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Carol Kicinski
This vegan “cheese” is a great alternative to traditional dairy cheese, making it perfect for a party with guests of various allergens or food preferences.

An easy, vegan alternative to dairy cheese

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   Lately I have been consumed with the idea of making my own cheese. It started with homemade ricotta and then I decided to try my hand at vegan nut cheese.
   Making nut cheese is ridiculously easy. It is a little time consuming, as you have to wait while your nuts soak and then wait for your mixture to culture and then finally wait for all the flavors to meld in the fridge.
   The basic recipe for cultured cashew cheese is just raw cashews, water, and probiotics. Some recipes call for rejuvelac, which is a fermented liquid that typically contains gluten in it. I just used water – simple! But as I said, I was looking for an herby, garlicky spread, so I doctored it up with lemon juice, a touch of vinegar, some nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs. I used a combination of fresh thyme, chives, oregano, and parsley but you could use the herbs you prefer and if you don’t have fresh, dried will work well too.
   If you can buy cashew pieces instead of whole, do it. They are typically cheaper and you are just going to grind them up anyway. You can soak your cashews anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. I, being impatient, opted for 4 hours. I have no idea if this makes any difference in the overall product.
   You need probiotic capsules. Make sure they are allergen free and shoot for something around 10 – 15 billion
Gluten Free Vegan Garlic Herb “Cheese” Spread
Makes 2 cups
3 cups raw cashews
3 probiotic capsules
½ cup water (more or less)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoons fresh herbs, minced, plus more for coating
2 large cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
2 green onions, finely minced
1½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
   Soak the cashews in clean, cool water for 4 to 12 hours. Drain well. Put in blender with the powder from the probiotics (discard the casings) and a little water. Blend until smooth, adding water a little at a time to keep things moving and blending. Use only as much water as is needed for a smooth texture.
   Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Scrape the cheese mixture into the cheesecloth, cover with cheesecloth and then place a towel over the whole thing and let sit in a warm spot in your kitchen for 12 to 24 hours. The longer it sits the more tart it becomes.
   Put the cheese in a mixing bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients except for the herbs for coating. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and let firm up in the fridge for a few hours.
   If you want, you can “mold” your cheese. Line 2 ramekins (8 ounces each) with cheesecloth or plastic wrap, fill with the cheese, cover and refrigerate for several hours. Unmold the cheese and press minced herbs into the sides and on top. It will be on the soft side, similar to Boursin Cheese.
   Cheese keeps for 3 to 4 days, in an airtight container, refrigerated.
organisms total. If you have a high speed blender like a Vitamix, great. If not, don’t worry, you can still make this with a regular blender it will just take a little more work to get your mixture really smooth. Just keep scraping and blending, you will get there.
When blending the cashews, try to use as little water as possible. Start with a little and just add a bit each time until the mixture is really smooth. This is really the only step that requires just a touch of patience – well, except for the waiting part.
You can “culture” your cheese (don’t get scared, all that means is just let it sit) for 14 – 16 hours or
longer if you want a “riper” cheese. I was trying to combat the natural sweetness of cashews so I actually let my cheese ripen for 24 hours. At least that’s the story I will stick with, but actually I just sort of forgot about it for a little bit.
The verdict? I really like this cheese! I can eat dairy and I would still eat this. Is it exactly like “real” cheese made with dairy? No. But that does not mean it is not fabulous. Everyone at the office who tried it liked it and I would certainly serve this at a party.