"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Steve's Evil Kitchen Presents the Vegan Apocalypse

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, and it's Friday the 13th, so why not?

The year I ate vegan included 51 weeks of "Why does vegan 'cheese' taste good for 5 seconds and then get progressively more disappointing?" The other week, I just wept. What I missed most was the really smelly French cheeses, the ones that can't be brought onto public transportation (it's a law in France - no Epoisses on buses!) and get pasteurized to blandness when imported. Then it occurred to me that all the rules/laws/traditions/regulations for making cheese don't apply to cheez.
Epoisses - the bacterial source

Later, it occurred to me that they're all designed to keep one from dying. That is a consideration.

What makes cheese stinky are bacteria. The ones I wanted thrive on air, moisture, salt, protein and cellar temperatures. I could grow the bacteria first - making the bacteriologist's pal LB media, substituting soy protein isolate for tryptonized beef by-product; it's made of protein, yeast extract (which is vaguely cheesy on its own), salt and water (and a drop of sodium hydroxide for pH balance). This would give years of bacterial cheese growth in a few days.

Most of the flavor and "stank" ends up in the water, unfortunately. It also made my basement unliveably smelly - well, more unliveably smelly than usual. Some of the components are fat-soluble, so I added coconut oil and kept it at a warm room temperature to keep it liquid.

The next step was to coagulate the protein. Tofu is made from calcium precipitation of soy milk and I wanted to up the calcium content of my product, so I added pickling lime (calcium hydroxide) to denature the proteins. Then, to coagulate the proteins, I added citric acid (I considered phosphoric, but that involved some tricky analytical chemistry problems and isn't readily available to home cooks) and cooled it rapidly. The proteins clump while the coconut oil hardens, forming a mass that floats on top of the liquid.

Straining out the water, I had a vaguely cheese-like substance. The calcium citrate crystals formed add to a smooth mouthfeel - a lesson learned from molecular gastronomy. I considered pressing out the excess liquid, but didn't want to lose the flavors trapped in water, so I set it out to dry. This led to a white mold natural rind.

It looks wrong (no photo, sorry), it smells like barnyards and feet and the taste ended up a bit sour from the citric acid. But it didn't kill me.

It did make me ill for a few days, though. Evil kitchens will do that.

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