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Jan 17, 2013 01:38 PM

Ash coated cheese

My love for ash coated cheese is based entirely on loving how it tastes. I know next to nothing about why ash is used, where the ash comes from or what makes it takes so good on cheese. Educate me, pls!

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  1. Never really thought about but your post piqued my interest and I found this.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Paprikaboy

      OMG a wedding cake made of Humboldt Fog=genius!

      1. re: Paprikaboy

        Thanks Paprikaboy. I know there are several types of ash used. I'm hoping to learn more about it.

      2. I'm a sucker for ashed goat cheeses too - especially the gooey, ripe ones like how Bonne Bouche from Vermont Butter and Cream or a classic selles-sur-cher can get.

        From what I understand, ash was used to control mold formation on the outside of the cheese. I'm sure other people can pipe in with more details.

        I'm usually to busy around these beauties to contemplate anything other than how to sneak another bite!

        1 Reply
        1. re: cheeseplatesf

          I didn't know until this week that you can buy ash and shake it on cheese you've already purchased or intend to make. Now I'm wondering how fast I can get my hands on a shaker and how else I can use the ash.

        2. An ash coating is found on many goat cheeses from the Loire Valley in France and also on cheeses made elsewhere in the style of these cheeses.

          One reason for the ash is purely decorative. It serves as a mark of distinction on this type of cheese. However, there are also good technical reasons. First, the ash is used to temper the acidity of the cheese. (Obtaining the proper acidity, which can be achieved through a variety of means, is a major consideration in cheesemaking, and not just for goat cheeses.) Second, the ash forms a surface that encourages the growth of desirable molds that affect the flavor of the cheese.

          Ash can also be found inside a few cheeses. The French cow's milk cheese, Morbier, has a layer of ash in the center. The cheese was originally made by combining two milkings: the evening milking and a second milking the following morning. Right after the evening milking, a layer of ash was spread over the milk to prevent a skin from forming and also to discourage unwanted pests, like flies. With today's production and storage methods, the ash isn't really needed, but vegetable ash is still included because people think that is what Morbier should look like. The American goat cheese, Humboldt Fog, also has a thin layer of ash in the center in imitation of Morbier.

          6 Replies
          1. re: cheesemaestro

            Really interesting detail. I'm very fond of both Morbier and Humboldt Fog and I think my ash addiction is why.

            1. re: cheesemaestro

              Mary Keehn was been reported saying the layer of ash in Humboldt Fog is to represent the Humboldt landscape (the ash line) in the rolling fog (the cheese) as seen during a plane flight.

              1. re: cheeseplatesf

                I've read that, too, but I also seem to recall that Morbier was part of the inspiration. Perhaps my memory is faulty on this.

                1. re: cheeseplatesf

                  The ash layer in Humboldt Fog separates it into two distinct cheese textures, and makes it fun to eat it by layer or in combination. It's one of very few cheeses I eat just by itself without crispbread. (5 year gouda is another.)
                  Interesting and informative thread.

                  1. re: cheeseplatesf

                    Here's blurb from Cowgirl Creamery about Humboldt Fog that credits its ash line both to the native landscape and to Morbier:


                  2. re: cheesemaestro

                    I knew there had to be a story rooted in practicality...wasn't really figuring it was just for the looks. Interesting.