I'm so excited to share this recipe with you guys, I have been making this cheese since over a year and kept it to myself, until now.
I can't find words powerful enough to express how much I love this cheese. Honestly, I love it even more than my camembert and blue cheeses, even if they take more time and effort to make. There is just something about it, maybe the comforting smoky smell, the strong umami flavor, or its golden brown color, but this cheese just hit me. And I'm sure you will love it too if you give it a try.
It's the kind of cheese that brings back memories of smoked cheddar or even bacon. This smoked cheese is seriously delicious. The natural smoking process gives it a warm, comforting flavor you can't get with flavorings like liquid smoke or smoked salt for example. It is aged for a total of 3 weeks, smoked after two and edible one week after the smoking process. If you can wait for one-two additional weeks it will be worth it as the flavors gain in complexity as time passes.
The advantage of this recipe is that it doesn't require any specific mold. Just 4 ingredients: cashews, white miso, nutritional yeast and acidophilus (or mesophilic culture). You don't even have to take care of the temperature or humidity that much compared to my previous cheese recipes.
It starts just like any basic cashew cheese, you let the cashews soak overnight and then blend them with the cultures until smooth. I also added some nutritional yeast and white miso, it gives them a more pronounced nutty flavor. My first tries didn't include them and something was missing, so don't omit those two ingredients.
Once your cheeses are formed, you let them age for at least 2 weeks. They will firm up, flavors will develop and they will become sharper. After two weeks they should be firm enough to handle and smoke.
To smoke this cheese, I used a Camerons stovetop smoker, I was hesitating to buy one at first but I don't regret it at all because you can smoke many things in it. Stay tuned for a post on how to use a stovetop smoker!
The smoking process is super easy. You sprinkle a tablespoon of wood chips in the bottom of the smoker, add the grid and place the cheeses on top. Then close the lid and heat over medium heat for about 12 minutes. That's it.
After 10-12 minutes, they should be golden brown. At this step they will be very soft because of the heat, let them sit at least 30 minutes before transferring to a clean grid or bamboo mat.
They are not edible right after the smoking process, the smoky taste would be too strong, that's why you need to let them age for at least another 7 days. It will allow the smoke to penetrate the interior of the cheeses and let the flavors merge. I like to wait 2-3 weeks after smoking, they become firmer and taste even better.
You can serve it on its own, or with roasted nuts, a drizzle of maple syrup, jam or apple slices. It goes very well with whole wheat bread, crackers, and you can even use it in other recipes like burgers, sandwiches, dressing, and more!
Everyone who tried it loved it, non-vegans included so I urge you to try it now, you won't be disappointed! As always, let me know in the comments if you try this recipe!
Hickory Smoked Vegan Cheese
Making the cheeses
- Drain the soaked cashews and place them in a large glass bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour over the cashews. Let sit 1 minute, and drain. This step is not essential but will kill possible bad bacterias.
- Transfer the cashews to a blender, or food processor. Add the white miso, nutritional yeast, and filtered water. Blend on high speed, scraping down the sides from time to time, until you get a very smooth, yet thick texture. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until smooth. Do not add too much water, you want to use as least as possible otherwise the cheese will be too soft.
- Stir in the acidophilus powder from the capsules (or use mesophilic culture) and blend again for a few seconds.
- Transfer the cashew mixture into a cheesecloth and pull it tight. Add a weight above it and let sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. I placed the cheesecloth in a colander on top of a bowl. This step is important to start the fermentation of the cashew cream and drain possible excess water.
- After one day, the cashew cream should have a slightly sour, lemony taste, like fresh cream cheese. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic film to touch and place in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
- Cut strips of parchment paper and lay them in 3 4-inch springform pans. You want to cover the sides and bottom of the springform pans, you can also use plastic film if you prefer. The goal is to prevent the cheese from sticking to the metal. Fill the pans with the mixture and press it down using plastic film so it doesn’t stick to your hands. Cover the pans with plastic film to touch and place in the refrigerator for 2 days.
- Then, carefully remove the cheeses from the springform pans and place them on a plate or small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Salt both sides with about ¼ teaspoon of salt. Do the same for the sides. Use your finger to gently spread the salt on the surface of the cheese.
- Place the cheeses in your refrigerator.
- The next day, your cheeses will have lost some water thanks to the salt. Pat them dry with a paper towel if they are too wet, and replace the parchment paper with a new one.
- For the next 2 weeks, flip the cheeses every day and change the parchment paper regularly if it becomes wet. Note: Cheeses should always be aged in your refrigerator, not at room temperature. At first, the cheeses will be very soft but as they age they will become firmer. If you see some mold appearing, just scrape it off and re-salt the area.
- After two weeks, your cheeses should be firm enough to handle, if they are not I recommend you let them age another week.
- Place one tablespoon of hickory wood chips in the bottom of the stovetop smoker. Place the drip and cooking trays on top of the wood chips. You can now place two cheeses on the cooking rack.
- Heat the smoker over low-medium heat on a stovetop burner. Once smoke starts to appear, close the lid of the smoker completely and smoke the cheese for about 12 minutes. Some smoke will escape from the smoker, that's normal. I usually carefully flip the cheeses halfway through smoking but it's not essential.
- After 12 minutes, the cheeses should be golden brown. Remove the smoker from heat and let cool for at least 30 minutes. The cheeses will be very soft because of the heat, so be careful when handling them.
- Transfer to a bamboo mat or clean grid and place in the refrigerator. Let it age for one more week, flipping every 2-3 days. If you are patient enough, I recommend you let the cheeses age for 2-3 weeks after the smoking process, the flavors will merge and the cheese will become even firmer.
- This smoked cheese is delicious on its own, or with crackers, whole-wheat bread, a drizzle of maple syrup, jam, nuts, or fruits. It can also be used in other recipes like grilled cheese sandwiches, risotto, hamburgers, etc.
- To make this recipe, you will need a stovetop smoker. I recommend the Gourmet Mini from Camerons.