The Art-of Plant Based Cheesemaking

by: Sara on 12/03/2018

'Tis the season of hosting friends and family, which invariably includes serving food, often with the added challenge of meeting a variety of dietary needs. But I think most of us, whether meat eater, vegetarian, vegan or lactose-intolerant, can agree that cheese is a staple of holiday entertaining. So today we are featuring an excerpt from the introduction of Karen McAthy's book The Art of Plant-based Cheesmaking: How to Craft Real, Cultured, Non-Dairy Cheese. Karen is the founder and head cheesemaker at Blue Heron Creamery, which makes cultured, plant-based cheeses for restaurants, retail outlets, and private customers and is Vancouver's only only standalone vegan-cheese shop.

Be sure to download the recipe for Cultured Cashew Kefir Curd at the end of the blog. And remember receive 40% of this and all other New Society books until December 7th. Just use code Winter18 at check out!

Cheese is one of the oldest of modern foods. Humans across nearly every culture have developed some form of animal milk into this cultured and aged foodstuff that has grown from a humble survival food eaten by peasants to high end, artisan craft. An accident of circumstance (lack of refrigeration for preserving milk) and organisms(bacteria and molds), cheese is a by-product of fermentation,culturing, and time (aging).Like all forms of fermentation and culturing, cheesemaking evolved as a means of preserving food for the long months after the harvest when food was sparse. Now, along with many fermented and cultured food practices, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, bee and wine, cheesemaking has become one of a growing number of do-it-yourself pursuits of ardent foodies. In recent years, a number of books have been written with this pursuit in mind, including The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice by Sasha Davies and Mastering Basic Cheesemaking by Gianaclis Caldwell. Cheesemaking kits, with the home user in mind, are readily available either online or in boutique food shops, allowing people to explore making their own ricotta,cream cheese, burrata, mozzarella, and others.

Cheese, and cheesemaking, are inherently involved in an on going evolution, and the latest area of development is the pursuit of plant-based, dairy-free alternatives. Understanding why this pursuit has gained traction is relevant.

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Herbed kefir/macadamia cheese

As plant-based and vegan eating and lifestyle choices in general have moved from the periphery of most cultures to the mainstream of many, especially in some of North America and Western Europe, forsaking cheese is often seen as the last barrier to overcome.

Three core areas of concern inform the embracing of plantbased/plant-forward eating and lifestyle choices, particularly in the West: environmental, personal health and animal welfare. As evidence mounts for the benefits of, at the very least, minimizing as much as possible our consumption of animal products for both personal health and environmental reasons, a growing market is seeking alternatives to favorite items. This has included a surge in alternatives to cheese.

This book invites the curious reader to try their hand at a few of their own plant-based cheesemaking experiments and to find ways of expanding their personal understanding of what cheese is. As readers explore making and using cultures, they have an opportunity to experiment with creating cheeses to suit their own preferences, to understand how the culturing process works (and sometimes fails),and to become more intimately familiar with a practice that has its roots in hundreds of years of human history and food preservation.

Download the recipe for Cultured Cashew Kefir Curd from The Art of Plant-based Cheesmaking: How to Craft Real, Cultured, Non-Dairy Cheese.

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