Basic Cheesemaking (Part 2) – Basic Rennet Cheese

This week we are making another kind of soft cheese – with rennet (and spices and herbs). The process is very similar to that of week 1 – heat the milk, wait for it to form solids, drain the solids. Week 1 used lemon juice to get those solids, and this week we’re trying out rennet – this leads to more solids (and thus more cheese), but a slightly different texture, and you might prefer one over the other. It’s a great way to start using rennet and get comfortable with that, and great preparation for moving on to slightly more involved cheeses (such as paneer or halloumi). I say ‘slightly’ more involved because paneer and halloumi are still really easy to make – not that different from what we’ve been doing so far. This week’s cheesemaking yielded 180g of cheese.

Like Week 1, we’re using 1L of milk again – the more fat and the fresher, the better. In addition, we’re also using: 

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • lemon juice
  • chilli flakes
  • thyme

The joy of this receipe is that you can flavour it any way you like – lemon, chilli and thyme are just what we chose to do this week, but it’s really up to you.

We are using vegetarian rennet. A small bottle of this will last you quite a while unless you get into cheesemaking in a big way. Other than that, our supplies include:

  • heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan 
  • slotted spoon
  • colander
  • cheese mould (we use a yoghurt container with holes pricked in it
  • some kind of container (baking dish?) to catch the whey, and chopsticks or skewers to balance your mould on, so the cheese can drain
  • thermometer (a jam thermometer works well

How to make soft cheese using rennet

Pour your milk into your pot. Add in salt and spices (chilli, thyme) – the exact amount depends on the flavour you’re trying to achieve. A good starting point is a teaspoon each of chilli flakes and thyme. Mix in together, and heat to 35-40C.

Take off the heat and add in a squirt of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon rennet diluted in 1/4 cup water. Stir it all gently for 15-20 seconds – slowly, and for no longer than 20 seconds. I use the cup measure to stir. Cover with a lid and put in a warm place for 30 mins – I cover the pot with a large teacosy in addition.

After 30 mins, skim off the solids into a colander using your slotted spoon. Let this drain until most of the whey has drained off, then transfer to your cheese mould to drain further. Drain until it is the texture you want – the longer you drain, the firmer your cheese. Enjoy!

This is what the solids look like after the rennet and lemon juice have done their thing.

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