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.
Got this from the library today, flipped through it and it looks amazing. How to grow your own starter cultures, how to make rennet, all sorts of amazing things that I've been wanting to know about cheese. So many other books are - buy this and that, then put them together. It's like buying a can of pie filling, and a premade pie crust, and then saying you baked it yourself. This book isn't like that. Looks like it includes fresh cheese, aged cheese, hard cheese, soft cheese, cheese of different milks, and encouragement for trying new and exciting things.
My wife and I have taken a full day cheese making class from David. It was a fantastic class and I recommend to anyone that has an opportunity to take a class from David it is well worth it. His approach to cheese making fits very well with us permies folks. His focus on using raw milk and homegrown cultures is exactly what we were looking for.
We also purchased his book and started making cheeses. The book is very well written and his explanations of his methods are very easy to follow. What I like most about the book is that it is a mix of education and processes and they flow very well with each other. I haven't read the book cover from cover yet so I can't give it an acorn review.
Since we took the class (and got the book) we have made the following products:
When I first brought this book home from the library, I opened it up and less than 10 minutes later, I had ordered my very own copy. This book is amazing! I use it several times a week and given how much whey I've spilled on it, I'm surprised the binding and pages can take that kind of abuse. I love it. The Art of Natural Cheesemaking has opened up a whole new chapter in my life. Perhaps the only other author to have this much positive effect on my kitchen and diet is Sandor Katz. Asher's book also inspires me to make changes on the farm - got a goat, gonna get her a boyfriend! There's gonna be a whole lot more cheese soon!
Because this book is so bleeping awesome, I'm going to start by telling you what's wrong with it. It really deserves 10 out of 10, and I think it's nearly there. Only, there's just not enough troubleshooting. If something can go wrong, I'll probably be the one to do it wrong. Why does my kefir smell and taste so yeasty? How come the mold on my crottin is a muddy pastel pink and is this dangerous to eat? What kind of cheese is that wrapped in a maple leaf and is there something special about the time of year for gathering the leaves? How do I make the whey for the fetta not slimy (not the cheese itself, that's fine, but the whey has a cream-like layer on top)? I want to know MORE! Not so much the technical stuff about why something happens, but I want to know if maybe I need more humidity for my crottin, or if my kefir is being left too long between changing. Give me more trouble shooting! If I can't get a lovely mold to grow on my aged chevre, then I'm not confident enough to make an alpine cheese. Pretty please, I have so many questions. Inquiring minds need to know!
There is a small troubleshooting guide in the back of the book, but I don't seem to be encountering the right sort of problems. Maybe it could be expanded in the next edition?
Now we can get to the delicious creamy insides.
This book is incredible!
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking by David Asher, restores to life the old way of making cheese. With a passion for real milk cheese and an impressive mustache, Asher shows us how we can make cheese at home with no fancy equipment, no fancy GMO ingredients. This book teaches us how to make a huge range of cheese from milk, rennet, salt, and kefir. Recipes include dream cheese, chevre, paneer, cotton, feta, brie, blue, alpine, gouda, cheddar, ricotta, and lots of other cheese. Some of the cheeses we eat almost instantly, others can be aged for years. The tools needed to make these cheeses, most of us already have in our kitchen. A cheese press made from two buckets, I used some cheesecloth and a strawberry punnet for making feta, a big pot, a slotted spoon, and that's about it. No fancy equipment necessary, no acid meters, no thermometers, no fancy platinum plated pneumonic presses.
The book begins with an overview of the ingredients and tools we need. Also included is a recipe for making real rennet from a calf or lambs stomach. Asher is passionate about quality ingredients and raw milk.
Next, we move to the simple recipes like yoghurt (including a recipe for making yoghurt from kefir), dream cheese, preserving dream cheese in oil, paneer, and chevre. All of these I've had tremendous success making. My favourite is chevre, but paneer is the favourite in the family (fry up with sesame oil and hot sauce!). The basic rennet cheese is fantastic (but I wonder how to make it more melty). For the more complicated cheeses, I've had some success with feta and the most amazing real ricotta cheese in my life. Oh WOW! It's so good on sourdough toast with cinnamon and sugar. I haven't tried the longer aged cheeses yet, but from reading the recipe, I'm confident I can do it.
