Vegan Cheese Making: Introduction

One day, Miyoko’s vegan cheese will be found in every supermarket, cheese stall, and restaurant, and what a glorious day that will be. Miyoko Schinner uses a method for growing your own bacillus culture, and then using that culture to ferment soaked and ground nuts. The result is beautiful, sharp, tangy cheese in all it’s iterations. It’s a creation of epic gastronomic proportions.  Miyoko has shared some of her recipes in the book Artisan Vegan Cheese.

This method has likely existed for many generations. For example, Ann Wigmore, born in 1909 Lithuania used a very similar process. She created rejuvelac, a probiotic-rich beverage made from sprouting grains, and used the rejuvelac to culture soaked seeds. I’ve seen various methods for culturing nuts, seeds and coconuts all over the internet– probiotic capsules, vegan yogurt, etc.

The challenge I’ve found in using the rejuvelac method is sprouting grains. I’ve never found it to be as cut and dry and pouring water over the grains, rinsing them and waiting for them to sprout. Maybe it’s the filtered water I am using, maybe I am rinsing the seeds too vigorously, or maybe the kitchen is too bright or not the right temperature. Regardless, when trying to sprout seeds, I’ve only been successful at spoiling good grains.

So, I’m trying a tried and true method for growing lactobacillus: dosa/idli water.  A dosa is beautiful paper-thin rice crepe, and an idli is a steamed rice cake that have their origins in Southern India. Though their final preparations vary, the basic batter for each is comprised of a skinned lentil called urad dal, and rice (preferably Basmati).  When left to soak overnight, this mixture ferments. It is then ground to a thin batter and cooked. The water used during the soaking process is rich in  gut-friendly L. mesenteroides bacteria:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3231931/.

L. mesenteroides has been isolated in many French cheeses, and is responsible for giving them their sharp flavor:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article
/pii/S0723202000800144.

To make dosa/idli water:

  1. Combine 1/2 cup urad dal and 1/2 cup basmati rice.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Add two cups water.
  4. Cover with a paper coffee filter and rubber band, or pour into a sprouting jar and close the lid.
  5. Let stand overnight on the countertop.

The next day, the rice and urad dal mixture will smell slightly sour, and the water will be bubbly. Pour the water into a glass jar for cheese making. You can add additional water to the rice and dal to create dosas or idlis (grind first), or nut milk to create crepes.

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