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Experience using wild 'rennets'?  RSS feed

 
Jonie Hill
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Location: Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
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Hi all,
I've read there are a few plants (eg. thistle flowers, cleavers) that you can use to coagulate milk, & that were used in the past in this way, to make yogurt & cheese. Does anyone have any experience with this?
I'd really like to get into cheese making sometime, but want to be able to do it without buying any extra ingredients. (Maybe someone can point me to some good resources on the topic? I'm particularly interested in hard cheeses that will store quite awhile)
thanks!
 
Hans Mueller
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Hi Jonie,
one thing I remember is that you can lower the pH value of the milk to get the proteins to coagulate.
This way you don't have to use rennet from an animal or industrial source.
You can use lactic acid bacteria to produce acid that changes the pH value. Or you can use other
natural acids to change to pH value, but I don't know exactly which.
Good luck!
 
Rebecca Norman
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I've used various acids to coagulate milk to make paneer (Indian compressed cottage cheese), and I've also participated in a week of cheese-making training with rennet, and I think that rennet actually has a very different effect. If you want to make western-style cheese, I think it probably requires rennet. It makes a different texture than heating milk with an acid does. Both are nice, but different.

I also want to know about natural or homemade vegetable rennet. I saw somewhere than nettles can be used. I've got two young friends in Ladakh making cheese for the tourist market, and so far they've bought imported vegetable rennet from Delhi, very expensive though hopefully it lasts a long time and a little goes a long way. I don't think they'll want to use traditional rennet (made from calf stomachs) because a significant portion of their market is vegetarians, especially Indian vegetarians who would lynch somebody if they found out they'd eaten something with calf parts in it.

So, please, any natural vegetable rennet links out there?

Thanks!
 
Collitch Boy
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I have seen reference to using fig sap on other forums however I have not seen a detailed recipe or amount to use in place of rennet.
 
Robert McEvoy
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Here is an episode of Homesteading..... a show from New Zealand. They show basically how they go about using thistle to make a sheep's cheese.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIt2LEBLixQ
It is from Season 2 Episode 8 and is at the 18:30 mark of the episode.
 
Dave Friday
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First off...the disclaimer... I have never made hard cheeses before. From the research I have done, thistle and nettle rennet give an off taste to aged cheeses. Thistle should not be used for cows milk as it always produces an off flavor. New England Cheese Making is a good resource for information and supplies. The vegetable rennet the sell is cheap and very concentrated. They have a monthly newsletter with all kinds of info and they are good at answer questions if you have any...I have no affiliation with the company. Experiment and let us know what you think.
 
Len Ovens
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Both yogurt and kefer bacteria will separate the curds from whey. What kinds of cheeses one can make from there I can't say In either case, varying ferment times may make it better or worse. I tend to longer times and found more washing was needed (the whey is really sour), but I liked the taste myself.
 
Lorenzo Costa
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following with interest
 
Gay Hullar
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I have used animal rennet, cultures such as yogurt and kefir, and the natural enzymes found in raw milk to make cheese but not vegetable rennet. But from what I have read you can also use juice/enzymes from homemade sauerkraut in place of rennet. One of the problems with boughten vegetable rennet is that most of it is sourced from GMO sources. This article has a pretty good explanation of the different types of rennets. http://butternutrition.com/secret-ingredient-hiding-in-your-cheese/

 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I have notes on this subject from a talk that Gianaclis Caldwell gave at last year's Mother Earth News Fair. I've been digging around the house to find them so that I can write them up to add to the thread, but no luck so far. I'll report back when/if I find them.

What I recall is that she named nettle, cleavers, thistle, and fig bark as widely available vegetable "rennet." She pointed out how nicely the timing of these plants works out, as you can start with nettle and move on down the list as the season progresses. General points I remember are the importance of cutting the herbs into a very fine "fairy bed" before adding to the milk, that the cheesemaker should be prepared for a more variable and less cohesive set than is achieved with commercial rennet, and that each plant adds its own flavor to the cheese, for better or worse. I know she gave more detailed instructions, but my brain didn't choose to hang onto them.
 
