Couple of weeks ago i saw a great and very easy book in a book store – i bought it. About fermentation. I always loved ‘some’ fermented stuff like cheese, wine, kimchi, sauerkraut, fish sauce etc but i have to admit also i had some sort of negative feeling about the word ‘fermented’. Cause if u eat melted cheese on the top of your spagetti or drink a glass of delicious orange wine – u wont focus on the fact that its all been fermented in some ways.
Also i had some ‘Bibles’ of fermentation from Kratz and Redzepi but these books are everything but not easy going. They go faaaar too deep in the dimension of fermentation not just scratching the surface. I needed an easy book which shows u step by step lets say, #howtomakeasauerkraut proccess and your own aged butter, and your date wine, and coconut kefir and so on. Step by step. So i started. All at once. Got my different sauerkrauts started, different kimchies, miso fermented mushrooms, daikons, soy macerated yuba sheets, date and orange wines, sprouted rejuvelac water and beetroot kvass etc etc… im not sure why i started to ferment nuts… but i tried to ferment with active sauerkraut juice, rejuvelac and also with our lovely rye sourdough starter from the bakery.
Was such a fun. One step further and i was about to blend and press and dry and age my own nut cheeses. I dont even like the name; #nutcheese cause we can not talk about cheese. No dairy involved. No lactose. So no cheese. The proccess can be the same and the result can be similar but cheese making involves some sort of dairy animal products (milk) in my opinion. Anyway. I started. Pistacchio, pecan, cashew then peanut. I was following the same fermentation procedure – soak the nuts overnight then blend it with your ‘starter’ (for me sauerkraut juice was too strong, rejuvelac too mild and rye sourdough starter just perfect). Leave it for 24-36 hours to ferment – when lovely little tiny bubbles appear in your nut puree.
Only difficulties i had is to blend the nuts supersmooth with adding minimal amount of water. I mean depending on your blender obviously – but u need a certain amount of water to make any puree creamy. But u also need to think ahead – that we will need to ‘dry out’ that water later on – so as moist your ‘cheese’ is as longer it will take to get a harder texture. Because of this i ended up having some very soft nut blocks, some hard ones, some grainy ones and so on. Was using different coatings and flavouring. Also i was smoked a couple (without any kind of professional smoker of course LOL) using pine and oak. Was very happy with the results – well i love all kinds of smoked cheeses anyway.
GreenPig spent the Christmas here and we had this ‘vegan cheese competition’ between us. It was not a real competition of course but we both prepared some interesting stuff for our Christmas Dinner. His experiments based on different types of wheat – rather then nuts. He was using rice, buckwheat and different seeds – let them ferment, press it into a block and dry them / and or cold smoked them. Interesting stuff – i (we) really liked them however they were more like ‘tempeh’ or ‘tofu’. Talking so much about them so we needed to find a name eventually – so we called them #wheatloaf.
Of course GreenPig did not write down the exact ingredients and methods of making them (his secret stays uncovered hahaha) – just like me (LOL) however i know the ratios so its not big deal to remake them again. Anyway – its a neverending experimental proccess matching and mixing the nuts+seeds+possibilities. Cut my story short – we had this ‘vegan block’ tasting challenge in our Christmas Dinner Party at my friends place. We gathered together for some chocolate tempering and fresh pasta making workshop so it was a great chance to finally try our stuff. They all had around 2-3 weeks ageing and drying period. Let me introduce them with our opinions about. With #likes or #dislikes they got individually. Im glad so now i know more or less the direction should be going.
There is no winning order but we decided the top 4.
- smoked marmite cashew
- oregano pistachio
- japanese spiced pecan
- seeded pistachio
My +1 extra would be the rose&cranberry cashew only because it was soooo different and floral and aromatic however – my imagination goes straight to pair with a freshly baked walnut cake (instead of some chutney and crackers).
We didnt count the wheat-loaf style cheeses only because they were just soooo much more different than the nut blocks.
There turned out being good ‘cold’ and amazing after frying in a pan. Just like tempeh. And we had one – the almond&rice which had similar texture to parmezan so we could grate on the top of our pasta dish. The rice turns sweet while it ferments so it was a very interesting ‘sweet cheese’ but working heaveny on our salty buttery sauce.
In general we were very happy with the outcome. Couple of the players did not get any attention – like i had big hope in the peanut – bitter cacao powder one – it just turned out something very confusing. Because of the fermentation the basic flavour became sour (which is very unusual flavour pair with the peanut) and not very … yummy. Confusing, u rather think about a snickers bar (with the cacao coating) and u disappointed. I tried 2 others with peanut, non of them was exciting enough. Just too peanutty – i guess this is the reason u never see any ‘vegan cheese’ recipe with peanuts – toooo strong flavours – settle too deep and stable into our mind that we can not play with it too much.
Pistachio turned out better then goat cheese in a salad – as it hasnt got that overpowering wild animal flavour but has got the creamy texture and balanced acidity.
Cashew simply came out the most ‘cheesy’. Very umami. No doubt. U can even enhance the flavour if u go toasting first than start the whole soaking and blending and fermenting proccess. My next challenge is trying to make magic and let some white and blue mold influencing my nut block flavours using some macadamian and almond this time. See how is that going to happen. Fingers cross. Keep eating.