Dairy-free cheese can be both delicious and nutritious. Raw nuts such as almonds are highly nutritious and they make a creamy, neutrally flavored cheese that's easy to customize with seasonings and herbs to suit your taste preferences. After making the almond cheese, use it as-is for a creamy, spreadable cheese or bake it at the lowest setting on your oven to give it a crumbly feta-like consistency.
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In addition to measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl and a lidded glass container, it's essential to have a food processor or a blender to process the raw nuts into the creamy base for the cheese. Other helpful items to have on hand include cheesecloth, a colander or strainer, and something heavy such as a heavy plate topped with canned goods or a large bowl filled with water, to press the cheese.
To make a basic almond cheese you need raw almonds, water and probiotic powder taken from capsules. Plan on roughly 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of probiotic powder and 1/2 to 1 cup of water for every 2 cups of raw almonds that you use. The probiotic powder cultures the cheese, giving it a tangy flavor. Other optional flavoring ingredients include nutritional yeast, salt, freshly squeezed citrus juice, garlic and fresh or dried herbs or other seasonings.
Soaking Raw Almonds
Soaking is an important preparatory step to remove enzyme inhibitors that naturally occur in raw nuts. This makes the nuts easier to digest while also softening them in preparation for processing into a smooth, creamy cheese. The day before you plan to make the almond cheese, add raw almonds and purified or filtered water to a glass bowl, using a ratio of 1 part almonds to 4 parts water. Cover the almonds with a dishtowel and let them soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse the soaked almonds before making cheese.
Making Almond Cheese
Peel the skins off soaked raw nuts for lighter-colored cheese. Add soaked nuts, water and lemon juice to your blender or food processor. Process the mixture until it's creamy, adding more water if needed. Add the probiotic powder, mix lightly and pour the almond mixture into a lidded container. Let the mixture sit for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature. Add the mixture to a piece of cheesecloth and bring the sides together, twisting the cloth closed and securing it with a rubber band before placing it in a colander set on a plate. Add a weight on top and place it in a warm spot for eight to 12 hours, or in the refrigerator for approximately 12 hours. Refrigerating the mixture will give you a milder, less tangy flavor.