Making vegan cheese with Good Food by Sumear
We’ve been spending some time getting to know our traders a little better. This week the spotlight is on Sumear from Good Food by Sumear and his gourmet vegan cheese. It’s proving to be a hit at all of our vegan fairs so far this year!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Sumear, and I am a new vegan. I create real, authentic vegan cheese by using traditional methods and my experience as an ex-dairy cheesemaker.
Initially having a background in web development and marketing, I ended up walking away from my technology-heavy world for a simple and mindful life.
Food has been this "battle" in my life for the last four years for better and worse. What started as becoming healthier and losing weight, ended up as an eating disorder, and then to fix it all by using food. In between the madness, I found a joy in cooking and experimenting with food where plant-based ingredients unintentionally took centre stage. Dairy cheese was a big part of my diet for several reasons, however. I was kinda obsessed. Always conscious about what went into my body, I ended up making my own dairy cheese for the better part of a year. By reading, learning and experience, I took onboard what makes cheese, cheese. One thing led to another, and I was in the markets selling my own dairy cheese.
Still dealing with the eating disorder and failing to get better, I needed to make a change. To better my well-being, I adopted the vegan lifestyle for my mind and health at the forefront while slowly being more conscious about the environment and animals.
Still obsessed with cheese and despising the vegan alternatives available, I researched and experimented with my own creations till I eventually cracked it by treating vegan cheese exactly like dairy. I ultimately made the switch in the business and in my personal life. I have been vegan since August 2018 and not looked back since.
How long have you been running your vegan business?
I was initially a non-vegan business as a web developer and marketer before going onto making dairy cheese. The switch to an entirely vegan business was in August 2018. Feels longer but it shows how much progress I have made in the short space of time using all the skills and experience I picked up on previously.
How have you found the support from the vegan community? And non-vegan community?
The support from the vegan community has been great, traders and customers alike. From a business perspective, vegans love to share everything about vegan foods and products.
Though, vegan cheese was quite a hard sell initially as there is a fair bit of rubbish out there. However, those that tried my versions and loved it helped me spread the word. It has been great that vegans are sharing their love of my cheese within the community, especially in vegan Facebook groups and Instagram.
I have seen a split response with the non-vegan community. I get the odd snide comment, or those telling me it’s not cheese, even though I probably know more about dairy then they do. Funnily enough, a few dairy cheesemakers that I have crossed paths with have given me positive feedback, one could not even tell the difference. Non-vegans who tried it and loved it ended up buying it just to enjoy it. Some have even bought entire wheels of cheese which has helped push my brand as well as convince the fence sitters that being vegan and having cheese is possible.
What's been your biggest challenge so far?
The biggest hurdle is trying to make a cheese that has the texture and taste of my Original Cheddar but melts really easy. I have been running experiments for months, but I am pretty close to giving up haha!
Also trying to get my products out to the broader area of the Southwest has been a struggle due to expensive costs of carriers.
What inspired you to start up your business?
Would of never have thought I would be in the food industry. The transition to the trade was a messy one, yet it has been for the better where I aspired to live a more simplistic and fulfilling life. At heart, I enjoyed the sense of being valued and feeding people good food essentially fuels desire.
I have the utmost respect and admiration of my fellow traders before I started the business. Whether it was the hummus guys at Moist or my favourite chocolatier, Cacoa Corner. It takes such commitment and skill to produce artisan level products that even I took for granted once before. All of them are my muses.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
Really, this is a tough question. It's a split between making my first £100 at a market and perfecting the Original-flavoured cheddar.
Though, building all the new relationships with fellow traders and customers have been quite a feat considering I use to be the shy-guy.
Still having issues with food & my health, I have made improvements which I think is a significant achievement.
What's your favourite vegan cheese creation?
That would be Original-Flavoured Cheddar. No, wait, the Peppercorn Cheddar. No! The Wood Smoked Cheddar! I cannot decide!
Does it take a long time to make?
The processes I undertake are quite lengthy. Using my experience as an ex-dairy cheesemaker, I follow traditional principles, methods and also create my own cultures to develop flavours naturally.
Excluding the process of making the cultures, a wheel of cheddar can take a minimum of 20 days to produce. This is by first creating a fermented nut/seed soft cheese, and then turning it into a wheel for maturing.
After the minimum 20 days, the cheese can be left to mature longer for developed flavour notes. The oldest cheese I have sold was a 3-4 month aged cheddar which had flavours of a floral, nutty kind with hits of a stilton vibe.
Can people make vegan cheese at home, and what top tip would you give to people trying?
Cultures, fermenting, nuts, salt and time. Youtube offers many ways to create vegan cheese however keep the below in mind.
I find the best cheese is made using cultures and fermenting your base. The most common source of cultures off-the-shelf is probiotic capsules.
The best nut to turn into cheese are cashews as they are relatively neutral in flavour, contains natural sugars to progress the fermentation stage and creams in a food processor smoothly.
Adding salt is very important. Using iodine-free salt will create the cheesy flavours we expect. More importantly, it acts as a natural preserve to inhibit any unwanted growth.
Time and patience will help develop strong and complex flavours.
Though I don't want to give my secrets away, feel free to get in touch with me if you need some help.