TEST KITCHEN – vegan nutji’ :)

I used to make different nut blocks as a vegan alternative for dairy cheeses – you can see here back in the day.. . \i tried different molds already like roquefort and camembert – very interesting results here – but my real favourite was always a simple well seasoned lacto ferment.

Now when i could put my hands on some koji spores…. was thinking hell why not????? I just have to try growing koji on my nut blocks. Here are the results after my first batch. Feel lots of potential here (no previous notes about it whatsoever) so i will keep working on it – just like im doing with the dairy cow’s milk version. Little by little.

Launched 4 different varieties.

1.1- 100% roasted cashew

1.2 – 100% roasted cashew with rice

2.1 – 60-40% roasted peanut and cashew

2.1 – 60-40% roasted peanut and cashew with rice and miso

Started the process in the same way how i would do in a case of a normal nut cheeze – apart from i didnt add any culture or let is ferment naturally with lactobacillus. The nuts been soaked for 24 hours (it helps for a smoother texture even if you dont have a proper stone mill’) then ‘blanched’ with boiling water to kill all the unwanted bacterias. Blended together with a spoon of coconut oil ( got this idea from the top of my head as i accidentally know that other cheese molds love ‘fat’) and blend the spores in. After blanching the nuts careful with the temperature – not to kill the koji. I was careful and waited till the mix cooled down to 30-35 degrees (blending can also create heat dont forget!) then added the dispersed spores. Fermentation chamber was ready to go – so i placed the ‘guyz’ in the box for good.

Wasnt sure the right environmental circumstances – so had to do a bit of a troubleshoot after the first 24 hours – the humidity seemed just not enough for the thirst of the koji – the surface of the cheezes were cracked. Was angry with myself – however by now i am actually loving this rustic’ look. So huge trays of water went in the chamber to maintain 99,9% humidity plus brushed the blocks for a couple of times (with warm water).

After this troubleshooting i started to count the hours for real. Approx 1 day later signs of koji growing. YESSSS. After 30 hours its looking pretty.

FUNNY THING —- i added some extra spores to one of the blocks – the ‘grey looking’ square one. I was hoping to get a beautiful ‘fir’ on that one for sure (i had no idea how things should happen after all) – and funny thing – THAT IS THE ONLY BLOCK WHICH DID NOT HAVE ANY SORT OF MOLD GROWING ON THE SURFACE. Interesting – wondering why.

Anyways – so very obviously the pieces with rice innit (as an extra carb) grow awamori koji so much faster. And they looked just so much healthier and happier. No doubts. Was a great last minute idea.

Ok after approximately 40 hours i ve decided to take the cheezes from the incubator. Here i followed again some dairy cheese making steps – i brined the blocks in 20-25% brine for an hour. I am not sure how koji acts with salt (assuming no mold likes it very much) but wanted to avoid any unnecessary disappointment so i ve decided to salt it after the mold growing period.

After the brining i had not much clue what to do. Ageing. Yes yes but where and how. I found the fridge far too cold for that. I choose to left outside at 17-20 degrees (outside temperature). Again got a little trick from my dairy kojeese experiment i loved big time – so i started to brush the blocks with a homemade spirit – a gorse infused vodka. I thought this technique gave me brilliant results before so why not try again? I was doing this for 3 days then will put them back in the fridge for further slower ageing.

RESULTS AFTER A WEEK AGEING:

1.1 – 100% roasted cashew

FIRST TRY: mildly sour with some bitterness, moldy flavour is coming afterwards. Salt feels fine, looks and feels ‘wet’ and fatty enough.

SECOND TRY (after tried all): feels nice but less complexity and less umami, brilliant texture

1.2 – 100% roasted cashew with added cooked rice

FIRST TRY: much more UMAMI than the first one, less smooth texture cause of the rice. Bit more powerful the moldy taste but for some reason feels less bothering?! no bitterness…

SECOND TRY (after tried all): you feel more ‘roquefort’ touch at the back of your throat but no bitterness, bit chunky texture

2.1 – 60% peanut and 40% cashew (this was the only one i sprinkled with extra spores from outside – weakest results)

FIRST TRY: seems very poor and looks very dry – cracked in the middle (also its my bad as i made it very thin compared to the others) but its actually doesnt feel dry. has got a nice texture and kindof perfect saltiness? Would not recall any peanut flavour.

SECOND TRY (after tried all): great texture, peanut gives a different complexity in flavours (shame on me its too thin to judge properly)

2.2 – 60% peanut and 40% cashew with added cooked rice and miso

FIRST TRY: UMAMI bomb, so freakin complex flavours. You hardly get any moldy taste and bitterness neither. Again maybe can be smoother – as the rice is not blended enough.

SECOND TRY (after tried all): cant say more. BRILLIANT. Moldy umami explosion without the familiar blue cheese or camembert touch. I will use some homemade unpasteurized miso paste here next time for even deeper complex ageing.

I AM GLAD SO FAR. LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT BATCH.

Open up your mouth…!

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