Thursday, December 20, 2012

Garlic Extract

I get kind of crazy about high-quality hardneck garlic at the farmer's market. It has a strong, rich flavor, and a thick, oily texture that I find entirely different from normal garlic. Our local Whole Foods usually only has extra-gross garlic with that odd baloney smell old garlic often gets. To be able to taste quality garlic in the off season, I decided to start making my own garlic extract (which also makes cooking a lot more convenient).

First, while this picture isn't great, you can see the difference in how much garlic oil there is between the good garlic (at left) and the normal garlic (at right):

Garlic juice on knife

Anyway, to capture that goodness, just chop up a ton of good garlic, and let it soak in some decent vodka. No need for top-shelf, but please don't use gross super-cheap vodka which has off flavors. Svedka has the best quality: price ratio in my opinion, so it's what I used. Here's the vodka soaking up the garlic flavor:

Garlic vodka / extract

After it tastes sufficiently garlicky (I gave it 2 days in the fridge), strain through a cheesecloth. Now you can just add a splash of it to your stir fry, and it will taste like fresh garlic! Wayyy better that garlic powder.

Garlic vodka

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vegan Cheese (and wine) Party

When we saw the post about tofu misozuke on recipe renovator, we knew we had to try it. Then VegNews came out with a special issue about making aged vegan cheeses (using new recipes from Miyoko Schinner's new book: Artisan Vegan Cheese), so we figured it was time for a wine and vegan "cheese" party:
Wine & Vegan Cheese Party

Naturally, I wanted to collect data on how tasty and "cheesy" each of our creations were (and look for differences between vegans and non-vegans). Since that data was too interesting to skim over, I posted the full results with some intriguing charts and graphs over on my other blog (Science Jon). For this post, I'm just providing an overview of the homemade cheeses.

Tofu Misozuke
Tofu Misozuke (four flavors)
This was some interesting stuff. As detailed in recipe renovator, these take a while. We aged them for two months to get as creamy a texture as possible. We followed the precise directions for the nori, plain, and red pepper misozuke, but we really wanted to do garlic as well. Since garlic is supposed to be an antibiotic, we were worried it might interfere with the process, but it worked well. We added about 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 Tbsp garlic vodka / garlic extract (stay tuned for more info on this stuff) to the basic plain marinade. The clear favorite was the garlic, followed by pepper, followed by nori, with plain the least popular flavor. To me most of them had kind of an alcohol flavor which was off putting, and overall these were much less popular than the homemade aged cheeses (see below). But the texture was fantastic.

The next three cheeses were all made with cashews and rejuvelac from Miyoko Schinner's recipes.

Goat Cheese (Chรจvre) with Herbs de Provence
Vegan Goat Cheese w/ Herbes de Provence
This was the clear favorite at the party (although vegan lady herself hated it). On a scale from 1 to 9 it got a 7.9 on flavor (even with Sarah's rating of 2 included) and 7.4 / 9 on cheesiness. It took about four days total, and had a great creamy texture, with a nice mild flavor with just enough bite. The herbs were a great touch too. We did 48 hours of aging for the first step, then 48 more hours after all of the other ingredients were added. As a final note, our rejuvelac didn't arrive in time for this one, so we ended up using some vegan probiotic liquid / kefir instead for the first round(which had less of a cheesy flavor). We did add some rejuvelac when we added the final ingredients.

Sharp Cheddar
 Vegan Sharp Cheddar Spread
This was a close second for favorite cheese at the party, and definitely had the most authentic "cheesy" flavor I've ever had in vegan cheese (thanks to the secret ingredient, rejuvelac). I'm not clear why this never firmed up like it should, but it worked well as a spread too (not a "cheesy" texture, but great flavor). We did soak the cashews for almost two days rather than 3 hours since we wanted a smoother texture, so maybe they absorbed too much water? We went with the full 72 hours of aging to develop plenty of flavor, then another 24 hours in the fridge. The mean flavor rating was 7.7/9, and it got a 5.4/9 for cheesiness (mostly b/c of the texture).

Buffalo Mozzarella
 Vegan Buffalo Mozzarella
The nonvegans who knew what fresh mozzarella was like were especially impressed with the texture of this one. It doesn't taste like much (it's not really supposed to), and the texture was soft and creamy. I found it boring on crackers, but the leftovers did work well on vegan pepperoni pizza. It got 6 on flavor, and 5.7 on cheesiness. This recipe started with straining 2 cups of soy yogurt to yield a 1 cup of much thicker yogurt. But when we checked our cheesecloth-lined colander in the morning, none of the liquid has strained out. So instead,  we added an extra 1/2 Tbsp of tapioca flour and 1/4 tsp of agar powder to 1 cup of normal (non-drained) yogurt. Everything else went according to plan (we used 24 hours of aging).

We also sampled Daiya Cheddar wedge, Dr. Cow w/ Blue-Green Algae, Galaxy Cream Cheese, Tofutti Ricotta (we served it cold, but apparently when heated it melts and becomes way better), and Wayfare Hickory Cheddar. We also had Vegan Queso (from Food for Lovers), Sheese Cream Cheese, and Tofutti Cream Cheese, but since those three were unplanned they weren't on the data sheet and not many people submitted ratings for them.

Overall, we decided that the misozuke was too much work and not good enough to make again. If you think of it as a pate rather than a cheese it's better. The other three aged cheeses were all easy enough and tasty enough to make again, especially the cheddar and the goat cheese (although again, Sarah really didn't like the goat cheese). The commercial cheeses by comparison were pretty disappointing overall, but there was huge variety in which cheeses each person loved and hated.