Goat Cheese Recipe with Ash

The history of ash in cheese making goes back hundreds of years to its use as a method to protect the surface of young cheese. As years passed, they later discovered it also greatly improved surface molds and how they grew on fresh cheeses for ripening. Traditionally this was ash from the burning of grape vine clippings in the Loire Valley of France. Today however the surface is normally covered with an activated charcoal mixed with salt.
  • Yield

    1 Pound

  • Aging Time

    ~2 Months

  • Skill Level


  • Author

    Jim Wallace



Total price:


How to Make a Goat Milk Cheese Ripened With Ash

The cheese we will be making in this recipe is a lactic type goat's milk cheese with a covering of salt and fine powdered charcoal. As it ripens, it will change from dark grey/black to a beautiful blue-grey to white and bloomy surface.

  • Step 1
    Step 1

    Acidify & Heat Milk

    Begin by heating the milk to 68-72°F (20-22°C). If you do this in a pot on the stove make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.

    Once the milk is at the proper temperature, the Chevre and P. candidum culture can be added. To prevent the powder from caking and sinking in clumps, sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.

  • Step 2

    Let Sit to Coagulate

    Enough rennet is included with the culture to ensure a proper set.

    The milk now needs to set quietly for 18-24 hours while the culture works and the rennet coagulates the curd. The thermal mass of this milk should keep it warm during this period since we are doing this at room temperature. It is OK if the temperature drops a few degrees during this time, but if your room is cold, it is essential to find a warmer space or to provide some additional insulation.

    The longer the curd sets the more acid will be produced.

  • Step 3
    Step 3
    Step 3
    Step 3

    Transfer Curd to Cheese Molds

    When a good curd has formed, you will see a thin layer of whey over the curd mass and the curd may show cracks and separation from the sides. It will also show a clean break when tested with a knife or finger.

    This curd can now be transferred to the molds with a small spoon or ladle to allow the whey to drain. The amount of time needed for draining will be about 8-20 hours at 68-72°F but this is dependent on what you want for moisture in your final cheese: less time for a sweeter and moister cheese, more time for a drier and tangier cheese.

    Remember that the bacteria is still working and as long as the whey is present it is able to convert the lactose (in the whey) to lactic acid.

    Note: You can also pre-drain these curds by ladling into a cloth lined colander and allowing them to drain for 4-6 hrs before transferring to the molds. This will eliminate the wait during direct curd transfer above while the curds drain in molds.

  • Step 4
    Step 4/
    Step 4
    Step 4

    Adding Ash to Curds

    For the cheeses I made in this recipe, I tried all kinds of variations in forms including the pyramid molds. I have also added an additional layer of ash about midway (just because it really looks neat). I simply dusted a thin layer of the charcoal with no salt (this can be messy) after filling the molds about 2/3rds full, then added the rest of the curds. The 2/3rds full line ends up at about the 1/2way point because of the settling and refilling seen below.

    When the molded cheese stops dripping whey it should be firm enough to carefully un-mold.

  • Step 5
    Step 5
    Step 5
    Step 5

    Applying Ash and Salt

    The cheeses are now ready to be salted. The charcoal and salt are simply mixed together. I use anywhere from a 1:5 to 1:8 charcoal to salt ratio, depending on how heavy an ash surface I want on the cheese.

    The base salt amount should be about 1 tsp per cheese and this is applied by sprinkling about 1/2 tsp per surface. This can be evened out with the hand and spread slightly down the sides (messy alert again). I usually wait until the salt dissolves and soaks into the cheese body leaving the black surface behind before turning and salting the other side.

    Next, when the salt has been absorbed and no whey drips from the cheese, they can be taken to a space for drying. What we are looking for here is the surface moisture to dry down so that no bright moisture spots can be felt or seen and the surface takes on a matte appearance. This is ideally done in a room at 60°F with 65-70% moisture. A plastic or reed mat should be placed under the cheese to allow air movement.

  • Step 6
    Step 6
    Step 6
    Step 6


    Once the cheese is dry it can go to the aging space at 52-56°F and 90-95% moisture. Here it will undergo the final ripening, but must be turned daily to even the moisture and keep the mold from growing into the mats.

    If you have made this lactic bloomy style before but without the ash/charcoal layer you will note some differences:

    1. The cheese surface seems to dry down a bit quicker than without.
    2. The mold develops much quicker than without. I find it shows up in about half the time.
    3. The cheese takes on a much more aromatic note. I associate it with the quicker development of the natural yeast population (ambient) and the more friendly P.candidum environment. It's a wonderful apple/pear with maybe a bit of sweet wine smell.

    At day 3, I am already seeing the first signs of the white mold as the surface changes from black to a dusky grey as seen in the photo on the right.

    By day 5 or 6, I am beginning to see a full coat develop as the surface becomes a lighter grey, as shown in the photo to the left.

    This is a surface I normally find growing at day 10-14 when not using the charcoal.

    By day 8-12 the cheese is ready to cut as fresh but can be held for several weeks as the surface enzymes continue to work on the proteins, leading to more complexity in flavor.

  • Step 7
    Step 7
    Step 7

    Ash/Charcoal With Other Milks & Types of Cheese

    In a recent workshop I decided to add the ash to my traditional Camembert to see how it progressed. This is not a lactic cheese but a rennet coagulated cheese and made with a rich cow's milk rather than goat's milk. The milk I use for this is a full fat Jersey milk and has a very high fat content of about 5-5.2% that gets fully incorporated into this cheese. Since the fat tends to hold more moisture, I have always had difficulty drying the cheese down due to the tendency of butterfat to hold moisture. My thoughts were that the charcoal would dry the surface more and that is exactly what I'm experiencing so far.

    The result has been a much cleaner and quicker growing surface with a very different and truly amazing aroma during the early ripening. I am really hoping this carries through to the finished cheese.

Cheese Making Supplies

Popular Products

Cheese Making Recipes

Recommended Recipes

How to Make a Cheese Cave

How to Make a Cheese Cave

Learn how to make a cheese cave right at home. If you want your cheese to ripen properly you have to make them a good home and take care of them like little bambinos.