Just for Vegan Mofo, I’m going to discuss a hot topic, and something I had not heard of until recently; rejuvelac. I will discuss here why to make rejuvelac, how it can go horribly wrong, and the various paraphernalia one obsessive person can end up buying in the quest for cultured vegan cheese. I recently bought the new vegan cookbook Artisan Vegan Cheese by Myoko Schinner. I have not been this excited about a vegan cookbook in over a year. It seems cheese is the stumbling block and reason why many vegetarians don’t just go vegan already. Not so surprising when you consider the natural pregnancy hormones present in any dairy product. These powerful hormones are there to draw the calf back to the teat, and they are natural, not added. Any cow giving milk is impregnated over and over for her whole life until slaughter, because unless a cow is lactating and giving birth, she cannot give milk. So, these natural opiates in cheese and dairy are no joke; the dairy addiction is not all mental. I recently posted the most delicious non-cultured Almond Feta, and it’s a total classic in my opinion. However, it’s not cultured like dairy cheese or yogurts are. What sets Myoko’s cheeses apart is the culturing, which is done by the use of natural probiotics, which is exactly what rejuvelac is. You soak grains, then rinse them twice a day until they sprout, which takes about 24 hours. Then you put water over them, and just let them sit with air circulation until the natural fermentation of these grains creates a probiotic situation in the water. If you don’t know what probiotics are, it’s good bacteria, the kind that helps humans digest food, etc. There are entire books written on this stuff, trust me. Anyway, so in my little town on the sleepy Eastern Shore of Maryland, I went in search of the requisite wheat berries to ferment my very first batch of rejuvelac. Myoko’s instructions are very simple, and as it turns out, a tiny bit too simple. You see, I could only find wheat berries in the bulk section of our little health food store, and my rejuvelac ended up stinking to high heaven, and I mean it literally reeked of totally rotten cheese or something, or rancid vomit. Horrified, I dumped it out and started over. Same thing. Rejuvelac is super simple to make, despite tricky-looking instructions on some sites. So, I went to my Internet guru–You Tube. And found some great videos there, like this one, and this one, and this one. Once I watched these videos, I realized I should be using something called Soft White Wheat Berries (not mentioned in Myoko’s rejuvelac recipe). Also, my local health food store bulk section probably does not get the turnover it should, and my original regular brown wheat berries were probably stale. It was also helpful to see the rinsing and draining process, which was different from what was explained in the book (in the videos, the jars were tilted to really drain well to avoid mold). I only had about 15 minutes of actual hands-on effort in each rejuvelac batch, but rejuvelac takes a few days to develop, so I lost some time there. For my first two batches, I was covering the jars with cheesecloth, which did shed some little cotton fibers into the rejuvelac also. So, I went to the online site Sprout People and ordered some nifty Screen Lids for the jars. I thought about making my own screen lids, but read that the metal jar rings do rust. After watching several amazing documentaries, such as The Vanishing of The Bees, and Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution, and King Corn, I absolutely knew I should be using organic wheat berries. So, I found Purcell Mountain Farms and ordered Organic Soft White Wheat Berries, and just for the hell of it, Organic Rye Berries, since the food buzz on You Tube is that the rye rejuvelac tastes the best. I ordered a pound of each, plenty to launch my experiments. Then there are other interesting things to order, such as Carrageenan from Modernist Pantry. Be aware that one should order Kappa Carrageenan, (not Iota). This fact was also not explained until I looked in the very back of the cookbook, but luckily, I had heard on You Tube that I should order the Kappa variety. I might have also gotten my Agar Powder from Modernist Pantry, but I can’t recall. I was able to get Xanthan gum and miso paste at my local hfs. Other items I purchased in this relentless pursuit are Tapioca Flour, non-dairy yogurt, refined organic coconut oil, etc. Phew, I think I am done. Luckily, rejuvelac keeps in the fridge for weeks, so now I am set to begin. The good news is that there are recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese that are “Almost-Instant,” and all the recipes look easy, but you need various ingredients. You can find some of these recipes in the October 2012 issue of VegNews (The Cheese Issue), and some articles on sites like Vegansaurus, and additional notes on one of Myoko’s web sites. So, my final batch of rejuvelac came out perfect, and it does NOT smell bad. It smells of grains and water, and it tastes mild, with only a faint taste of lemon, like you have to think about it to associate lemon with it. And I let this third batch sit for three full days (a day longer than the two bad batches), so I know I gave it enough time and it still did not go bad. So, the talk about it tasting like lemonade eludes me. Wish me luck and stay tuned for the results this month. After all this, I’m still totally fascinated.