Cranberry, Thyme & Pecan Cheese Ball

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This is a beautiful cheese ball that would be a perfect addition to any holiday spread; not that you need a holiday to have an excuse to make this.  Easy and impressive, I love the combination of the sweet flavors of the cheese and cranberries paired with the slightly savory flavor of the thyme.

I know it may seem like a lengthy process but it is really easy and takes very little “hands-on” time.  You’ll be sure to impress with this one that they’ll surely never guess is raw or dairy-free.

Ingredients

1 cup Cashews, soaked 2 hours or more and drained

¼ cup + 2 tbsp Water, or as needed to blend smoothly

½ tsp Powdered Probiotics, more if desired (a double serving is a good measure for most variations of probiotics on the market)

3 tbsp Dried Cranberries, chopped into little pieces & divided

1 tsp + ½ tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, semi-finely chopped and divided

Strong pinch of Stevia

Pinch of Salt

½ cup Pecans, fairly finely chopped

Instructions

In a high speed blender or food processor, process cashews, water and probiotics until smooth.  (I used my food processor but a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix, would likely be notably more efficient.)

over a strainer with a cheese cloth and place over a bowl.  Pour cashew cheese into the cheese cloth and gently twist to close.

Place a weight on top of the cheese.  Something like a can of beans works well.  You don’t want it so heavy it squeezes everything out.  You just want the weight to gently press the water out of it.

Place in a cabinet to ferment for 24-36 hrs, depending on desired level of fermentation.  You may even take it to 48 hours if cheese is in a cool spot or if you like a little sharper flavor.

{There are 2 key factors to note that are very important for fermented cheeses, yogurts, and the like: 1. Circulation – fermentation occurs due to the thriving of healthy, life-giving organisms that must be able to multiply within the food.  2.  Temperature – You want it to sit roughly at room temperature.  If it is cooler, it will take longer to ferment; warmer temps may cause it to ferment more quickly than desired.}

When ready, remove cheese from cheese cloth and place in a bowl.  Fold in 2 tbsp dried cranberries, 1 tsp of thyme, stevia and salt.  Sample and modify add-ins as desired.

Prepare a small ring or small bowl covered in saran to mold your ball.  Chop pecans and combine with remaining cranberries and thyme.  Pour 1/3-1/2 of this mixture into bottom of your mold/bowl.  Scrape cheese into your mold.  Firmly tap entire mold on the counter to cause the mixture to settle into the form.  You may sprinkle additional pecan mixture across the top (what will be your bottom).

Carefully remove from mold and place on a plate.  Coat the sides with remaining pecan mixture, adding a little more, if needed or desired.

Chill uncovered in a refrigerator for roughly 2 hours or long enough for flavors to meld and the cheese ball to set up.  If you can, leave it longer to allow the flavors to really fuse together.

This can be enjoyed alone, over fruit slices or on a mild crackers.