Overview of Type of Vegan Cheesemaking Techniques
Dairy-cheesemaking is pretty standardised with, as an overview, how it is developed. Any type involves the acidifying and creating curds either via an acid or using rennet.
Vegan-cheesemaking is a lawless industry where I personally don't agree with the many types of vegan "cheese" that can be considered as cheese. This opinion is based on how they have been developed and the results they provide.
Most of these variations in methods are based on how dairy proteins are compared to vegan alternatives, but also a greater understanding of what makes cheese, cheese.
This article is basically an overview of a few techniques of vegan "artisan" cheese.
The Pâté or Dip
Usually consists of a nut or seed base and is loaded with spices and nutritional yeast. Not considered a cheese as it doesn't contain any of the cheese qualities with texture, flavour and aromas.
Sometimes uses coconut oil and/or starch or a dehydrator to get a firmer texture but is not a fermented product.
The result is a tasty food item but isn't cheese.
The Quick Faux Cheese
A "quick cheese" usually has high water content and is "set" to be firmed up or harden without going through a proper ripening & maturing process. Despite some recipes using a bacteria of some kind (such as miso), it is not fermented to safeguard the base to allow for flavour development.
Uses either Agar or Kappa Carrageenan to gel together all the ingredients with liquid at a high temperature, and then set in the fridge.
Combines a load of spices and nutritional yeast to give a "cheese" flavour but usually taste like "quavers" rather than cheese.
This type also includes "cheeses" made with a plant-milk but is not fermented and then mixed in with a ton of gelling agents, flavours and starches.
The Semi-Quick Fermented Cheese
This can have the same problems of the cheese described above where it has a high water content with gelling agents to fake a harder texture.
However, it can also be hardened by using additional thickeners such as fat or starch, with the use of added-water content.
It is still considered a "quick-cheese" due to the use of a gelling agent or an emulsifier to bind oils to water and "faux" a certain texture.
The main difference from this type of cheese and the last type described above is this one is cultivated with a starter culture and ripened.
Depending on the other processes and ingredients, this can have cheese-like qualities however, the higher the water content and gelling agents, the less it feels like cheese in the mouth.
Less moisture added with a higher percentage of fat being present usually gives a better texture.
A zero-reliance on spices and nutritional yeast will provide a better flavour profile if the culturing process is done correctly.
Zero-added water with correct fermentation techniques would make ageing cheese of this style possible to develop more in-depth profiles.
The Cultured Paste with Dairy-Cheesemaking Affinage
A "base" of some sorts that is processed into a paste with little or no water. The paste is inoculated with a starter culture that is left to ferment. After fermentation, it used in conjunction with dairy-cheesemaking methods (everything after "cutting the curds" stage of dairy-cheesemaking).
Uses no flavours of any kind to create a faux cheese profile and uses the microbes and dairy-methods to do all the work.
The Cultured Plant-Milk Dairy-Cheesemaking Affinage
Plant-milk is inoculated with cultures to ripen. It is then heated and curdled with an acid. All the processes of dairy-cheesemaking are taken here with no added oils or starches.
Curds created by acid will have high moisture, will be small, and soft. A strong curd can only be created by a rennet that breaks and creates the right bonds on a protein & fat level. A vegan rennet of this calibre does not exist.
Curds created by acids are only used to create "fresh" soft cheeses as the high moisture means it will spoil within days. These are not suited for long-term ageing unless further processing can be taken to safeguard it.
What to Expect From Me
I don't create faux cheeses. In these articles; I will only be going over the theory and some techniques of the fermented cheeses.
For transparency, my Original Sharp, Wood Smoked & Trímma are "Semi-Quick Fermented Cheese" that can be aged correctly.
My Verdure-mead range are "Cultured Paste with Dairy-Cheesemaking Affinage" cheeses.