Cashew/Macadamia Non-Dairy ‘Chevre’ with Cracked Peppercorn
This recipe is featured in Vegan Cheese: An Evolution in Cheesemaking?
Adapted from The Art of Plant-based Cheesemaking including process revision
This is a cultured cheese, made from applying a lactic-acid starter culture to the nut milk base. The preferred starter culture in this case is water kefir. Water kefir grain can be purchased in many health food stores, or ordered from www.culturesforhealth.com. To use the water kefir, you would need to rehydrate the dried grain, and allow the kefir grain to ferment a sugar water mixture. You would then use some of the water kefir as the probiotic rich solution to culture the nut milk base.
The water kefir solution contains lacto baccilli and yeasts which do the work of digesting fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and converting the nut milk into a thickened, acidified ‘curd’. If you are an experienced DIY dairy cheesemaker, this ‘curd’ will not look like a dairy curd, as the nut milks also contain long chain polysaacharides that pull the mixture together into a thick, lumpy (not dense or firm lumps) mixture.
Prior to starting: make sure you wash all of your equipment and working area with hot soapy water first, then follow with a sanitizing solution, such as high acid vinegar, or bleach water (chlorine off gasses within 45 minutes, so allow some time after using a bleach water solution before using equipment and work area). Be reasonably clean and tidy, and you should encounter little reason to be worried about working with these microbes.
- High speed blender (or in absence of high speed blender, a combination of food processor and blender)
- Food grade plastic or glass bowl/bucket
- Cheesecloth or butter muslin
- Bamboo mat
- Container (ripening box) (for aging/curing cheese)
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- 170 grams* (1½ cups) cashews
- 224 grams (1½ cups) macadamia
- 59 ml (¼ cup) full fat coconut milk (optional)**
- 5-10 ml (1-2 teaspoons) salt
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) water kefir
* Metric conversions by The Cook’s Cook
**If you do use full fat coconut milk, reduce the amount of water you use in blending.
1. Soak the cashews and macadamia for 1 hour. The nuts may be soaked for as long as overnight, but keep in mind that they — particularly cashews — will absorb water,and this will need to be considered when adding water during the blending process.
2. Set aside a small pitcher with 355 ml (1½ cups) water. Drain the nuts and add to a high speed blender; add small amounts of water to the blender, and begin blending on low speed. Blend on low, pulsing periodically, to allow the water and the nut mixture to begin to emulsify (allow the fats and water to fuse). Continue adding small amounts of water (or coconut milk if that is what you are using) to the mixture, and blend until the mixture is quite smooth. Gradually increase the speed as the mixture thickens.
3. Once the mixture is thick and smooth, with no granularity, use the spatula to scrape the mixture into a clean (washed and sanitized) food grade plastic or glass bowl or bucket.
4. Add the water kefir (the water part, not the grains) to the mixture. Gently stir the lactic acid starter into the mixture. Make sure your container is large enough to allow for 5-8 cm (2-3 inches) of head space above the surface of the mixture for expansion and off gassing as the mixture ferments. Cover the top of the container and place in an evenly warm environment in your kitchen. If you have a dehydrator, place inside the dehydrator on lowest setting, OR place inside your oven with just the oven light on, OR if you happen to have a yogurt maker, place the mixture directly into the yogurt maker container and place on low setting. The water kefir microbes are active at room temperatures and up to about 38°C (100°F), so no need to apply high levels of heat.
5. Allow the mixture to culture for up to 36 hours, checking it every 12 hours. Taste and smell the mixture to see how acidity is forming. Culturing the mixture with microbes is done in order to create the necessary acidity. The acidity forms by the microbes digesting the proteins and carbohydrates. This, then, leads to the nut milk being transformed into a thickened ‘curd.’ If the mixture is not beginning to taste a little tangy or sour after 12 hours, you may need to add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to ensure that acidification is proceeding.
6. After the mixture has cultured to a taste that you like, add the salt, and mix into the curd. Place the curd into a cheesecloth or butter muslin bag to drain (a nut milk bag works well, as can a reusable produce bag).
7. Allow the mixture to drain from 2 hours to overnight. The more moisture released from the mixture the firmer your cheese will end up being. Keep in mind, this mixture will not drain free fluid as in nut milk making processes. Rather the material will absorb moisture away from the curd, and evaporate away from the surface of the material.
8. After the draining of the curd, taste and check the level of saltiness. You may want to add more but add sparingly, because as the cheese dries, the salt will concentrate in the cheese. Lay out a multiple layer cheese cloth piece (about 30 x 30 cm/12 x 12 inches) and sprinkle some cracked black peppercorn (or dried herbs), and spoon the curd in a line along the peppercorn (or herbs). Sprinkle more peppercorn (or herbs) on the top surface of the curd, then using the cheesecloth, gently form the curd into a log shape, then wrap the ends of the cloth over each end of the cheese, and roll cheese in the cheese cloth to form a log.
9. Place the cheesecloth bound log onto a bamboo mat (these are ideal for home based cheesemaking, they absorb moisture away from the cheese, and have some anti-microbial properties, which means they discourage the growth of unwelcome microbes). Place the cheese on the mat inside a container large enough to allow air flow around the cheese, and set inside the fridge. Every day, check the amount of excess moisture on the bottom of the container, and wipe clean, and if the bamboo mat is very wet, replace with a dry one.
10. Turn the log on the bamboo mat 1 to 2 times per day, and after about day 3, check firmness of the cheese and gently unwrap from the cheese cloth. You should have a soft, but gently firm cheese ready to eat. Keep cheese in cheesecloth or cheese paper and stored in the cheese drawer of your refrigerator, or in a container with enough air room. Because the cheese contains live cultures, condensation will occur, so the container you store it in, will need to be wiped dry periodically.