This book has a nice range of cheeses from easy going chevre to the more demanding washed rind cheeses. Hard cheese and soft, easy and more challenging. This book is a must have for anyone with a goat, sheep or cow... or anyone who likes cheese. Or anyone who wants to eat real cheese... or well anyone who is remotely cheesy. I'll be recommending this book often and to as many people as I can.
A side note, I've saved about three chickens and a sheep from the brink of death by feeding them the whey from making chevre. I don't know if it's the nutrients, electrolytes, or probiotics, but each animal is alive and thriving. If it can work this kind of mericles on my livestock, imagine what good it's doing for my health. I do feel more energetic since I started making cheese. I never would have started making cheese if it wasn't for this book. mmmm, cheese.
It always struck me as odd that you had to purchase special cultures to make cheese at home.....well guess what you don't!!! David Asher explains the the how and the why of making nearly every type of cheese imaginable.
Based solely on the environment and treatment of your ferment you can choose what kind of cheese you want using only the naturally occurring cultures in raw milk or kefir! This is truly a game changer for the home dairy, I wish we would have gotten this book when we brought home our milk cow. Even if you don't have your own cow or access to raw milk the author lines out exactly how to create your own starters and create the conditions necessary to whip up your own batch of whatever flavor of cheese you want. This one's a winner for sure!!!
When my first goats started producing milk, I wanted to learn how to make cheese. But also, I knew I didn't want to be dependent on buying cheese cultures, because that didn't fit my goal of more natural living and increased self-sufficiency. My first cheeses were based on the recipe in The Little House Cookbook, except I substituted whey for buttermilk as a starter. Unfortunately, I made a lot of terrible cheese and was left wondering what I was doing wrong and how to make cheese better. When I found this book, I found my answers.
David Asher's cheesemaking is low tech, natural, and simple. It utilizes raw milk, kefir, good quality salt, and calf rennet tablets. He gives very thorough explanations for his preferences and why he chooses these over other ingredients. The simplicity of these ingredients plus the variety of cheeses he makes were exciting to me. In The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, he teaches how to make cheese by cheese types: yogurt cheeses, paneer, chèvre, aged chèvre, basic rennet curd cheeses, pasta filata, feta, white-rinded, blue, washed-rind, alpine, gouda, cheddar, and whey cheeses. The directions are easy to follow and include lots of good photos.
Also included are chapters on the philosophies of the various methods of making cheese, making kefir, cultured butter, sourdough, and cultured whey starters. He discusses how to cultivate the bacterial cultures sometimes used to develop specific types of cheese. There is an excellent discussion on rennet too including a how-to on making calf (or kid) rennet. Chapters on cheese making tools with the pros and cons of each material, homemade tools, salt as an ally, the cheese cave, and troubleshooting round out the book.
If you don't have access to raw milk, you likely will feel that the book is a waste of money. If you have your own milk-producing animals or access to raw milk and are looking for a more permaculture way of making cheese, then you will find this book to be an excellent investment.
I’m just going to say it outright; if you are at all interested in cheese making you should own this book. Period. End of sentence. By the time I got a copy of this book, I had already borrowed a number from the library and owned another for myself. Time and again, it bothered me just how industrial-dependent they could be.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for a clean work environment when making something like this. What I don’t like is having to buy all sorts of cultures from different companies every time I want to try doing another cheese. It rubbed me the wrong way that I had to rely on some high tech manufacturing process just to make a ‘traditional’ cheese. It bothered me even more that it meant shipping things from god-knows-where in non-recyclable packaging as well.
Of course it goes into the use of raw milk, but also takes into account those of us who have no legal access to it. It offers up a wealth of knowledge on the topic, even explaining how to make your own rennet! The basic premise is that you can start with raw milk (or Kefir in a pinch) and end up at ANY cheese as long as you understand the process needed to encourage the correct microbes.
Everything is clear and easy to follow. It has a ton of information, though that may make it a bit tougher if you just want a casual read or are just looking for one or two recipes. For me though, this is the book I’ve been looking for. One where everything needed to be self-sustaining is included. Honest self-sustaining methods that don’t rely on purchasing cultures from halfway across the country but instead relying on simple ingredients and nature. While I might reference other cheese making books in my collection, this one is going to be my go-to moving forward.