Customer Review

162 of 182 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like this but not sure about carrageenan..., October 26, 2012
This review is from: Artisan Vegan Cheese (Paperback)
Let me begin by saying that I LOVE the concept of this book. I am tired of typical vegan cheese recipes out there and these are by no means typical, nor do they yield typical results. I tried 3 of the recipes and was happy with them, despite a few flaws. I am most concerned about the use of carrageenan in some of these recipes. I am no health expert but everything I am reading advises against consuming any products (like non-dairy milks) that use it as a thickener. If that is the case, why would I want to use it at home in my own foods?

I started by making the Rejuvelac, which is easy as pie to make (I still have plenty left in my fridge). From there I used it to make the Fresh Mozzarella, which I prepared step by step from the book, using agar flakes since I could not get a hold of powder. Well, while the taste is almost identical to real mozzarella, my cheese never became goey or sliceable like it was supposed to. I am assuming this happened because I used the flakes instead of the powder and if that was the case, why recommend that either one can be used in the recipes? I boiled the agar per the instructions but it failed to create a slice-able cheese for me.

My second attempt was the meltable mozzarella. These balls formed just fine but I can't say that I was a fan of the taste. I also expected my pizza to look like that in the pictures of the book but the cheese didn't look anything like it. It was okay but I don't think I would make it again. I have a feeling though, that the taste will change according to the yogurt that is used. I used a sprouted soy yogurt, not a homemade one. Perhaps I could try again with a different brand of yogurt? I'd love to hear what others have to say.

Lastly, I made the air dried Cheddar Cheese. Again, I followed the steps but missed one- instead of allowing it to cool to room temperature, my cheese went from warm to the fridge. I am guessing this is why it is not sliceable by any means. It tastes delicious, I might add, but I am only able to spread it on crackers or what-have-you. Still, I would definitely make this one again or perhaps a different type of air dried cheese.

My main issue with this book is the use of carrageenan. I contacted the author with my concerns and she assured me that the studies that talk about the health hazards of carrageenan (a known carcinogen which can cause inflammation and other digestive disorders like colitis) were based on the non-food grade form of carrageenan. I am having a hard time believing this as I do my research. First of all, the author states that carrageenan is Irish Moss but I beg to differ. Yes, Irish Moss is a red algae (Chondrus crispus) that contains a polysaccharides called carrageenan. But the Kappa Carrageenan which is recommended comes from a different variety of algae. I would love to be corrected on this as I am not a scientist by any means, but it just seems that there is a big difference between using Irish Moss (which can be found in a health food store) and powdered carrageenan which is a by product (highly processed) of red algae. Just last week Yahoo had an article stating that carrageenan is one of the top 10 "Scariest Food Additives". Surely they weren't referring to the non-food grade form of it as they mentioned its use in various snack foods. From my experience, I have seen it mostly in almond milks and the like.

I am not trying to insult the author here or show any disrespect. I am honestly concerned and confused about the whole matter and hoping someone knows more than I do. I still love this book and am going to continue experimenting with the recipes. Hopefully I will have success next time in making my cheese slice-able. Let me also say that carrageenan is NOT used in every recipe so others who may want to avoid it will have plenty of recipes to choose from.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 44 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 29, 2012 3:00:15 PM PDT
Dear Karmalife,

I am sorry your Mozzarella never became sliceable, but unfortunately, working with agar in this context has a learning curve. I have taught thousands of students, and my experience is that many people have trouble working with agar to some extent. The cheese does indeed become sliceable (see photos in the book) if made correctly, either with the powder or the flakes (but the powder is easier to make). The single most important thing people have to remember is that agar really has to be boiled or simmered for awhile to be completely dissolved and activated. All too often I see people just cooking it briefly, and then it doesn't set.

Regarding carrageenan. I do believe that you can find anything on the internet that villifies almost anything. I think it is strange to blame small amounts of carrageenan when studies are at best inconclusive, and when meat, dairy, sugar, processed food, and excess fats do a lot more to damage one's health. If you believe the studies of a single individual (yes, there has been one person spearheading these negative studies), then substitute agar for carrageenan in my recipes. or you can use powdered Irish Moss (but I repeat, and see below, that carrageenan is simply processed Irish Moss). But take care to avoid many foods except homemade, because almost everything from soy and almond milk, to non-dairy yogurts and so many other "organic" foods contain it.

All the carrageenans (kappa, iota, lambda) are from slightly different species of red algae. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, kappa carrageenan can be extracted from either Irish Moss (chondrus crispus) or another red algae.
it is processed in the following way:
"Carrageenan is extracted from this seaweed in two ways. In native extraction, the seaweed is made into an aqueous solution, and the residue is filtered, leaving nearly pure carrageenan. The alkaline-modified method is less expensive and easier. The seaweed is mixed in an alkali solution, leaving a mixture of carrageenan and cellulose that can be sold as semirefined carrageenan."

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2012 5:48:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 29, 2012 5:49:24 PM PDT
Karmalife says:
Ms. Schinner- I truly appreciate your reply to my review. I will definitely be attempting the Mozzarella balls again and hopefully this time I will have better luck with the agar. I had a timer on it last time for 5 minutes but perhaps I need to cook it longer.

Thank you for your input regarding carrageenan. Even though neither the soy milk nor soy yogurt I consume contains it, I know it is in a lot brands out there. Luckily, I do mostly cook from scratch so it's pretty easy to avoid it, if indeed I do find that to be the best option for my family.

It is very hard to trust the internet and you are right- anything can be vilified (like the whole soy debate). I don't know enough about who started the propaganda but I will be researching it now that I know it may be based on one single person. Again, thanks for sharing that with me. I spend a lot of time online and especially on a forum full of "health conscious" people and all I keep reading about is the dangers of carrageenan and the ailments it can cause. I should have trusted my own self that knows that you cannot believe everything you read.

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 5:16:41 AM PST
Yes, the dreaded carrageenan, which is used in almost all "alt" milks. I read that it's that alkalizing processing of the algae that one should worry about. What to do, what to do? I wonder if kudzu root powder could step in for carrageenan. I would love to know, as I would use it despite its high price tag.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2012 8:11:03 PM PST
Kittee Bee says:
Why not just use agar powder? I've used it in many of the cheeses and it works great, especially since the author gives instructions and amounts in most if not all of the recipes.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 5:21:02 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 13, 2012 5:21:20 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 5:54:12 AM PST
Karmalife says:
Not all of the recipes call for "either/or" with the 2 powders. The meltable mozzarella, for example, which is the 2nd recipe I tried requires carrageenan.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 6:31:33 AM PST
It's too bad we can't have a community test kitchen for all of these. I don't even have the book yet, but I'm would like to own it. I think the question is what will act like carrageenan. It's used in ice cream, but probably most in alt milks to make them less watery. Carrageenan's processing with alkali is what's bad, and the research I've done suggests that it coats the lining of one's stomach, so it prevents the absorption and digestion of whatever you're consuming. Aww...such a dilemma.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 13, 2012 8:46:57 AM PST
Karmalife says:
I suppose you can just stick with the recipes that don't call for it. There are so many, and even ones where you can use agar instead. It's still a great book!

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 6:07:45 PM PST
if a legal food grade product actually did block food as you described, "coats the lining of one's stomach, so it prevents the absorption and digestion of whatever you're consuming" it would be widely proclaimed as THE weight loss miracle product.
it reminds me of the claim that microwave ovens totally destroy food's nutritional value; if that were true, the geeks i knew in college in the 70's who lived off of microwave burritos at the caltech computer center would have all died of malnutrition, and there would be no internet ;)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2012 1:07:37 AM PST
good one.
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