~ Rennet is a coagulant. Its function is to separate milk solids from milk liquids, i.e. curds and whey.
~ Junket is a weak form of rennet used for making puddings and custards
~ Raw milk naturally separates into curds and whey as it sours. Rennet enables this separation while the milk is still sweet.
~ There are four types of rennet:
- animal rennet - made from the 4th stomach of ruminant (calf, lamb, or kid) which has consumed colostrum only
- natural vegetable rennet - made from plants
- microbial rennet - made from various cultured fungiform microorganisms (molds): Rhizomucor meihiei, Cryphonectria parasiticia, Mucor pusillus, Mucor miehei.
- recombinant (genetically modified) rennet called chymosin - derived from animal rennet
~ 80 to 90% of the commercial cheeses manufactured in the USA and Great Britain use chymosin
~ Natural vegetable rennet are proteolytic enzymes derived from plants, such as bromelain (from the pineapple) and ficin (from the fig), as well as biosynthetic chymosin.
~ Plant sources of natural rennets: thistle, fig, yarrow, ground ivy, Lady's Bedstraw, to name a few. An extensive list is here.
~ Some cheeses are always made with animal rennet: Parmesan,Grana Padano and Gorgonzola. They must be labeled "Parmesan style" for example, if using vegetable rennet.
~ Chlorine (in water) kills the active enzyme in rennet
~ Rennet cannot make curds in ultra-pasteurized milk because the milk's casein has been denatured due to the high heat involved in the ultra-pasteurizing process.
~ An alternative to renneted cheeses are kefir cheeses. I've not experimented with this but there is lots of information at this website, http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir_cheese.html. [Sorry it's not a link. The website owner requests permission before linking to their site, which I respect and did in my first kefir post. It's a bit of a hassle though, so forgive the addy with no link. Just copy and paste to go to the site.]
I definitely want to experiment someday with both kefir cheeses and vegetable rennets. I have fig trees, yarrow, and ground ivy (Creeping Charlie) readily available. Recipes for most of these are practially nonexsistent, so perhaps I can start with one of the thistle or nettle recipes. That project is still future, but here are some how-tos I collected from around the internet
- Homegrown Rennet - Joy of Cheesemaking
- How to make thistle rennet - Answers.Yahoo
- Another thistle rennet recipe - Medieval Cheese Forum
- Rennet from thistle and nettles - Prepare 4 Anything
- Stinging Nettles and Cheese Making - Country Farm Lifestyles (scroll about 1/3 way down)
- Making Rennet From Fig Sap - New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.
A step by step how-to (with photos) for making animal rennet can be found at Dr. Fankhauser's cheese making website, Rennet Preparation
And a few more resources. These actually form my bibliography:
- 200 Easy Homemade Cheeses, Debra Amrein-Boyes, Robert Rose, Inc. 2009
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making, James R. Leverentz, Alpha Books, 2010
- Home Cheese Making, Ricki Carroll, Storey Publishing, 2002
- "Rennet 101" at Artisanal Premium Cheeses
- Homegrown Rennet
- Chymosin (GMO Compass)
- Cheese Fact Sheet The Vegetarian Society of the U.K. Ltd
- FAQ About Cheese Making Leeners
Do you have any tidbits to add? I'd love to hear them.
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What I'm Learning About Rennet © December 2012