2 Healthy Vegan Cheeses You Can Make YourselfYael Tamar
+ Everything You Need to Know about the Process of Milk Production
We recently returned from San Francisco, and after scouring every food market we could find, we returned with newfound knowledge of exciting ingredients to use. Most of all, we were encouraged to find a strong trend towards reasonably-priced organic foods, and a growing awareness of the importance of buying local, and the problems with genetically modified foods.
Before we share recipes for home-made vegan cheese, we’d like to touch on the important health risks of consuming dairy products. This is regardless of the moral issues we have with cow’s milk consumption.
What is milk, exactly?
Milk is the most nutrient rich natural liquid in existence. Look no further than human breastmilk for evidence, and how it nourishes babies to grow healthy and strong. The case is the same for cow’s milk, except it’s intended for the consumption of calves, so that they grow and develop healthy bodily systems (immune system, digestive system, brain functions). The end goal is, of course, survival.
While this may have been the case at one point, the product we consume in modern day and nickname ‘milk’ is vastly different – and the same is true for all modern dairy products, in fact. So, how does milk transform from a nutrient rich, probiotic liquid, to a processed, decidedly unhealthy product? To understand what happens to milk, we need to take a look at what happens before and after extraction.
To save on costs, dairy farmers typically feed cows grains and soy, foods they would never consume in the wild, which their digestive system is ill-equipped to digest. To draw a parallel, try and imagine what would happen to our bodies if we were fed exclusively fish food.
When the body detects a foreign element (such as inappropriate food), it attacks it – and the body fails to receive the nutrients it needs in order to function optimally. This, in turn, raises the risk of developing various life threatening infections – which means that the cows are regularly given antibiotics as a preventative care. Additionally, cows are given a synthetic hormone (rBGH) intended to stimulate milk production; this is a genetically modified, highly carcinogenic hormone.
Ready for a summarized description of what happens to cow’s milk after it has been extracted? First, it’s inserted into a machine that uses centrifugal force to remove all major fat lumps and other waste. Then, synthetic vitamins are added (the natural vitamins contained in milk are fat soluble, and would have been removed in the previous stage). Then, it’s time for pasteurization: Boiling the milk at a temperature of 167⁰ Fahrenheit (75⁰ Celsius) for 15 seconds, in an effort to kill harmful bacteria. A side effect of this step is that good bacteria and enzymes are also wiped out. Finally, the warm pasteurized milk undergoes homogenization, which entails being shot out of thin pipes at a very high pressure (3000 psi).
In order to break the remaining fat molecules and creates a homogenous liquid, the fat molecules have to undergo a chemical transformation that increases the risk of developing allergic reactions, and to cause oxidization of the milk’s cholesterol. The free radicals released during oxidization are what cause milk to be considered carcinogenic.
In the past, before becoming vegan, we enjoyed cheese. Once we stopped consuming dairy products, we searched far and wide to find suitable healthy substitutes, which would still taste good. Nowadays, stores offer many vegan cheeses, but the vast majority of them are processed and not recommended for regular consumption.
After that lengthy introduction, we’re ready to dive into the recipes at hand – for two almond-based vegan cheeses that’ll please your palate, without harming your health. In fact, almonds are one of the most protein, fiber and magnesium rich foods in the world (but don’t think the other ingredients are anything short of extraordinary). You should know that these recipes did not come easy: They were fine-tuned over months of trying out different recipes and recommendations.
Almond-Based Vegan Cheese Recipe
- 1 cup almond flour (or ground almonds)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of water
- A pinch of dill
- Mix all ingredients using a blender or a food processor.
- Place a drain inside a large bowl, and spread a cloth diaper over it.
- Pour the mixture into the diaper and close tightly with a rubber band.
- Refrigerate for approximately 12 hours.
- Open the diaper, remove the solidified mixture and place in an oven-safe dish.
- Bake cheese at a temperature of 350⁰ for about 30 minutes, or until top is crispy.
Cashew-Based Cream Cheese
- 3 cups of pre-soaked cashews (4 hours)
- ¼ cup apple vinegar
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp salt
- Mix all ingredients together using a blender or a food processor. NOTE: Since it’s a large quantity, it’s recommended to start by blending half of the cashews and then adding the rest gradually. This will ensure the longevity of your blender.
- If necessary, add water in small increments, until the desired creamy texture is reached.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours, and enjoy!