More often than not, when someone finds out that I don’t eat dairy anymore, the first thing they say is, “But cheese!!!” Ah yes, but cheese. Luckily, I was never a die-hard, can’t-live-or-breathe-without-cheese fanatic, but I did enjoy a good round of brie with some crackers and, uh, grape juice. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to live without it. Right? WRONG.
When I went home for Christmas break, I was sitting in the living room when I glanced under the coffee table and noticed a small white book glistening in the afternoon light. Curiously, I picked it up and saw the words “Artisan Vegan Cheese” on the cover. And then it happened. My eyes wandered a few inches down and saw the name “Miyoko Schinner.” Right there, strung across the cover, was the name of the world’s most renowned vegan cheese artist. Yes, I said artist. This has got to be good, I thought.
Flipping through the pages, one word specifically caught my eye: Brie. I squinted my eyes as I deviously looked left, then right. Oh it’s on.
Carefully reading each step of the three part recipe at least 10 times over, I began to wonder if this complicated process was going to be worth it. But I’m not one to back out of a challenge. So here we go.
*Disclaimer: This is so much of a stolen recipe that it may actually verge on copyright infringement. Therefore, I’m not going to state the exact measurements. If you want the full recipe, I can send it to you separately.
The first part of making the brie is to make rejuvelac. What the heck is that, you ask? I didn’t know either. It’s basically a probiotic drink made from fermented quinoa. That sounds a lot more hippie in writing than it does in my head. To make it, you’ll need quinoa (or other whole grains like brown rice, millet, or wheat berries) and filtered water. In a glass jar, cover the grains with water and secure a piece of cheesecloth to the top. Let it soak overnight. The next day, drain it and add a little bit of water to the grains. Put the jar in a warm shady place for 24-48 hours, draining and re-watering every 12 hours or so. Once the grains have sprouted, drain the liquid out into a separate container. And there you have rejuvelac!
The next step is to make basic cashew cheese. This is done by putting soaked raw cashews, salt, and some of the rejuvelac into a blender or food processor and blending until smooth. Next, to culture the cheese, pour the mixture into a glass container, cover, and let it sit for 12 hours.
Finally, we’re ready for the exciting part. Again, in a food processor (preferably one from the Paleolithic era like the one shown), mix the cashew cheese, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, and salt until smooth. Now you can get creative and decide what toppings/decoration you want the cheese to have. I decided on peppercorn, dried cranberries, and rosemary for their colors and flavors. Find a mold that is the shape of what you want the final product to be and line them with plastic wrap. Spread your toppings of choice evenly on top of the plastic, then pour the cheese mixture on top, spreading out the surface evenly. Put another piece of plastic wrap directly on top, making sure no air is in between. Now just pop it in the refrigerator and wait for at least 8 hours. Since brie should be soft, let the cheese sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.
The thing about cheeseless cheese, my family decided, is that you can’t go into it expecting an exact replica of the cheese you’re used to eating. If, however, you go into it with an open mind, expecting it to have a flavor of its own, you will be surprised by a soft, creamy, flavorful cheese with a bit of tang and a texture that pairs perfectly with a fresh loaf of bread or crackers. And you know what? I didn’t even miss the brie I once knew.