Sunday, March 7, 2010

Failure Part 1: Cashew Cheese

Lest you devoted readers begin to think that my time in the kitchen and in the creative world of cookery is all sunflowers and rainbows, let me share with you a two-part story of failure (Part 2 to come tomorrow, so stay tuned).

The first part begins with an e-conversation I had with our friend Kroy, who had been living in India at this awesome sustainable community Sadhana Forest, where he'd participated in this vegan cooking workshop that he told me about. In the workshop, they'd made a cashew cheese, which he raved about. And so I thought I'd try it. The recipe was very straightforward:

Vegan Cashew Cheese spread
This recipe makes a healthy cholesterol free cheese which tastes amazingly like cheese. It needs to be made before hand as it takes 2 days to get the mature cheese.


½ cup wheat berries (whole wheat grains that have not been milled)
1 cup whole or broken raw cashews (or any other nut)
Salt, pepper and herbs to taste


Wash the wheat berries and soak them in a jar in 1 cup drinking water. Leave this jar open for 24 hours in a cupboard or keep it lightly covered. In case of very cold temperatures it could be left a little longer.

The water will turn a little yellowish or serum colored and will have a sweet fermented smell after 24 hours. (This is called Rejeuvelac and is supposed to be a very healthy drink, which you can make and drink everyday.) Pour this rejeuvelac into a glass. If desired another cup of water make be added to the wheat berries to produce more rejeuvelac after another 24 hours. It can be drunk or used to make still more cheese. After 2 such uses the wheat berries are usually thrown away.

Grind the raw cashews to form a powder (it does not need to be absolutely fine) and then put this into a jar, which has at least twice the volume of the cashews. Pour Rejeuvelac over the cashews so that they are covered with it. There may be some extra rejeuvelac, which can be drunk or thrown away. The whole mixture will now ferment and grow so if the jar is too small it can overflow. Do not cover the jar or cover lightly.

After about 6 – 8 hours the cheese is ready. Add salt, pepper and herbs or other seasonings. Serve.

So, I soaked the wheatberries:
Ground the cashews:
And combined the cashews and the wheatberry juice:
Although everything seemed to be in order, the cheese somehow never really set and so I ended up leaving it out a little longer before refrigerating it. After another day or so in the fridge, it began to have a ricotta-like consistency and definitely took on a flavor all its own. I thought I might have gotten it to work (!), but within an hour of that potentially-successful tasting, I tried it again only to find that it had totally soured. The whole thing tasting more like sour milk than cheese and it only increased in sour-ness over the next couple of hours. I was a little sad to have had my experiment fail, but I sucked it up, washed the cheese down the sink, threw the wheatberries in the compost bin, and went on my merry way.

What did I do wrong? Any ideas?

(And any ideas on what the second part of my failure might be?...)

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