Matthew Groves
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At most cheesemaking supply websites these days, a good bit of the rennet sold (for all sorts of cheeses, including hard) is vegetable based.

I don't know how it's made, though.
 
Mike Haych
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Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Making Cheese with Herbal Rennet

Rennet is the enzyme that breaks down milk protein to form curds, the first step toward making cheese. Most cheese today is made with rennets obtained from the stomachs of slaughtered newborn calves or from bacteria and fungi. It is a little known fact that the "vegetable" rennets from bacteria and fungi are increasingly derived from genetically-modified organisms.

Herbs have been used to curdle milk in the past. Safflower, artichoke, teasel, thistles, stinging nettle, fig leaves and melon have all been used. But the most commonly used herb was yellow bedstraw (Galium verum), also known as "cheese rennet". It is said to contain a milk curdling enzyme that is effective enough to make cheese.

According to the 16th Century English herbalist, John Gerard, ‘the people of Thuscane do use it to turne their milks and the cheese, which they make of sheepes and goates milke, might be the sweeter and more pleasant to taste. The people in Cheshire especially about Nantwich, where the best cheese is made, do use it in their rennet, esteeming greatly of that cheese above other made without it.’ Apparently, Cheshire cheese was made with bedstraw rennet up until the 19th Century.

Because yellow bedstraw is the source of a yellow dye, it’s use in cheese-making also added a rich colour to cheeses. According to English herbalist Mrs. Grieve, author of "A Modern Herbal", people from the Scottish Highlands and from Gloucestershire were known for making richly-coloured cheeses with yellow bedstraw.

I was unable to locate details of how yellow bedstraw was used to curdle milk or what part of the plant was used. I suspect the flowering tops were used, the same part used to dye fabrics yellow. And because the responsible agent in bedstraw probably is an enzyme, the procedure may have been as simple as steeping the fresh tops in milk to start the curdling process.
 
Colin Nelson
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Ashwagandha berries can be used as a rennet, according to numerous online sources, though no source explains the procedure.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I have experience only with rennets I've bought, I've used vegetable rennet, and calf rennet. I did not notice bitterness when I used the commercial vegetable rennet.

I started out this post thinking there were 3 kinds of rennet, but in searching around for complete information, and which was the GMO rennet, at this website: <<http://butternutrition.com/secret-ingredient-hiding-in-your-cheese/ >> I discovered this:

"There are 5 types of coagulants in cheese-making:

Animal rennet (most expensive, up to 2x times cost of alternatives)
Microbial rennet (mold or fungal derived rennet, hard to find, now replaced by FPC GMO rennet)
FPC-Fermentation Produced Chymosin rennet (GMO)
Vegetable rennet (hard to source)
Citric acid or vinegar (often sourced from GMO corn)
WHY IS GMO FPC RENNET USED?

the answer is as simple as supply and demand. According to GMO Compass, “the demand for cheese cannot be met with traditional rennet. Therefore, diverse rennet substitutes are in use.” The FPC GMO rennet provides an inexpensive option in unlimited supply."


I had no idea!

I knew about Rhizomucor miehei rennet, the one from the fungus / mold, but did not know how to distinguish it from "microbial rennet" the one that is GMO. But now I do!

Cultures for health sells rennet, but they also have these recipes for thistle and nettle rennets, and recipes for cheeses with those rennets. They do mention when the vegetable rennets are most likely to contribute a noticeable bitterness to the finished cheeses.

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/make-thistle-rennet-cheesemaking/

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/make-nettle-rennet-cheesemaking

Lastly, http://www.countryfarm-lifestyles.com/rennet.html#.VcwFGCpViko has some general guidelines on how to extract rennet from plants. They have a longer list of possible plants, and they give some guidance on how to store your home made rennet, and how to figure out how much of your home brewed rennet is enough.

Thekla

 
Fred Tyler
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A couple of my uncles have told me how they collected the berries of Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) for their mothers and grandmothers for cheese making. My recollection is that it made a soft cheese. This plant grows as a weed where i lived in New Mexico. Here is a site that briefly mentions it.
 
katharina noerg.
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oh, interesting. i am making "feta-like" cheese from cows milk with a veggi rennet i buy here http://www.kaesereibedarf.de/
so if anyone in germany or europe is looking for microbial rennet that is not made from/with GMOs this is a good source. they state under "info" that they dont use anything that is derived from GMOs.

