Mates, I think I’ve discovered a secret to really good vegan cheese. My hunch is yet untested, but I think I’m onto something BIG! Let me explain…
I bought some Marmite today. I’d never tried it before, so I said “What the heck!” and grabbed a jar while shopping at my local food Co-op.
Ingredients: Yeast Extract, Salt, Carrot & Onion Extract, Spice Extracts, enriched with B Vitamins – Niacin (B3), Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), and Cyanocobalamin (B12).
Before trying Marmite for the first time, the only thing I knew about it is that it’s very salty. Just like umeboshi paste…a little goes a long way. The jar states “Delicious when spread thinly on toast or for a treat try Marmite on a crispbread with cottage cheese.”
I put some on a piece of toast. Hmm…Salty, yes. It’s hard to describe, but I would use the words salty, smoky, and bitter. It was okaaay…not repulsive (the Marmite website says you’re either a lover or a hater), but I felt it just needed something else in order to satisfy me. (I think it could grow on me, though…)
Of course, I didn’t have cottage cheese in my fridge, but I did have some vegan cheese. Last week I made homemade vegan Muenster cheese, from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (page 164), by Jo Stepaniak.
Marmite + Vegan Muenster on toast = Ding, ding, ding! (Wedding bells!)
Marmite by itself..it’s okay.
Vegan Muenster by itself…it’s quite good.
Marmite and Muenster…better together!
The Marmite gave the Muenster that little somethin’ somethin.’ It amped up the flavor; it gave it depth and richness.
That little “somethin’ somethin” has a name: Umami. It’s that little-known fifth taste sense. It’s not just salty. It’s not just bitter. It’s savory but obscure. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know it when you taste it. Ooo-mommy!
Apparently, it’s the glutamic acid in the Marmite that imparts the umami sense. Glutamic acid is associated with fermented or aged foods of plant and animal origin…aged meats, fish, soy sauce, certain vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes & others), and aged cheeses.
So here’s what I’ve concluded:
Animal-based cheeses have a distinct sharpness of flavor. It can be difficult to find this robust flavor burst in a plant-based cheese. (Difficult, but not impossible!)
So, if glutamic acids contribute greatly to the pungent taste AND if Marmite adds that umami quality, then it only makes logical sense to add a little bit of Marmite to vegan cheese recipes.
I’m going to try that.
So…Whereas, the recipe for Muenster Uncheese calls for:
Paprika, water, agar flakes, tofu, cashews or Brazil nuts, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, tahini, onion powder, salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, and ground caraway or coriander
…I’m thinking it would be wise to add a drib or a drab of Marmite, too. Just a wee. What do you think?
(Paprika makes Muenster Uncheese pretty and smoky)
(For more on using umami in the vegan cooking arsenal, read this blog article by Ginny Messina, the Vegan R.D.)