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How to Make Nettle Rennet for Cheesemaking

This recipe calls for stinging nettle (urtica dioica), a plant that can be found in most regions and climates. 

Harvesting Nettle

Stinging nettle is painful to touch; wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from this plant’s irritating leaves when harvesting. Check books on wild foraging or edible weeds for proper plant identification.

Harvest nettle leaves before the plant has gone to seed. Once the nettle has seeded, it is unsafe to use for making rennet. Harvest nettle leaves into a clean paper sack.

If fresh nettle is not available in your area, check local natural food stores. Dried nettle leaves are readily available, as they are often used for tea. Substitute ¾-1 pound dried nettle for 2 pounds fresh leaves.

Instructions for Making Nettle Rennet:

  1. Rinse 2 pounds fresh leaves under cool, filtered water.

  2. Fill a large pot with 4 cups water. Add the clean leaves. Add more water if needed to just cover the nettle leaves. Bring the water and leaves to a light boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. 

  3. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of sea salt to the pot; stir gently to dissolve. The salt will help to break down the leaves and release the coagulating enzyme. 

  4. Place a colander inside a large bowl. Line the colander with one layer of clean cheesecloth. Pour nettles into colander. Drain until leaves stop dripping. 

  5. The liquid drained from the nettle leaves is the liquid nettle rennet. It can be used in amounts of 1 cup of nettle rennet to 1 gallon of warmed milk.

  6. Keep tightly covered and avoid exposure to light. Nettle rennet will keep in the refrigerator or cold storage for a few weeks if stored properly. 


How to Use Nettle Rennet in Cheesemaking

When using nettle rennet in cheesemaking, use slightly less salt than the cheese recipe calls for, because the rennet will be a bit salty. 

Nettle rennet can be used with any milk to make cheese. However, cheese made with vegetable rennet may develop a bitter flavor if aged for a long period of time (over 2 months). Solve this problem by using animal rennet for aged cheeses, making cheeses with shorter aging periods when using nettle rennet, or merely eating the cheese younger. 


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Fresh Nettle Leaves

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