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How to Make Nettle Rennet for Cheesemaking



Using nettle rennet is an ancient form of milk coagulation. Nettle rennet is simple to make and easy to use and is a great option for those looking for a way to coagulate milk without using animal-derived rennet. 

This recipe calls for Stinging Nettle, a plant that can be found in most regions and climates. It is painful to touch, so if you plan on harvesting it, definitely wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from this plant’s irritating leaves. Please also be sure that you have the right plant. Here is an official description of the Stinging Nettle Plant, or urtica docica, with pictures and other uses described.

If you do not have this kind of nettle growing in your yard, you may be able to find it dried in health food or herbal remedy stores or even online, since it has many other uses. Substitute ¾-1 pound dried nettle for 2 pounds fresh leaves.


Instructions for Making Nettle Rennet


  1. Harvest nettle leaves before the plant has gone to seed. Once the nettle has seeded, it is unsafe to use for any food production. Take a clean paper sack out to the plants, wear gloves and long sleeves, and harvest about 2 pounds of nettle leaves into the sack. Rinse the leaves a little under cool, filtered water before moving on to the next step. 

  2. Fill a large pot (big enough to hold your harvest of leaves) with about 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; turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. 

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

  4. Place a colander in a large bowl. Line the colander with one layer of clean cheesecloth. Pour nettles into colander. Drain until they have stopped 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.


How to Use Nettle Rennet

When using this rennet in cheesemaking, reduce the amount of salt that the cheese recipe calls for just a tad, because the rennet will add a bit of saltiness. 

Nettle rennet can be used for any milk to make cheese, even cow’s milk. Just remember that any cheese made with any vegetable rennet will probably be slightly more bitter if aged for a long period of time, (say, over 2 months). Solve this problem by making cheeses with shorter aging periods when using nettle rennet, or merely eat the cheeses younger. 

This rennet will keep in the refrigerator or cold storage for a few weeks if tightly covered and in the dark. 



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