Rich and full flavored, this vegan version of Cheddar continues to age and improve in the refrigerator for weeks or even months. What distinguishes it from store-bought vegan Cheddar equivalents is that the sharpness is not feigned by adding acidic ingredients; it’s the result of an actual aging process. I often make this several weeks before I want to serve it because it just keeps getting better – deeper, sharper, and more complex in flavor. The only reason I’ve never aged it more than four months is because I haven’t been able to keep it around longer than that! Although it continues to thicken as it ages, the texture emains more like Cheddar cheese left out on a hot day. (In other words, it’s not quite as firm as dairy-based Cheddar). This is a good cheese to have on hand at all times because of its versatility. It’s great for adding to tacos and sandwiches, serving with crackers and making cheese sauces.
Ingredients for Sharp Cheddar:
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 to 8 hours and drained.
- 2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- ½ cup rejuvelac (preferably homemade, see recipe below)
- ½ cup canola oil (optional; see note)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons medium brown miso
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon carrageenan powder, or 2 tablespoons agar powder
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- Put the cashews, nutritional yeast, rejuvelac, optional oil, 1 tablespoon of the miso, and the salt in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades. Taste and add more miso if desired.
- Transfer the mixture to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 24 to 72 hours, depending on how sharp a flavor you want and the ambient temperature (fermentation will proceed more quickly at warmer temperatures).
- Transfer the cheese to a heavy medium saucepan and stir in the carrageenan and xanthan gum with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. The mixture will be very thick, grainy, and difficult to stir at first. Keep cooking and stirring until it is smooth and glossy and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 3 – 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a glass or metal mold and smooth the top. Let cool completely at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, until firm.STORAGE NOTES: Stored in a covered container, Sharp Cheddar will keep for about 4 months in the refrigerator or freezer.CROCK-STYLE CHEDDAR: For a softer, spreadable “crock-style” cheese, omit the carrageenan and xanthan gum. After step 2, cover and refrigerate. The cheese will thicken as it chills but won’t be firm enough for slicing.NOTE: The optional oil will improve the cheese’s ability to melt and give it a smoother mouthfeel. Omitting the oil won’t affect the flavor of the cheese, and it will still soften if heated. If you wish to heat the cheese, be aware that a skin will form on top, so it is best to spread the warm cheese with a knife.