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I am doing my first experiments with vegan cheese, prepared by myself. In 2 out of the 3 tests I'm trying to use bacteria from a real cheese.

It's a French cheese, but an industrial one, whose taste is really mild, and usually it can keep in the fridge for a long time without having too strange an appearance. I was really fond of it when I was not becoming vegan.

Its crust is a soft white velvet similar to what you can find on Coulomier or Brie, or Camembert when it is really young.

In two of my experiments, I have cut just tiny bits of the crust and added at the mixer stage. They are currently fermenting. I don't know if the fermentation will behave well.

But my main concern is about other bacteria. Is it safe to use bacteria that can be contaminated with others traditionally eating cow milk grease, and use them to inoculate seed oil/cream? And what if a bit of the cow milk grease was taken with the crust? I am almost sure there was a bit of that.

For the 3 tests I use a base of:

  • Cashew + sunflower + squash seeds (all soaked for one day)
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 tea spoon of malt year
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • a few centiliters of boiled agar-agar

And in 2 of them (more or less diluted with agar agar water) I have added tiny pieces of cheese crust.

If a white velvet crust develops as on the dairy cheese, I'll use left-over from this to inoculate other vegan cheese preparation. So I will use the milk based bacteria only the first time.

But my fear is about this first transfer:

Could there be salmonella or other pathogens from the milk-based cheese that could contaminate my vegan preparation?

Is it really risky? Should I search for another source of bacteria and which ones? Would that be safer?

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    I can't answer as to whether this is safe, but you can inoculate your mixture using non-dairy yogurt or rejuvelac. – Zanna Sep 29 '19 at 15:47
  • Why not just use a store-bought culture instead? – nadavvadan Sep 29 '19 at 20:17
  • @nadavvadan what are you refering to ? – Stephane Rolland Sep 29 '19 at 20:47
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    You can buy the cultures themselves in specialty shops and online retailers. Just look up “Brie culture” (for example). As for your question - I have no idea, which is why I’m commenting rather than posting an answer :) – nadavvadan Sep 30 '19 at 18:52
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Definitely not a good idea. The industrial cheese that you bought is likely pasteurized. Therefore, the fungi and bacteria that thrive in your experiment come from other sources, not the ones used to create the cheese.

Cheese is not made using just milk and a culture that you could also use to ferment something else. A key part of the traditional cheesemaking process involves the use of rennet, a complex set of enzymes extracted from the stomachs of ruminant mammals. Rennet is what that curdles the casein in milk, not bacteria.

I suggest that you try to find known-to-work recipes for vegan cheese as a starting point for further experiments.

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I will advise not to do it, over the months a typical cheese gets "mature" there is a lot of changes in the microbiological content. There is even fungi that appears at the surface, or even inside (like in blue cheese), that help build the flavours. The milk by itsef has inherent bacteria if not pasteurized, and typically, depend on the cheese, a certain culture is added to start the batch (eg L.B Helveticus for hard cheese or LC Lactis Cremoris for soft cheeses). But what you had in day 0 may not be what you find 6th months or more later, or it may not be suitable to start a safe new batch. I use fenugreek rejuvelac instead (best for this IMO).

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange! We prefer slightly more detailed answers here. Could you edit your post to explain why it's not a good idea? What is the advantage of using fenugreek rejuvelac? – Nic Mar 21 at 14:20

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