What is Vegan Cheese?
For those trying to avoid consuming animal products such as dairy, vegan cheese may be an option. This can also be great for those having problems with lactose intolerance or a true milk protein allergy.
Ricki now has a new book: "Artisan Vegan Cheese" by Miyoko Schinner. That may be a true inspiration for some of our customers with dairy issues or those just trying to eat closer to the food chain.
How does this differ from “true" cheese?
A true cheese is made by consolidating milk proteins (casein) with calcium and a combination of enzymes (rennet). Then, developing acidity using a lactic culture which converts milk sugars (lactose) to lactic acid. The consolidated protein (curd) is then cut and heated to encourage moisture release, thus separating the solid from the liquid phase. The resulting cheese can undergo a modification of protein during aging resulting in the textures and flavors associated with a ripened cheese.
A definition of cheese from Codex Alimentarius, FAO/WHO - they have issued their Standard A6 as a definition for cheese products:
Cheese is the fresh or ripened solid or semi-solid product in which the whey protein/casein ratio does not exceed that of milk obtained:
(a) by coagulating (whole or partly) the following raw materials: milk, skimmed milk, partly skimmed milk, cream, whey cream, or buttermilk, through the action of rennet or other suitable coagulating agents, and by partly draining the whey resulting from such coagulation; or
(b) by processing techniques involving coagulation of milk and/or materials obtained from milk which give an end product which has similar physical, chemical and organoleptic characteristics as the product named under Classification of Cheese.
Vegan cheese is simply the consolidation of the protein mass from nuts, coconut, beans etc. A lactic bacteria may also be used to provide the acidity for this. For a firmer vegan cheese, emulsifiers, oils and thickeners must also be used. The consolidation is simply a matter of compaction of the proteins and unlike real cheese, there is no physical bonding of the proteins. Vegan cheese does not undergo the natural ripening which the proteins do in a real cheese, so it will not have the complex flavor profile of a true cheese that has been aged.