I made cheese with vinegar in the past, depending on the type you use it gives a flavour that can be off and you dont get as much curd with vinegar as you would get with rennet.
you can also use lemon juice or acid, but i guess it is also not super effective.

i also heared about fig bark.. would be very interesting to know if there is anything one could grow that gives good results.

 
Matthew Groves
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One of my suppliers got back to me on the contents of the vegetable rennet.

They said, "It is made from enzymes (chymosin)."
 
Burra Maluca
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I merged your stuff with the following thread. I hope that is okay by you.
 
Darin Colville
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Hey Jonie, I've made many cheeses with goats and sheep milk since 2000. The plant rennet I've used was purchased but aquired animal from baby males. The woman I learned making feta from in Italy taught me that animal rennet makes a superior aged hard cheese and plant a supior chevre or soft rine cheese. After doing both many times,I have to agree. Good luck.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Matthew Groves wrote:One of my suppliers got back to me on the contents of the vegetable rennet.

They said, "It is made from enzymes (chymosin)."


Hi Matthew,

I wonder if you would identify your supplier for me. I am still very leery of that rennet being non GMO. The gmo rennet is also made from chymosin. The chymosin genes have been spliced into bacteria, yeast or mold, I don't know which. Then they grow the organism. The rennet gene is still from an animal, and so it is animal rennet, "sort of", and far cheaper to produce than either the animal direct rennet, or the fungi that produces the enzyme from its own genes.

The woman I used to buy rennet from knew nothing about GMO and did not care. Making the sale was her primary interest, and your supplier may share her level of knowledge AND her priorities.

These gmo rennets are often labeled "vegetarian friendly" to obscure the origins. I'm not vegetarian, so I don't have a problem with animal origin renet. And I use it because it is the only rennet whose origin in not clouded by political and profit priorities. When I get curious enough and have the time, I'll probably experiment with making the plant rennets that are said to make aged cheeses bitter. Bitter is good for the digestive tract, after all, and I can grow accustomed to a new flavor.

There is a bill which passed the US house of Reps, now in the Senate to make the state laws to require GMO illegal, and make it illegal to pass any bills that require GMO lableing. The anti labeling faction is strong, and it influences people at the selling to consumer level.

Most North American cheeses contain the GMO rennet. Even cheeses imported from countries which have banned gmo, can use GMO rennet in the cheeses destined for the USA, and since it is cheaper, they do.

Thekla

 
Matthew Groves
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The response to me came from http://hoeggerfarmyard.com
 
Burra Maluca
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It sounds like it might be the same as this stuff, which I found here - http://artisangeek.com/liquid-vegetarian-microbial-rennet-double-strength/



The blurb says

Free of preservatives yet extremely shelf-stable, this superb quality double-strength microbial vegetarian rennet has excellent flavor, aroma, and texture properties without the typical bitterness for which some vegetarian rennets are notorious. It consists of 100% chymosin and is produced by lab-controlled natural fermentation of Rhizomucor miehei fungi, followed by purification which discards the fungi to keep only the chymosin enzyme. This first-rate product is used by many top artisan producers.

No animals have been involved in this rennet's production process and it is therefore compatible with vegetarian diets (as well as Kosher restrictions. Please ask for certification if needed). Do not confuse this with vegetable rennet that is made out of actual vegetables such as our Thistle rennet, or FPC rennets which are GMOs used in large factories. Our rennet is GMO-free. This is as close as you can get to animal rennet performance!


I made the most interesting bits bold.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Burra,
I went to the website and read all that before I found that you had brought it all into your post.

That is the kind of label that I look for. Clear and complete information provided. Nothing to hide, no reason to confuse or redirect the buyers attention. I'd trust them, and when I'm out of my rennet I want to try that stuff. I did not realize that the Rhizomucor miehei organism made chymosin, i just thought it made a chymosin like molecule.

That's also a price comparable to what I've been paying for calf rennet, so why not give it a try.

