Cheese Versus Cheeze – What is Plant-Based Cheese Anyway?

by: EJ on 06/19/2017

The Art of Plant-Based Cheese: How to Craft Real, Cultured, Non-Dairy Cheese by Karen McAthy is the second book in our Urban Homesteader Hacks series.  Karen, chef and founder of Blue Heron Creamery, says "Like all forms of fermentation and culturing, cheesemaking evolved as a means of preserving food for the long months after the harvest when food was sparse. Now, along with many fermented and cultured food practices, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, beer, and wine, cheesemaking has become one of a growing number of do-it-yourself pursuits of ardent foodies... [The] claim that [plant-based cheese] recipes constitute some form of cheese is indeed controversial."  In the following excerpt from Chapter One, "Core Elements of Plant-Based Cheesemaking," Karen explains her understanding of "cheese".


Terminology: “Cheese” Versus “Cheeze”

For the purposes of understanding how I understand “cheese,” and how I set about defining it, I will employ an informal set of categories. Dairy cheesemaking has its own nomenclature and classification system largely defined by the process and culture used to make the cheese. Surface ripened, washed rind, cave aged, cheddar, etcetera are all processes. Camembert, roqueforti, are cultures. Soft, semi-soft, and hard cheeses all have specific characteristics, which are applied to identify cheese styles. In many cases, multiple categories apply to one kind of cheese.

Currently there is no official or formal classification system or common nomenclature for identifying plant-based cheeses, either by style or method. For the purposes of guiding you through this book I will use an informal classification system organized first according to whether the cheese is cultured or not, and second according to either texture or process.

The basic categories I will explore are non-cultured “cheezes,”and cultured and aged cheeses. Using the word cheeze will mean that I am referring to recipes that do not use cultures or aging processes. The use of the traditional term cheese will imply that recipes with that term are cultured, aged or otherwise mirror some elements of traditional cheesemaking. The cultured and aged cheeses will range from simple fresh cheeses to more advanced cheeses and processes that bring us closer to bridging the gap between dairy and plant-based cheesemaking. These definitions are my own and are not ubiquitous across plant-based cheesemakers.

You can buy Karen McAthy's book from our website here The Art of Plant-Based Cheese: How to Craft Real, Cultured, Non-Dairy Cheese.

If you live outside of North America, please purchase the ebook from our website, request the book at your local bookstore, or order from online retailers that are available in your country.

The Art of Plant-Based Cheesemaking


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