A Review: The Art of Natural Cheesemaking February 23, 2016 10:28
Review by Carmen Ostrander
On the list of considerations in your journey as a food revolutionary is milk, and in this case more specifically, cheese. As governments all over the world crack down on the ‘dangerous’ practice of consuming, acquiring, or shouting out loud about raw milk (or cheese), books like this are as subversive as they are delicious.
With foreword by fermentation guru Sandor Ellix Katz, “The Art of Natural Cheesemaking” opens with a manifesto, a call to arms to reclaim and reinvigorate what has been lost. This is counter cultural cheesemaking, low tech and hands on. With “Good milk, rennet and salt together with your capable hands.” A world of cheese awaits. There’s something very old & very new about these ideas that makes them satisfying and stimulating to read.
Cheese is one of many industries where quality of production has become impoverished by monocultures. Reliable, boring, diversity crushing monocultures, resulting in “corporate controlled, and chemically dependent” cheese.
Modern industrial cheese making relies on one or two pre-culture strains that restrict the interplay of microbes unique to the milk and its surroundings. The emphasis on raw milk, is based on the premise that microbial diversity provides its own balanced environment that keeps pathogens in check.
But don’t worry if you can’t find a cow, there are plenty of recipes that will work with the milk you have. Or rustle up a goat. So much more than “the poor persons cow” they are the activist’s animal of choice, due to their inherent refusal to submit to industrial dairy practices, and reduced carbon footprint. You can also side step the rennet part of the equation, and focus on whey and kefir. Kefir can be used to ferment soy, almond milk, and fruit juices to make probiotic drinks and cider among its many talents.
Surprisingly there’s very little out there in print or online about preindustrial cheesemaking methods, which provided a large part of the inspiration for Asher to produce this book. Asher is first and foremost an organic gardener who turned away from the energy
and material intensive practices of freezing and canning to explore
naturally fermented foods. You’ll be pleased to know once you’ve gone to the trouble to source good milk, the cheese does most of the hard work itself. You’ll need a watchful eye and keen nose as you embrace the funky edge of food, where a little bit stinky and delicious collide.
Beginner friendly with an intuitive approach, it how to’s over 30 cheeses, including washed rinds, blue and cheddar plus yoghurt, keffir and cultured butter, with stylish yet instructive photography by Kelly Brown.
“The Art of Natural Cheesemaking” is an excellent companion to and post workshop resource. Keep an eye out for cheese making workshops here at Homestead, (they fill quickly), or grab a signed copy and get inspired.