When Good Food Goes Bad, but That's Good
Maybe you, like me, are terrified of food spoilage and when I tell you how I make my fermented items you are going to scream and run for the hills. I totally understand, that was me until I got into it, and I still get freaked out from time to time and throw out a whole batch of something because it scares me. Fermentation is a traditional and time-honored method of preservation, but it also means intentionally leaving your food out to "age." Because I'm no expert, in fact, quite the novice, IMO, I strongly suggest you read up on it if you haven't tried it before and feel free to buy substitutes if you don't want to do home fermentation. If you are on Facebook, the group Wild Fermentation is a wealth of very skilled and experienced fermenters who can answer questions and give you suggestions on how to get your fermented goodies just right.
Fermentation is a metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases or alcohol. It occurs in yeast and bacteria.
There are many things that are fermented that you probably already love like wine, vinegar, kombucha, yogurt, cheese (many vegan cheeses are made with fermented nuts milks/purees), sauerkraut (while the shelf-stable sauerkraut that you get in jars or cans is made with vinegar brine, more and more stores offer wild fermented sauerkraut in the refrigerator section). and more!
Want to just buy some? Here are some brands of cultured nut cheeses to try:
The creamy base of these tacos is cultured cashew cheese.
Cultured Cashew Cheese
I want to reiterate here: ferment at your own risk! I am not an expert and this is just how I have made it several times and enjoy it. For more tried and true recipes from someone who IS an expert, I recommend the book Vegan Artisan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner which has lots of info and recipes on how to culture your own cheeses. You can also order Miyoko's cultured cheeses through her website or in some Whole Foods and health food stores (mostly in California).
Okay, so if you are still reading, I love your adventurous spirit, let's do this!
You'll need a high speed blender (or you can presoak your cashews overnight), a wide mouth mason jar with lid, and either a very thin kitchen napkin or paper towel. This needs to be made a couple days prior to eating.
1 cup raw cashews/cashew pieces (I like these in bulk for a good price)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
1/2 tsp pink salt
1 tsp fermented cashew cheese (If you can get some, this will make for a really good starter, so if you order some from Miyokos or find some in the store, just save a bit to get the process going. It works without, but it sure helps. Some recipes call for using a probiotic capsule to start it, so you can try that instead. I've even used a little liquid from live sauerkraut as a starter and it worked well.)
Blend all ingredients until silky smooth. Like this. It's actually really good right at this point for a mild cream cheese, but I like to get it a bit funky, so I top it with a piece of paper towel or thin kitchen towel and the ring for the lid and set in a darkish corner of my kitchen counter. In 12-24 hours, little bubbles become visible, and that means it's ready to transfer to the refrigerator. You can also go by taste, but make sure to use a clean spoon and no double dipping! You don't want to introduce your mouth bacteria or any from your hands into your mixture. When it's got a nice tangy flavor, it's ready to move to the refrigerator and put the flat part of the lid in place instead of the paper towel or it will dry out. It's best to leave it overnight to solidify (this is where the coconut oil does it's magic. It becomes thick and creamy like cream cheese and I like it in place of vegan mayo on veggie burgers, tacos, in sandwiches, or on toast topped with avocado. When it warms up, it will melt back into that thick oozy goodness like when you first poured it from the blender, so be aware it will be messy if you use a lot. I like a thin layer for a flavor punch.
This is good to sit for a bit.
After 24 hours: perfect!
Flavor add ins:
As always- have fun! Use your imagination and see how it turns out!
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