I’ve been fascinated by Miyoko Schinner’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese, since I came across it looking into this year’s Oakland Veg Week. (Her cheese making workshop sold out long before I was looking, but I was intrigued.)
The idea behind Artisan Vegan Cheese is to ferment various vegan foods, in a similar way to how milk products are fermented to produce cheese. This builds on cultured cashew cheese, which is popular in the raw food community, made by culturing pureed cashews with a probiotic.
An easy probiotic to make at home is rejuvelac. It’s used for many of the recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese, including the basic cashew cheese. You’ll note that it’s one of the starting nodes in the Vegan Cheese Dependency Graph, a visualization of which recipes in the book depend on which others (only covering the recipes I was most interested in):
Making rejuvelac is really easy. You sprout a grain, add water, wait a few days while it ferments, and strain the grain away. I’ve only made rejuvelac from quinoa, which is said to be the easiest grain to sprout. The grain must be a whole grain capable of sprouting, so avoid grains that are already sprouted. Many people have trouble with grains like rice, which are often irradiated, which prevents sprouting.
The following instructions are for quinoa. Other grains will take longer to sprout, but are similar. (See Sprout People for a recipe for making rejuvelac from rye.)
First, rinse and drain the quinoa, then soak it for 8 to 12 hours in plenty of water.
Then remove most of the water, leaving the quinoa moist, but not covered in water. Some recipes call for leaving the grains nearly dry. Cover the jars with something breathable, such as cheesecloth secured with rubber bands. A few times a day (for me, typically once in the morning and once in the evening), rinse the quinoa with water, then drain them. Do this until they sprout. In some cases this takes a few days, sometimes just 12 hours.
Note that quinoa has a ring shaped germ that starts to separate almost immediately once the quinoa is soaked. Don’t mistake these for sprouts! Feel free to sprout the quinoa for another day or two if you’re not sure if it has really sprouted.
Here’s my first batch near the end of the sprouting stage:
(This was my first batch. I’ve learned since to use a little less water in the sprouting stage, so that the grains are moist, but not submerged. I also used Miyoko’s full recipe, which I’ve halved every time I’ve made it since.)
Once you have sprouted quinoa, soak it in water, and leave it to ferment.
Leave the soaked sprouts at room temperature for a day or so (I’ve left it for a few days), somewhere without too much sunlight. I use the top of my fridge, since heat from the compressor makes that a warm spot, and the apartment is otherwise pretty cool.
When the rejuvelac is ready, the water will be cloudy and slightly carbonated, and it will have a pleasant smell. It’s usually described as having a slight lemony taste.
Strain away the quinoa, and the liquid is your rejuvelac!
Use it as a probiotic drink, or to make cashew cheese, or other fermented food!
People who are advised to avoid unpasteurized cheese due to bacterial infection concerns (eg. pregnant women, infants) should probably also avoid fermented foods like rejuvelac and unpasteurized vegan cheese, for the same reason. If in doubt, ask your doctor.
On forums discussing rejuvelac, a common question is “should the rejuvelac smell like stinky feet / rotten balls / death covered in poop?” The answer is: no!
If this happens, you’ve certainly cultured something, but probably not the targeted “good” bacteria. The potential health consequences of consuming it are unknown.
Rejuvelac takes very little work (even if it takes time and patience), so just try again with another batch. Be sure to use clean dishes for fermentation, and if you have persistent problems, try using purified or filtered water.