Thanks so much.
Thekla

 
Amber Samandulugu
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When making cheese, I used to run out of rennet quite often so I would use lemon juice. It worked quickly to separate the curd from the whey.
 
João Carneiro
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Cynara Cardunculus L.

it's the traditional renet that we use around here.

here you have the traditional manufacturing process in portuguese... you can translate it via google.
http://www.qvaledoguadiana.com/pt/processodefabrico.html

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thank you for that link Joao,

I followed it and had google translate it for me. Things are a little funny when a machine translates, like healing for curing, but I got the general idea, and could probably make the cheese if I can find a close relative for the Cynara Cardunculus. It does not tell us how much thistle, how much water, then how much thistle extract per how much milk, so it will allow me my favorite thing: a discovery process!

Thekla
 
João Carneiro
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My mother in law makes cheese daily, but right now the goats are pregnant so... no milk, no cheese. She usually uses comercial rennet because its faster than the traditional method.

The recipe for the rennet:

https://translate.google.pt/translate?hl=pt-PT&sl=pt&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ehow.com.br%2Fcoalho-flores-cardo-como_23842%2F


1 Collect thistle flower when it becomes brown. Harvest before it can start producing plumes. If the feathers are evident, that means it's too late - the flower is very mature and therefore unusable. Be sure to collect it dry enough to last throughout the year.

2 Thoroughly dry the flower before storing it in a clean, dry container with a lid.

3 Put some thistle in a mortar and start grind it until it becomes a fine powder. Make sure it is well crushed.

4 Repeat Step 2 until there are 5 tablespoons of powder. Put it in a bowl and pour hot water over it. Soak for five to ten minutes.

5 Wait until the liquid becomes dark, concentrated and brown.

6 Pour the liquid into a strainer to separate the liquid from the plant. That's rennet from thistle flower.

7 Add a gallon of warm milk and expect to get to curdle.


Take note that if you use too much rennet the cheese taste will suffer so make a few tries and discover the optimal amount that works for you. It tipically ranges from 1 to 2.5g of dust(the amount of water you used to soak the dust is of litle importance) per litre of milk.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks again Joao. Can't wait to try it.
 
manuel correia
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I have used rhubarb to make paneer on many occasions.
this freshly made indian style cheese is one of my favorites. but I was bothered by having to use lemon or lime juice, something which is not easily grown in colder climate zones, such as new hampshire or germany.
and god forbid I should use white vinegar as some have done (but it works).
depending on the growth stage and concentration of acid, one will have to extract juice from at least 6 or 7 stalks (or more) for one liter of milk.
but the flavor of such cheese is divine.
manuel
 
Rebecca Norman
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Manuel, I've made paneer many times. Earlier we used white vinegar -- the whey comes out sour and vinegary, but there's not even a whiff of it in the paneer. But you're right, white vinegar is usually an industrial product, and lemons are too precious in a northern climate to use for this. More recently we've been using much more natural system, and the upside is that some of us think it tastes better than plain paneer, and people with lactose-intolerance who can eat yogurt and cheese but not milk can eat this paneer without bad results.

Add some fresh live yogurt to your milk, but don't bother with any of the steps you'd take ensure perfect yogurt. Just stir it in well and leave the container standing around for an hour or three at room temperature. Once it tastes a little sour, you can make paneer. No need to wait till it's as sour as actual yogurt, just faintly sour. Heat the milk to boiling or just under boiling, until it separates. If the acid amount is low, you might have to keep simmering or boiling for a few minutes till the whey becomes fairly clear-yellowish. Then strain the curds through cloth, and either hang over the sink to drip, or press under a weight to make firm paneer for cubes. That's it! It tastes a little yogurty, which we like.

And/or you can add some of the sour whey that has separated out from a previous batch of yogurt as your acid. The disadvantage to using yogurt whey as an acid alone is that the paneer is not fermented, tastes like fresh milk, and can't be digested by the lactose-intolerant.

Caveat: we have had bad results from letting milk sour without a desired starter such as yogurt. Yes, sour milk makes a good-looking paneer, but it tastes just like the sour milk, which isn't very good. I'm sure any other dairy starter would work for this purpose.

