Have you been looking for a book on natural cheesemaking? Do you want to learn to make cheese without commercial starters, microbial rennet, or freeze-dried fungal spores? Ready to ditch the pH meter, plastic cheese form, and sanitizing solution? Want to say good bye to stainless steel vats and learn to make cheese like our ancestors? Then you need to check out The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses by David Asher.
The author is an organic farmer who has eschewed all modern methods of food preservation, such as freezing and canning. Instead, he ferments everything naturally. He makes apple cider, blackberry wine, and beer without commercial yeast. He ferments sauerkraut in big crocks. He makes sourdough bread fermented with no added starter. And he makes cheese from his raw goats’ milk using ancient methods. He is the mastermind behind the Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking, which is aptly named because he is definitely the black sheep of cheesemaking. Because he uses natural cheesemaking methods, he is not allowed to sell his cheese. So, instead of selling his cheese, he sells his knowledge in classes and now in this wonderful book.
Natural Cheesemaking contents
This is the only book available that teaches natural cheesemaking. It would make the perfect gift for the cheesemaker in your life who wants to take their skills to a whole new level. It would also be perfect for someone who is completely new to cheeesemaking. David starts out explaining his cheesemaking philosophy then explaining everything you need to know about milk when making cheese. He has complete chapters devoted to rennet, salt, cheesemaking tools, and the cheese cave. Then he dives into actual cheeses starting with a chapter on kefir and moving on to yogurt cheeses, paneer, chévre, aged chévre, pasta filata cheeses, feta, white-rind cheese, blue cheese, washed rind cheeses, Alpine, Gouda, cheddar, whey cheeses, and cultured butter. In addition to recipes for every type of cheese you could wish to make, there are lots of color photographs.
Appendices include a troubleshooting guide and a section on whey starters. An appendix with complete instructions to make traditional sourdough bread is a definite bonus.
Speaking of bonuses — this book even includes instructions on how to make your own rennet from the stomach of a calf, kid, or lamb. If you don’t really want to take self-reliance to that level, however, he does include info on using commercial rennet.
Another little gem for those of you who don’t necessarily want to make your own cheese is the info on kefir. Remember on Monday when I said that a bottle of olive oil doesn’t always have olive oil in it? Well, David says there is no legal definition of kefir. That means kefir in stores may be a less potent drink with fewer active cultures than the real thing.
It is worth mentioning that the recipes and methods described in this book will only work with raw milk. So, you need access to raw milk, which is illegal in some states unless you own your own animals. David points out, however, that just because it is illegal in some places does not mean you can’t buy it.
Many times when I teach a cheesemaking class, someone will ask how to make cheese without commercial starters. Unfortunately, before this book was published, there was not a credible source on how to do that. So, when I saw this book, I immediately asked the publisher to send me a review copy. No doubt it will be stained and tattered in no time!
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