The Art of Natural Cheesemaking
Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World's Best Cheeses
By David Asher
Including more than 35 step-by-step recipes from the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking
Most DIY cheesemaking books are hard to follow, complicated, and confusing, and call for the use of packaged freeze-dried cultures, chemical additives, and expensive cheesemaking equipment. For though bread baking has its sourdough, brewing its lambic ales, and pickling its wild fermentation, standard Western cheesemaking practice today is decidedly unnatural. In The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, David Asher practices and preaches a traditional, but increasingly countercultural, way of making cheese—one that is natural and intuitive, grounded in ecological principles and biological science.
This book encourages home and small-scale commercial cheesemakers to take a different approach by showing them:
• How to source good milk, including raw milk;
• How to keep their own bacterial starter cultures and fungal ripening cultures;
• How make their own rennet—and how to make good cheese without it;
• How to avoid the use of plastic equipment and chemical additives; and
• How to use appropriate technologies.
Introductory chapters explore and explain the basic elements of cheese: milk, cultures, rennet, salt, tools, and the cheese cave. The fourteen chapters that follow each examine a particular class of cheese, from kefir and paneer to washed-rind and alpine styles, offering specific recipes and handling advice. The techniques presented are direct and thorough, fully illustrated with hand-drawn diagrams and triptych photos that show the transformation of cheeses in a comparative and dynamic fashion.
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is the first cheesemaking book to take a political stance against Big Dairy and to criticize both standard industrial and artisanal cheesemaking practices. It promotes the use of ethical animal rennet and protests the use of laboratory-grown freeze-dried cultures. It also explores how GMO technology is creeping into our cheese and the steps we can take to stop it.
This book sounds a clarion call to cheesemakers to adopt more natural, sustainable practices. It may well change the way we look at cheese, and how we make it ourselves.
Reviews and Praise
"Organic farmer Asher, creator of the Black Sheep School of cheesemaking, packs plenty of information into this complete guide for both novice and experienced cheesemakers. He advocates strictly non-commercial methods in this detailed manifesto, showing aspiring cheese artisans how to craft indigenous cultures, make natural rennet, source quality raw milks, and construct their own caves. The 30 recipes with photos require neither additives nor sterilization and include methods for making chèvre, paneer, feta, yogurt-based cheeses, and aged rinded varieties (alpine, blue, and gouda). Chapters on salt, kefir, and the ecology of cheese are included. Asher’s political message is overt: He feels that regulations against using raw milk stand in the way of “your right to practice a natural and traditional cheese making.” His organic method is a political act in favor of 'cheese sovereignty' and takes a stand against corporate interference. Asher’s “contraband cheese” techniques aim to recover the traditional quality of cheese that has been lost."
“If you want to know every possible detail about cheesemaking the natural way and on a small scale in your home, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is the book for you--even if you'd just like to dabble in your kitchen. There are chapters on kefir, yogurt cheeses and paneer for beginners and, for advanced students, detailed instructions on how to make rennet from the fourth stomach of a calf. Everything is beautifully illustrated and carefully explained. This book will entice many to join the ranks of those engaged in the art of transforming milk to delicious end products. As the old saying goes, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers.’ Many more will become blessed thanks to David Asher's work.”-- Sally Fallon Morell, president, the Weston A. Price Foundation, and cheesemaker, P. A. Bowen Farmstead
“David Asher’s book is brave and important, teaching us to tend to what matters by helping us understand process before recipes. This book expands the boundaries of sustainability, deepening the power of independent autonomy and local flavor, making our world more delicious.”--Shannon Hayes, author, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture
“The Art of Natural Cheesemaking is a breakthrough book. The interest among eaters to explore this next stage in do-it-yourself living in the 21st century has finally reached dairy. What’s great about Asher’s book is that it is practical and zeroes in on cheese products one may actually make successfully at home. It is unlikely that DIY cheesemaking will put any cheesemonger or cheese producer out of business. Quite the opposite, in fact: The more we remove the mystery to manufacturing even the simplest of cheeses at home, the more we will come to admire the craftsmanship that dairy farmers and artisanal cheesemakers bring to their work, to make life better and tastier for the rest of us.”-- Richard McCarthy, executive director, Slow Food USA