Update: Oops, somebody below followed this advice and reported that kefir didn't make the milk separate when heated. Well, I know yogurt works so now I'll only recommend yogurt, not all other starters.
 
João Carneiro
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Thecla, i just finished making my very first cheese from scratch. The full traditional way. It took about an hour and a half to form the curd. With the usual comercial rennet it would take 30 minutes. But good things take their time. I'll taste it by breakfast. I love fresh cheese!
 
Erica Wisner
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Acid-set cheese is different from rennet-set cheese, but still very good. Ricotta is acid-set; you can use the whey from other cheese, add a bit more acid and salt, and heat it up hotter to make ricotta. It coagulates a different protein, delicious to eat it with a spoon or use in traditional Italian pastas and desserts (ricotte cheesecake!).
It sounds like paneer is a similar, acid-set and high-temperature cheese?

As mentioned above, lemon juice or vinegar give great acidity for these types of cheeses. You can also use citric acid; a lot of recipes call for this, and you can work backwards from citric acid to figure out the substitutions for natural acids if you know your chemistry. (Citric acid in the US may be produced from corn, which could be GMO I suppose.)
I tried orange juice one time but it did not work out that well; possibly because there is less acid in the from-concentrate juice than I needed, or because the substitutions for other recipes are more about flavor and don't provide enough acid.
I found that citric, lemon, or vinegar gave OK flavors, the vinegar I would rather use with savory stuff like garlic-herb flavored cheese, the citrus-acid cheese could be used with either fruit or savory or plain presentations. (I love ricotta with fruit butter or jam or fresh fruit - we were eating it for breakfast 3 times a week for a while.)

I like the rhubarb idea. Will have to try that.
Any very sour fruit should have a similar effect; I imagine you could use sour cherry juice. However, I don't know if adding sugars (from the sweeter fruit juices) or other nutrients would encourage undesirable bacterial growth while trying to set the cheese.

The magic of cheese seems to be in creating the perfect conditions for your desirable microbes, while eliminating as many as possible of the undesirable ones. Clean equipment, a clean kitchen, and discarding and sterilizing anything that had rotten cheese or a bad batch seems to help a lot. I lost a batch due to re-using cheesecloth; I hoped rinsing it would be enough, but it wasn't. Now I wash them on high heat, and sometimes boil them to sterilize.

I've also had success with a local farmer's suggestion to make chevre (goat cheese) just by standing the milk at an appropriate temperature without adding any chemical agents at all. It comes out creamier than the quick-set versions, more like sour cream, but good. (Great for dips and dressings). Maybe the raw milk has enzymes that processed milk lacks. This kind of natural culture is most likely to be successful in a clean kitchen where previous batches of cheese have been successful (the right cultures are already present in the environment, and not the wrong ones).

I've since gotten a recipe book from a different local cheesemaker, and some commercial culture. The commercial culture gives me more confidence, and a shorter processing time, to avoid contamination of a batch. If making cheese every day, you can use the whey or a cheese "starter" instead of commercial culture. I don't have the discipline or time at home to make cheese every day, but I imagine it would be a lovely advantage, boosting your kitchen or cheese room into a culture-matrix for successful cheese.

Calcium chloride is called for in a few recipes I'd seen, and I wondered why. I learned recently that calcium chloride is often added to cheese when working from commercially-processed milk, because processed milk (homogenized and pasteurized) loses some of its calcium and won't set curd as well as raw milk.

So if you're experimenting with natural rennets that are more fiddly to achieve a good curd set, it could pay to use very fresh, unprocessed milk so you have good calcium content, as well as freshness to spare for a longer curd-set time, on your side.

Yours,
Erica

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Got curious about Cynara Cardunculus L. that Jaoa posted about, and googled it. It is "cardoon" which I have seen for sale, known people who've grown it, and eat the mid rib from the leaves. Knowing that plant is available makes this a lot easier. It is also called artichoke thistle. At least one other species in that genus is also mentioned as a source for rennet.

It is possible that the vegetable artichoke was derived from the cardoon- artichoke thistle, and it's possible that the artichoke could also provide a coagulant.

