, I add more to my collection. I like that they have such a variety of jars. It makes them useful for lots of different things.

  4. I’ve been eyeing this book for a while now but have also been a little intimidated by the processes involved. Glad to hear there are lower-impact recipes. Besides yr note (ha!) the basil and sundried tom cheese sounds great, and those are beautiful wraps. I love nut cheeze in raw wraps.
    Cute little rejuvelac.

    • Yes, it was Andrea who turned me on to the idea of starting with some of the less involved recipes. I’m glad that I did! Once you’ve broken into the book, it’s easy to continue with something more labor intensive.

  5. The cream cheese is still the one I make the most — so perfect in taste and texture. I like to mix it with scallions and parsley. I also love the smoked provolone. I’ve made it with water instead of rejuvelac and it worked great — both air-dried and not. I’ve been meaning to do a post about it but haven’t managed to — perhaps your post will inspire me to update my blog! (I still haven’t used carrageenan and most likely won’t.) Now I have to try the sun dried tomato and basil, and the easy cheesy sauce on nachos!

    So, what are the great little jars you used?

    • Good idea mixing the scallions and parsley into the cream cheese. I would enjoy that combination too! I’m sure I’ll be making the cream cheese again. It’s been my husband’s favorite so far. Plus, you can’t beat the ingredients in comparison to Tofutti, for example.

      Did you notice much of a taste difference between the one with rejuvelac and the one with water in your smoked provolone?

      I did end up ordering some of the carageenan that’s recommended on the PPK blog from Miyoko. I haven’t used it yet.

      The jars are from Weck. They make a variety of shapes and sizes, and I love them! Plus, they’re inexpensive. I also like getting old time Mason and Bell jars from a local thrift store, but these from Weck are actually a bit less expensive. They’re made in Germany. They’re available at Crate and Barrel (in stores and online) and on Weck’s website.

      • I’ve only used water! I’m so lazy … or maybe impatient … or maybe I’m not good at planning ahead. Anyway, it spite of my lack of precision (and carrageenan) the provalone melts! Weird. Ah yes, Weck jars. I looked for them at C&B some time ago and didn’t see them, but the Web site says they are in stock. Such a great size! And I like that they have glass lids instead of plastic.

        • Well, that’s good to know if I’m ever feeling lazy or impatient! :)

          Yes, that small size is irresistible! I also bought one of their bottles for juices/salad dressings recently, and it’s been really handy. We don’t have a Crate & Barrel in our area, but I visited when we were in Florida last month. Everyone buys glass jars on holiday, right? ;)

          • Well, to be perfectly honest, there isn’t much of a crowd around the food storage department at our C&B when I’m buying glass containers. I like their selection and have quite a few of their jars. I’ve been looking for a salad dressing jar, mainly at Goodwill, but I’ll check out the weck.

  6. Hi, I’ve subscribed to via RSS for a while, but never commented before. I’d love to try making the cream cheese.

    I love your freezer jars – they are so little and cute! Are they easy to find in the stores or do you have an online source? I want to get away from little plastic containers that don’t do a good job of protecting the food.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks for commenting, Kelly! It’s nice to know that you’re reading!

      I completely agree about moving away from plastic whenever possible. The jars are made from Weck, and they’re sold in Crate and Barrel stores if you have one of those in your town, or they can be purchased on their website. They also sell them in a variety of styles and shapes on Weck’s web page.

      For another option that’s available anywhere, my go-to glass storage container is made by Pyrex. Pyrex are made in the U.S. and available in stores like Target. They can go in the freezer, oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher, making them very handy to have around! They’re what I use the most for storing homemade beans in the freezer. Pyrex does have plastic lids, but they are free of BPA.

  7. I made the creamy cheddar cashew cheese from a recipe in the paper that was taken out of this book: HOLY CRAP is spot on!!!!!! I really felt the rejeuvelac was worth the wait and the addition made it so much better than without. YUUUM!!

  8. Wow- I need to get on this! I have the artisan cheese edition of VegNews, with several recipes from Miyoko Skinnner, including the cream cheese. I am totally going to give it a try very, very soon! Great review, Cadry! :-)

    • I have that edition of VegNews, and the recipes are slightly improved/tweaked from the book. I should dig out my copy of it! I look forward to seeing what you make!

      Okay, I have a little secret to tell you… David confided to me that as much as he loves all of these cheeses, your tofu chèvre is still his favorite!

  9. I LOVE this book! I’ve made the mozzarella and the gruyere and both were amazing. The process intimidated me at first too, but turns out, making the rejuvelac was so easy!! I even found that the cheese freeze well! I still have some mozzarella in my freezer that I plan to use soon as a sauce for shirataki noodles. :-)

    • The mozzarella looks really impressive! It’s a big plus that it freezes so well! That way, people don’t feel like they have to finish it all at once, and it stretches out the enjoyment of it!

  10. hi just came across this site- i waited a whole year to get this book which was on back order :) and so worth it. The Rejuvelac is easy, and I froze the balance in 1/2 cup portions. The mozarella in brine is fantastic – i have had raves from vegan and non-vegan alike. I fact i have bottled a batch today! Don’t be put off by seemingly complicated recipes, i suspect they are easier than it seems, just time consuming :)

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