How to Harvest Vegetable Rennet

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Rennet is added to milk to make cheese. The rennet breaks down the protein in the milk that keeps it in liquid form and causes it to curdle. Most cheese is made from rennet harvested from the stomachs of cows. Many vegetarians prefer to use vegetable rennet in their cheese. Vegetable rennet is fairly easy to harvest from the right source. One of the more common sources of vegetable rennet, which is commonly used in Scotland, is the stinging nettle.

Things You'll Need

  • Stinging nettle
  • Large pot
  • Wire mesh strainer
  • Large bowl
  • Salt
  • Add 1 lb. of stinging nettles to a large pot. Add enough water to just cover the nettles. Boil for 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Pour the mixture through a wire mesh strainer and into a large bowl.

  • Stir in salt until no more will dissolve in the mixture. Stop when you begin to see salt collect at the bottom of the bowl.

  • Add 1/2 cup of homemade nettle rennet per gallon of milk.

Tips & Warnings

  • Stinging nettle rennet is unsuitable for cheese that must ripen and age for an extended period of time as the salt inhibits the ripening of the curd.
  • Vegetable rennet in general is not recommended for long-ripening cheeses because it causes them to develop a bitter taste after roughly six months of aging.
  • Keep unused vegetable rennet in the refrigerator in a dark glass, sealable container.
  • Make a vegetable rennet with a lower salt content from the cardus species of sunflower. Dry the flowers, then grind them into a powder. Dissolve 2 tsp. of the powder in 1/2 cup water, then add to 1 gallon of milk.

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References

  • Photo Credit stinging nettles image by Edsweb from Fotolia.com
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