Most cheese was historically made with animal rennet, nowadays, a lot of cheese is made with a mold based rennet, but it is possible to make a vegetarian rennet for those that are either vegetarian, vegan, or who do not have the resources to make animal based rennet.
Today we will make a DIY Vegetable Rennet out of Thistles.
The biggest problem with vegetable rennet is that it becomes bitter in aged cheeses.
This means it should not be used with raw milk, or cheeses like cheddar that need aging to build their sharp taste.
The plants that can be used with various techniques to make a vegetable based rennet are:
- Ground ivy
- Lady’s Bedstraw,
Since Artichokes and Thistles are in the same family, we will show how to make rennet using them, but as a rule of thumb if you crush and extract the sap from the greenery any of the plants above you can use it to thicken milk.
- Thistle flower head when it has turned brown, but harvest it before the plant produces the thistle down, in which case it is too late.
- The Purple head of the artichoke before it makes the head
- Dry the flower heads and pick off the purple stamens.
- Boil water and drop thistles into the water and let steep into a thick dark tea.
- Strain off the liquid. This is now thistle flower rennet.
- The rennet can now be added to warmed milk to curdle it and begin the cheese making process.
Most cheese recipes using commercial rennet are in the teaspoon/tablespoon amounts, I started using a traditional recipe amount, but ended up using ½ cup of my homemade rennet to get a good result.