Wiki: Ash

This Wiki Article discusses Ash (Cendré in French, Cenere in Italian) which is often used as a light rind coating or interior layer for France originated soft lactic acid cheeses to create a white mould friendly environment.

Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Valencay.
Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Valencay.

Common examples of ashed cheeses are:

  • Ashed Rind Cow’s Milk: Montbriac, Rochebaron.
  • Ashed Rind Goat’s Milk: Bûche Noir, Coupole, Chevre Cendré, Monte Enebro, Rutulin, Selles sur Cher, Valençay AOC, Wabash Cannonball.
  • Ashed layer in middle of cheese: Cow’s Milk: Morbier AOC.
  • Ashed rind and middle: Goat’s Milk: Humboldt Fog, Monocacy Ash.
  • Aged Under Ash Cow’s Milk: Sottocenere.


Ash is a food grade somewhat tasteless and odorless alkaline charcoal that is often called activated charcoal. It is a form of carbon that has been processed often by partially burning normally hardwood such as oak, vine, mesquite, cherry, or coconut hulls to make it extremely porous and thus to have a very large surface area such that one gram of activated carbon has a surface area of ~500 m2/5400 ft2. The very high porosity makes activated charcoal excellent at adsorption and is frequently used in drinking water filters. Ash was originally made from oak charcoal and comes in several formats, black powder, granules, or pellets.

Modern ash for making cheese is food grade from wood or vegtables and is ground into a fine powder.


Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Chevre Cendre & Frais.
Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Chevre Cendre & Frais.

Acidity Control

Excessive acidity in cheese can harm the ripening process. Coating cheeses with alkaline ash can somewhat neutralize the surface acidity, aiding ripening and additionally creating a more mold friendly surface for Pencillium candidum or Geotrichum candidum, if used.

Many people find using ash really helps P candidum to grow more evenly and helps to prevent slipskin.

Lactic acid coagulated cheeses often have high acidity and thus the popularity of using ash on them for pH control.

Interior Ash Layer (Fly Control)

French Morbier AOC cheese was historically made from two separate batches of cow’s milk curds from two separate milkings.

To protect the surface of the curds while waiting for the second batch, Morbier makers would sprinkle ash from the firepit onto the curds to protect it from flies. Modern Morbier is made from charcoal in a single batch of curds.


Ash coated or interior lined cheeses have a distinctive grey exterior and or interior line appearance.


Application Timing

Immediately after removing cheese from forming hoops and still wet from draining whey.

Application Methods

Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Losange Cendre.
Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Losange Cendre.
  1. Apply by hand by patting the outside of the soft cheese with a moisened hand or food grade glove dabbed in the ash.
  2. Apply by using a powdered sugar duster, available from a confectionery store.

The resultant covering should show plenty of the white cheese. Sometimes ash is mixed with salt before application. As the white Penicillum candidum mold blooms over the ash, the colour of the cheese will change from black spotted to grey.


The primary safety concerns are skin contact and inhalation in the form of dust. The dust may cause eye irritation, slight skin irritation, and possible respiratory tract irritation that can cause coughing or sneezing. Wash skin thoroughly after handling.


Ash is a very innert material and will keep a long time if stored dry in a sealed container to keep moisture out, and in a well ventilated area away from strong oxidizers (chlorine, permanganate and ozone, etc.), ignition sources, combustible materials, and heat.


Commercially Manufactured Product

Purchase “food grade” activated charcoal which is washed several times, sometimes washed with acid, to remove a high percent of the remaining minimal elemental salts make the carbon  highly pure, and thus flavourless. Some sources are:

  • Drugstores.
  • Health food stores.
  • Dietary supplement stores.
  • Cheese making supply stores.


You can make several pounds of ash for a few dollars and some labour:

  1. From local store purchase hardwood charcoal used for grilling/BBQ (NOT briquettes, the real deal, mesquite is nice).
  2. Plug in old electric kitchen blender outside (for dust reasons), fill with about 1/3 water, add charcoal (you want to add enough so that final sludge is saturate with charcoal and thus need to remove minimal amount of water) and blend to crunch up large bits.
  3. Puree at high speed for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Take the resulting goo and place container in the microwave. Nuke for 10-15 mins. It will first turn into a sludge, then will turn hard. Other options are an oven or food dehydrator or leave in sun for a few weeks.
  5. Take hard chunk of activated charcoal and mash it up.
Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Morbier.
Versaille, France, Open Air Market, Morbier.
Houston US Grocery Store, US Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog Chevre.
Houston US Grocery Store, US Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog Chevre.

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