In cheesemaking, moisture controls the texture, specifically the firmness in the end product. It’s no different here!
After the desired days of fermentation, outer layer will be crusty and hard, but the cheese under should still have the consistency of a thick spread. There are several ways of drying, or “aging” the cultured product to manipulate its texture, flavour, and shape. This is the crucial step in mimicking certain characteristics of some of your favorite dairy cheeses.
Shaping the cheese is the fun part! I like to portion the cheese directly onto sheets of parchment paper and use the paper as a guide to push and gather the contents into shape. Cheese logs and small cheese wheels are perfect for beginners. Wrap the cheese firmly, secure by tucking the edges in or wrap with twine and let it age inside your fridge (~4-6°C).
Around the 5 day mark in the fridge, the cashew cheese will develop a texture that resembles smoked gouda – sliceable yet moist in the center. After 3 weeks, it becomes a solid gratable log, even longer could achieve a parmesan style. The flavour intensifies and the acidity will mellow out over time – leaving you with a creamy, rounded flavour.
Introducing additional ingredients can help a vegan cheese hold its shape (like agar agar) or even stretch like a real mozzarella! Or introducing some next level mold? I get ahead of myself.
Just when you think you’ve got enough variations to play with, consider adding some of these ingredients to your cultured cheese.:
- Citrus zest
- Minced onions
- Dried fruit
- Miso paste
- Liquid smoke
- Tumeric (for color)
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Spices & herbs
Spices & herbs could be used to coat the outside after shaping or incorporated into the body. It’s always fun trying to recreate familiar flavour profiles, or try something adventurous and new – have fun with it!
I would love to dive deeper into hard cheeses in the near future, along with testing out other mediums and active starters. Sharing with you has inspired me to get culturing all over again!
**UPDATE Just tried making cashew cheese with leftover lacto pickle brine – game changer! Follow me on Instagram for the latest and greatest!