Friday, March 4, 2016

Homemade, cultured, dairy-free feta "cheese"!

I've been experimenting with cultured vegan foods lately, an endeavour which began when I was looking for a way to extend the So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt I picked up a few weeks ago. I began with a video that described How to Make Yogurt at Home without a Yogurt Maker. I used Thai Kitchen's Unsweetened Coconut Milk (my go-to coconut milk, as it often has a high ratio of fat to "whey") to make a batch of yogurt and it turned out fairly well, if noticeably weaker in Lactobacillus than the store-bought stuff. When I attempted to extend that batch a week later, using Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk, things went South quickly. That batch had no detectable sourness to it despite being left to culture for two days, and their product is thoroughly unsuitable for anyone looking for a neutral-flavoured coconut milk. While it's true that this product is unsweetened, it's got a very pronounced vanilla-like odour to it. I don't intend to use their products again. So, two attempts at extending yogurt resulted in a thoroughly unusable and unpalatable "yogurt", largely due to my second choice of coconut milk.

Well, it was back to the drawing board, so I thought I'd make an attempt at doing up a batch of coconut yogurt "from scratch". A trip to Ambrosia (weird, their website seems to be down at the moment), yielded a young, organic coconut and a bottle of Udo's Choice® Super 8 Plus Probiotic capsules (which isn't vegan — anyone looking to make this a truly vegan recipe will have to use vegan capsules). With those ingredients, an extra can of coconut milk, Raw, Vegan, Not Gross' Coconut Yogurt recipe, and two days of wait, I was able to make up a very tangy batch of coconut yogurt. Rather than using sterilized tools, I ended up using my first reference video's technique of boiling all of the ingredients but the probiotic capsule (which got added at the "seed" stage), and used all of the coconut water from the young coconut in the mixture. I think that the fact that I used all of the coconut water resulted in the sharp tang of the yogurt — there was a lot of sugar for the bacteria to digest!

I extended that batch by adapting Miyoko Schinner's Soy Cashew Yogurt recipe, substituting coconut milk for the recipe's soy/almond milk and hemp seed for the recipe's cashews. Two days later, I had another batch of yogurt, this time with a nutty (and more substantial!) quality to it, and slightly less tang than its predecessor.

This batch of yogurt is what I used to try my hand at making my own cultured cheese (actually, my second attempt; the first used the from-scratch coconut yogurt, tastes like "American" cheese, and ended up glue-y in texture — I think I didn't stir it enough). As the basis for my cultured cheese experiments, I've been using Miyoko Schinner's Vegan Mozzarella recipe as a basis.

The dairy-free feta you see pictured above used 1 c. of coconut yogurt, 2 t. sea salt, ½ c. water, and was left to culture overnight. The following day, I "activated" one heaping tablespoon of agar agar in a pot of water which was brought to the boil, then I added the cultured mixture. I boiled until dragging a spoon along the bottom of the pot left a trail. Once it had cooled below 110° F, I added about a tablespoon of my coconut/hemp yogurt, and poured it into a ramekin to cool.

Today, I'm in the process of making a delectable treat I haven't indulged in since before Kara was born due to its dairy content. Stay tuned!

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