Nice skill to know, how to make your own cheese. Rennet, Another item to have in your food storage if you have animals that will give you plenty of milk.
What is rennet? Rennet is a substance found in a mammal’s stomach that aids in digestion. It is also an ingredient in the production of cheese. Rennet, or rennin, is an enzyme, actually a complex of enzymes, that are produced in a human or animal stomach. The complex of enzymes that form rennet includes the proteolytic enzyme known as protease that coagulates milk.
Historically cheese has been made using animal rennet. The old European process for obtaining rennet actually involves harvesting the linings of calves’ stomachs. The mucosa is removed from the stomach chamber of a young calf. The stomachs used are retrieved from veal producers. The dried stomach of the calf is sliced into small pieces and put in salt water along with vinegar or wine and allowed to steep for several days. Then the solution is filtered. What remains is rennet and that can be used to coagulate milk into curds and whey. The curds are the basis for cheese.
Rennet can be purchased from commercial cheesemaking houses, but if you want to make rennet at home, here’s how.
After the stomach is clean, tack it onto a wooden frame and dry it in direct sunlight. Drying requires a minimum of twenty-four hours. This drying will also kill any bacteria that may be present. When the stomach is thoroughly dried, cut it into small squares and pack it down in salt and store it in a clean covered container. A glass jar works well. In your jar you have rennet.
When you are ready to use the rennet to coagulate milk, or make cheese, choose a square and soak it overnight in cold water. Then rinse it off well and put it in the milk and wait for the curds. It is a good idea to tie the rennet up in a string so that it is easily retrieved after the curds have formed.
If one is interested in the purity of creating a homemade product, then making one’s own rennet is the first step in creating cheese.
I have been doing a lot of research lately in cheese making – specifically cheese making without the use of commercial rennet.
Why? Two reasons: 1. In my quest for self-sufficiency, and since I will not be slaughtering a baby cow, goat or sheep anytime soon (traditional rennet is made from the stomach of a calf, kid or lamb), I need to find an alternative way to make cheese. We love cheese. 2. Did you know that much of the rennet used commercially today is microbial – made from genetically modified bacteria which produce chymosin (the active enzyme in rennet)! Oh no, GMO!
Why do we need rennet for cheese making? Rennet is an enzyme that coagulates warmed milk, making the curds. Of course, any warm milk over time will coagulate on it’s own, but that’s when it has already turned sour. Rennet coagulates milk when it is still sweet. You can make a soft cheese using acid (vinegar or lemon juice), but the rennet coagulates the milk faster and produces a firmer curd.