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DIY Startup Gives “Cheese Danish” a Whole New, and Vegan, Meaning

CheeseIt

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  • by Diana Potter

Not too many of us vegans have figured out how to make Cheese Danish we can eat, But delicious Danish-created cheese we can make ourselves and eat to our heart’s content? Now that’s news.

It’s the story of a team of four master’s-program students, at Technical University of Denmark, who in 2018 created their DIY vegan cheese product, called “Cheese It Yourself,” as part of their program goal of finding new ways to reduce food waste. The international team of Cheese It Yourself technologists includes Hernán Gómez and Carmen Masía from Spain and Joanna Anagnostara and Panagiota Dima from Greece.

Stop! Don’t drain off that chickpea brine!

Turns out that the aquafaba (great word, but it’s just chickpea brine) we usually drain away before making our canned chickpeas into hummus is chock-full of proteins and minerals. And, as the Cheese It Yourself team discovered, it can be mixed with the powder they make from cashews (you could add anything else you like), then cooked for five minutes and refrigerated to create vegan cheese that’s firm and sliceable as well as tasty and more nutritious than some vegan cheeses. It will last four to five days in the refrigerator.

In 2018 the team’s work was honored with First Prize at Green Challenge, a competition held at Danish Technical University, and a 3,000-euro prize at the international competition Ecotrophelia, held in Paris in October.

A four-part mission fulfilled

The DIY cheese powder is packaged in small, biodegradable sacks, fulfilling another part of the team’s four-part mission.

“We wanted a product that to the greatest extent possible aligned itself with the intentions of the UN’s sustainability goals,” Gómez relates. “This primarily means reduced food waste, but it doesn’t stop there. Since there is no water in the product, it also has a low weight, which in turn has a positive impact on transport and thus on climate footprint. We had four parameters to live up to: environment, food waste, nutrition, and price. And we’ve succeeded with all four aspects.” (Note: No expected price is provided in product press releases.)

Where can you get Cheese It Yourself?

It appears you can’t, at least right now. You’ll need to save that aquafaba for other uses for a while as the team completes work on their marketing plan. It may not be a long wait, though, since they’ve already received inquiries from restaurants and are actively seeking industrial partners to begin full-scale manufacturing.

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