So, could I ever be a vegan? Well I don’t know, I love cheese too much. Being a vegetarian I strive to find local/artisanal cheeses where I can see or read about the animals who’s milk makes the cheese. This assures me that the animals are not part of a large factory farm. However, there is another issue with cheese and a vegetarian diet and that is rennet.
- An essential ingredient in the making of cheese. Rennet helps in the coagulation of the raw material—milk—into solid curds and milky whey.
- Rennet, while traditionally extracted from plants and animals, is available today in a variety of forms, from liquids to tablets, to genetically engineered artificially synthesized rennet.
- Rennet is a naturally occurring enzyme which is produced in the stomachs of young mammals to be able to digest their mother’s milk.
How it is made:
Traditionally, natural rennet is extracted by slicing the animal’s stomach into thin strips, putting them in a saltwater solution along with a little vinegar, before filtering the solution and drying out the strips. After this, it is cut into small pieces, which can be put in the milk to coagulate it. According to experts, it is best to choose the kind of rennet depending on the kind of milk being used, as calf rennet will have more of an affinity towards cow’s milk and so on.
so… not cool for vegetarians.
Today, there are vegetable/microbrial rennets widely used in cheese, you just have to know where to look. I found this to be my go-to-guide. http://cheese.joyousliving.com/CheeseListBrand.aspx. This is an alphabetical list of cheese brands with notes on which do not have rennet (and some to watch out for).
So back the the original story. I try to buy as local/artisanal as I can and animal rennet free. But every now and then you just need to grab some cheese at the grocery story. Hats off to Cabot. None of their cheeses contain animal rennet, and you can see all of their farms online. Besides, I don’t know what I would do with out some…