Robin crafts vegan brie and other cheese from plants

By Cheryl Petersen
An alchemist by trade, Lori Robin’s love of cheese has turned into the business of transforming plants into brie. The soft, mild, creamy cheese is made from scratch in Robin’s studio in Fleischmanns.
“I took on the challenge of creating a non-dairy and lactose-free cheese and made it fun,” said Robin.
Her achievement required serious study and experimentation for over a year. “I utilized my background in safeguarding antiquated items,” said Robin. “My career involved conservation and restoration of everything from old recipes to gilding, or laying gold for ornamentation.”
Lori Robin lived in Britain for 28 years. “I also lived in France and Italy for shorter periods of time,” said Robin, who tasted many bona fide cheeses while refurbishing the past to present day.
Lori Robin cuts a piece of nondairy, lactose free, brie cheese for Alla Gordina on Saturday at the Cheese Barrel in Margaretville. — Photo by Cheryl PetersenLori Robin cuts a piece of nondairy, lactose free, brie cheese for Alla Gordina on Saturday at the Cheese Barrel in Margaretville. — Photo by Cheryl Petersen
Learned a lot
“I came across old recipes for cheese in my work, and learned about the many processes of making cheese that people have used for centuries,” said Lori.
The root of the word cheese has been traced back to the Old English “cyse,” with an origin of perhaps *kwat- “to ferment, become sour.” This broader definition doesn’t ring a bell when we see or hear the word, “cheese” today. The modern mind automatically assumes cheese comes from dairy milk, but alas, not so.
Robin has refined four brie cheeses, and a fresh mozzarella, starting with cashews, maca­damia nuts, hemp seed, or soy beans. “I first make milk out of organic nuts, hemp, or soy,” said Robin.
Robin had read a few contemporary books on how to make cheese from plant-based products, however there are few and far between. “I noticed the recipes also applied a heavy measure of spices for flavor, but I wanted a natural flavor,” said Robin.
Robin charted new territory as she transformed plant-based ingredients into cheese. “Ninety percent of the cheese I make is cultured,” she said.
Culturing causes the milk to curdle. During curdling, the solids are separated from the whey liquid, which is drained off. From this point, the variety as well as the taste, texture, color, and aroma are determined.
“I’ve developed a technique that brings out spontaneous flavors during the fermentation process. Fermentation occurs by means of using sproutable grains,” added Robin. “The flavor of the cheese is quite dependent on the grains you use,” said Robin, who keeps her grain formula a secret.
Robin uses her background in vegan nutrition to ensure that the quality of food is retained.

Changing diet
“For over 15 years I ate a vegan diet, then I went years eating meat and have recently returned to the vegan lifestyle. However, it’s important to eat quality and a balance of foods. A person doesn’t necessarily want to eat only soy, or only meat, or too much dairy, but we can discover the many foods we have available to us and how they enhance one another.”
“I’ve developed a Gruyere cheese out of 100 percent cashew nuts,” said Robin. “It’s aged for three weeks and washed in stout beer every day for two weeks to produce the rind.”
Robin gave out samples of her cheeses at The Cheese Barrel during the Margaretville Spring Affair. Alla Gordina, from Jersey tasted it and said, “It’s very good.”
Robin creates her non-dairy and lactose free cheeses in a studio commercial kitchen in Fleisch- manns. “The kitchen is equip­­ped with stainless steel appliances because it’s the law,” said Robin. “I understand following the law, but back in the old-days, when people could use wood, the wood of the bowls and spoons added exceptional flavors to the cheeses. But, the stainless steel gives me another challenge to create natural flavors through the fermentation process and in technique.”

Other lines
Robin also offers a pate. “I carry the pate with a line of mozzarella, Grey Day Blue Brie, Peppered Brie (includes three kinds of peppercorns), Plain Brie, and Gerome Brie which includes jalapeno peppers and fenugreek.
Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop, and its seeds are a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent.
“The Gerome Brie rind consists of a smoked paprika,” said Robin.
Robin moved to the area 10 years ago. “I have four, fair-sized dogs,” she said, who blogs about her days in the Catskills. “I post millions of pictures of my dogs on Facebook,” said Robin. “I have cats too, but they move out of the house during the day and find a quieter place to pass the time.”
“Life is about making the mundane fun,” said Robin. “I’ve realized over the years that we don’t need drama in our life, and we can use our knowledge to make mediocrity fun.”
Robin has fun making plant-based delicious cheese, sold under the name “Cheezehound,” in specialty shops and at her kitchen by calling 845 625-9003.