I also have a few questions about acid coagulated and rennet coagulated cheese. When I culture the milk before or during the rennet period, the culturing process is creating acid and lowering the pH. So, I wonder, is it either or, or is it some combination of coagulant - calf rennet or plant extract, acid - from culturing or additions, and heat - optional with culture and calf rennet. So, if we use acid alone will we get cheese- as in the rhubarb cheese which sounds fabulous? Or would I need to heat the milk after adding the rhubarb extract? And if acid alone will coagulate the milk, would I get curds and whey if I just left clean and healthy raw milk out at room temperature (in a good microbe environment)?

After years of regular cheesemaking, I've just had my first two failures, first I tried the panir as Rebecca suggested, only I used kefir instead of yogurt. I could not heat it enough to get a good curd without burning the bottom. And the flavor was not good. I'll try yogurt next time.

Second failure was chevre, my standard is culture and two drops of rennet per gallon at 86 F with a 12 hour set time, but I left the burner on low. I don't usually have the burner on, don't really know how I made that error. I happened past a few hours later and I had curd ready to be drained. It has no flavor what so ever. I'll be adding garlic and salt for the share holders.

So, the calf rennet set the milk without the culture action which increases the acid, and before the temperature got high enough to deactivate the enzyme. It was at 140 F when I discovered it.

How was your cheese, Jaoa? I know calf rennet sets milk in about half an hour, but I often leave it longer. Not being very particular about replication, I move the cheese to the next step, then go do something else, and sometimes 45 minutes turns in to 2 hours...

Thekla
 
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Hi Thekla, You will get curds and whey if you let raw milk sit out at room temperature without adding anything to it. There are enough natural "good" bacteria in it. This is called clabbering. If it's real fresh it will take several days to separate. It seems to work best if you have raw milk that has been in the frig for a little while. This is the way cottage cheese used to be made. Some say they rinse the curds after it has separated to reduce the tang and somewhat bitterness of the whey. I've never rinsed mine. The curd isn't like the firm curd you would get from a cheese using rennet. It's more the consistency of cream cheese. Years ago fresh cream would then be added back into the drained curd to make cottage cheese as well as salt.
 
João Carneiro
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Erica Wisner wrote:Acid-set cheese is different from rennet-set cheese, but still very good. Ricotta is acid-set; you can use the whey from other cheese, add a bit more acid and salt, and heat it up hotter to make ricotta. It coagulates a different protein, delicious to eat it with a spoon or use in traditional Italian pastas and desserts (ricotte cheesecake!).


Now that caught my full attention. You mean that you can get an extra cheese from the whey? I'll definitively try that! Can you suggest a recipe? Or should y just drop a lemon and a bit of salt and tinker with it?
 
João Carneiro
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As it turns out i found that we call it "requeijão" and it's traditionaly used as a fresh cheese cream. I'll be tinkering with this for sure.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hola, Joao,

My experience with ricotta is that often times it is not worth the effort. I mean, I boil 3 gallons of whey from a cultured calf rennet-ed cheese, it takes days to strain it, and then there is only a little bit. Many people don't use whey, you get so little. They use milk to make ricotta.

The times it has been worthwhile to make (the original boiled whey) ricotta is when the whey is very rich. There is a recipe for 30 minute mozarella here in the US. The milk is acidified with citric acid, then renneted using a commercial rennet, then strained then heated- or maybe that is heated then strained, but when the curd reaches a designated temperature (something like 170 F) then the curd is kneaded. I tried this one time because I was having no luck with the traditional cultured recipe, and the pH is important. Anyway, the whey that ran out of the curd at every step was very milky and white. There was obviously a LOT of the milk protein in the whey. When I boiled THAT whey, there was a lot of smooth creamy cheese. It lacked flavor because it had not been cultured, but sometimes that is just what you want in a cheese.

If you want the specifics of these recipes I've mentioned, I can provide them.

best luck in your cheese adventures to all

Thekla
 
João Carneiro
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:

If you want the specifics of these recipes I've mentioned, I can provide them.

Thekla


please do

It might not be worth the pursuit but at the moment my thing is the pursuit itself
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Just wrote both recipes.

can't believe I deleted it somehow.

I'll have to wait til this evening to do it again

Sorry,
Thekla
 
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