Happy Holidays! We kicked off the season-of-stuffing-your-face at my house with our annual Harvest Fest potluck. It's a tradition that my old roommate and I started nine years ago. I took this opportunity to make two recipes from the book This Cheese is Nuts. It's a vegan cookbook with recipes for everything from cream cheese to aged hard cheeses. I made the Provolone and the Cashew Cheddar. Since I was crunched for time I did not store them in the fridge overnight (if you want them to truly harden this is necessary), but otherwise I followed the recipes. You just soak cashews overnight, dump the ingredients into a serious blender (I like my refurbished Blendtec), mix until smooth, then heat on the stove top for about two minutes until it thickens. You can serve them hot, keep them in the fridge overnight, or place them in the freezer for three hours like I did.
I wouldn't call them cheese, but they are delicious spreads. I might be biased because I am excited about the general idea of homemade vegan cheese so I asked my husband for his opinion. He liked the provolone one better (it might be because of the white truffle oil), but overall he said he didn't like them enough to seek them out again.
Fast forward a few days... I made the Botiija Olive Rosemary Cheese Spread for a work party. It was a flavor explosion. A++. However, I did not follow the recipe exactly because I could only find dried botija olives so I added two extra olives plus a tiny bit of water until the consistency was right. Someone mentioned that it would be a really good stuffed mushroom filling.
Next up on my list are the Mozzarella and the Cream Cheese. I will update this post once I have made and eaten them. Oh, the things I do for you guys!
I'm going to be straight with you. This Cheese is Nuts has proven to be a delicious and welcome new take on non-dairy cheese, but there are barriers to entry when it comes to executing the recipes.
The first one is money. Most of the recipes require a hardcore blender (i.e. a Blendtec or Vitamix) which are not cheap. I bought mine refurbished from Blendtec so it was about half of the original retail price. A good portion of the recipes also require a dehydrator. It looks like you can get one for about sixty bucks on Amazon.
The second barrier is ingredients. You can definitely buy things like agar powder (gelatin substitute) and botija olives online, but not a lot of grocery stores carry them. You have to love cooking and be a bit adventurous to make some of these recipes.
Overall, the cookbook is groundbreaking in a lot of ways and it could significantly help improve non-dairy cheese options. I think the next few cookbooks that are less intimidating and more approachable on the same topic will probably become very popular and widely used.
If you're not feeling up to the task of making your own "cheese" do not hesitate to try the Kite Hill or Follow Your Heart non-dairy cheeses which are available in a lot of grocery stores. (This is not a paid endorsement!)