Fermented Acorn Nut Cheese, Vegan Snack
Nut cheeses have become an extremely popular snack food within the vegan and vegetarian communities. They are packed with protein, lower in saturated fat and sodium, and of course dairy free. In a nutshell, they’re good for you!
Now what if we combine the goodness of nut cheese, with wild and fermented food? We get a super-food!
Fermentation enhances food preservation as well as boost the number of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in your gut. As a result, fermented foods provide many health benefits such as anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-atheroscleroticactivity.
Today we are going to make our fermented nut cheese using a delicious wild food that is often overlooked, Acorns. These tasty nuts that fall from oak trees make a delicious starchy flour (when cold leached). Naturally gluten free, this flour can be used in all your baking creations, including cheese.
To get started, you must forage for acorns, then follow the process of leaching them so they are safe to consume. Acorns contain high amount of tannins that must be removed, otherwise they are bitter and toxic to humans. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to safely process your acorns.
We are making a fermented cheese, therfore we need a culture starter to help activate the fermentation process. This is the most basic of all recipes, your typical sauerkraut, although we are more interested in the brine than the actual ingredients.
•1 small cabbage
•1 tablespoon salt
•1/2 cup water
Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, and cut into strips. Add the cabbage to a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Massage the cabbage forcefully, squeezing with both hands until it becomes watery. This usually takes anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes and then repeat.
Place your ingredients in a glass jar and use a spoon or cabbage pounder to pack the ingredients down to remove any air pockets. The jar should be around 75 percent full.
Next add your water and try to leave about an inch of headspace. Place your lid on and shake. At this point you have the option of burping the ingredients once a day by opening the lid, or you can choose to leave the lid slightly unscrewed to allow gasses to escape. This is more helpful for people that may forget. Leave on the counter at room temperature until you start to see signs of fermentation.
Once you see bubbles indicating that the fermentation is active, you can immediately start using the brine. This usually takes 1 to 3 days depending your geographical location.
Once active I usually end up using the brine quite quickly, but it can be placed in the refrigerator and it will stay good for a few months.
This basic starter can be used in all your fermentation projects.
I begin this recipe by using the freshly leeched acorns, meaning they are still soft from the leaching process, straight out of the water. I squeeze the meal or acorn pieces through a strainer, lined with a towel, twisting and squeezing it removing any excess liquid. Leftover acorn meal can be dehydrated into a flour for future use.
Fermented Acorn Nut Cheese
• 2 cups of leached acorns
• 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
• 4 to 5 tablespoons nutritionalyeast
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon of Maple,Walnut or Birch Syrup (source of food for lacto bacteria)
• 1/2 cup of culture starter
• Any spices or seeds you want to include in the main cheesemixture.
Start by blending your leached acorns with your culture starter in a blender. Once you’ve made a paste, add your preferred spices, mix well and transfer to a folded towel. Twist the towel tightly and lay in a bowl that is lined with paper towels. This is going to help remove any excess moisture.
Add your wrapped cheese to a bowl and place more paper towels on top. Set a weight on top or something heavy to help squeeze out the moisture. Make sure your cheese is protected from flies and insects. If it’s vulnerable you can place another bowl on top to cover it.
Let the paste ferment for 24 hours at room temperature. Afterwards, transfer your paste to a new bowl and place in the refrigerator to set. Meanwhile prepare your ingredients for the crust.Remove your paste from the refrigerator and using your hands, form the desired shapes of your cheese. I usually do the typical cheese balls or log.
Gently roll your finished cheese in your crusting ingredients and place on a cookie sheet or preferably a cooling rack. Set the rack in front of a small fan an allow it to dehydrate for 12 hours. You can also cold smoke your cheese for a richer flavor at this step.
Afterwards, place your cheese in the refrigerator and allow the aging process to continue. My preferred aging time is around six days, but everyone’s taste is different. Taste the flavor after a few days to find your perfect age time.
To decorate your cheese you can use a wide variety of wild and cultivated spices. Here are some great examples of different plants I use to decorate my cheese.
•Curly dock seeds
•Singing nettle, dried
•Wild mustard flowers (dried andground)
•Wild mustard seeds
•Chickweed (seeds and dried leaves)
•White sage, dried
•White clover, fresh
•Mullein flowers dried(powdered)
•Cedar/Juniper berries, driedand crushed
•Dead purple nettle, fresh
•Oak leaves, dried
•Yarrow leaves, fresh and dried
•Dried turkeytail mushroompowder
•Dried reishi mushroom powder
•Dried Spring flowers such asviolets and lilacs
Because this is a fermented food you must be careful of spoilage. Do not consume your cheese if there is any signs of mold or a bad smell. Use your common sense discretion. If you are foraging for wild ingredients make sure you are 100% positive of identification before consuming. View our disclaimer here.
Acorn nut cheese is also delicious when used as a sandwich spread, topping for toast, crostini and spread on bagels. It also compliments any salad.
I have found making this cheese is one of my favorite ways to incorporate my love of wild and fermented foods. It’s delicious, healthy and super sustainable! This wild food delicacy is certainly something that will impress your friends at that next dinner party!