Cheese is the first thing that many new vegans miss. Whether it's the crumbliness of a good mature cheddar, the creaminess of Philadelphia or the nuttiness of gouda, there's nothing quite like it – and camembert, with its strong, slightly sour taste and soft, dunkable texture, can be particularly hard to give up.
But now they won't have to, thanks to one 28-year-old French vegan entrepreneur who has launched her own dairy-free camembert. Anne Guth, who hails from the Lorraine region, owns Les Petits Veganne, a vegan cheese company offering a plethora of "vegetable specialities" for the country's many cheese lovers. (It can't be marketed as "cheese" because it's not made from animal milk.)
The vegan camembert is made by blending cashew nuts into a milk with salt and water, which is then combined with cultures and ferments, placed into a circular mould and left to mature for at least a month. The only difference between making dairy and vegan cheese is that there's no curdling involved in the latter.
It looks almost identical to the real thing, a feat that Guth revealed was tricky to achieve. "The most difficult thing was to create vegan ‘cheeses’ that appear visually beautiful," she told French news source Franceinfo.
But the reaction so far has been mixed. The world may be increasingly embracing vegan cheese – with even supermarkets and fast-food chains making it widely available – but non-vegans are generally still reluctant to embrace plant-based versions, which may at least partly explain some of the negative reviews.
During a blind taste-testing organised by Franceinfo, Parisian cheesemonger Clément Maudet described the texture as "strange". "It’s a little like a mousse. It’s a very mild product."
Others were more favourable, however, with one member of the public saying it was “not unpleasant” and another saying it was “surprisingly good”. There is clearly demand for it, too, even among a population famously obsessed with its dairy.
The vegan camembert is currently sold out on the company's website, even despite the sizeable €10.90 (£9.60) price tag, as are Les Petits Veganne's other "vegetable specialities": blue cheese (Le Bleu Lorrain), garlic soft cheese (Le Petit Frais à l'Ail) and a trendy-sounding turmeric creation.
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