Last year we received several inquiries (and at least one complaint) about the rennet we were using. Rennet is the compound that contains the enzymes that coagulate the milk, which allows the curds to be separated from the whey. Typically, rennet comes from one of three sources: the traditional veal rennet, which is extracted from a calf’s stomach; certain plants, such as thistle; and certain molds (or microbes) which produce the enzyme chymosin. We had been using a non-organic microbial rennet. We chose microbial rennet in recognition of our customers who are vegetarian and/or concerned about the humane treatment of the animals that produce their food. But the rennet we used contained several ingredients that we didn’t care for, including the preservative Sodium Benzoate.
We still want to avoid animal rennet. And plant rennet isn’t suitable for most aged cheeses. So we focused on finding a microbial rennet that met the needs of both us as cheesemakers, and our customers as consumers.
In our search for a new source of rennet, we tried our customary supplier – they shipped us rennet that was labeled as organic but wasn’t – it turns out they only sell the organic variety in 5 gallon barrels, which was far more than we could use in two decades!
We also heard tales of bitterness caused by microbial rennet, and warnings about this brand or that brand. So we started calling the distributors themselves and asking questions. It turns out that most microbial rennet comes from one of two manufacturers, and the various brand names are all added by distributors. Both are good spources of rennet that is suitable for even multi-year cheeses.
We have finally settled on an organic rennet that contains no coloring or preservatives, and no GMOs. We started using it for our Chevre soft goat cheese a few months ago, and are very happy with it. We’re now using it in all our cheeses.
We hope you’ll like it, too!