Rennet

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Rennet (pronounced /ˈrɛnɪt/) is usually a natural complex of enzymes produced in any mammalian stomach to digest the mother's milk, and is often used in the production of cheese. Rennet contains many enzymes, including a proteolytic enzyme (protease) that coagulates the milk, causing it to separate into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). The active enzyme in rennet is called chymosin or rennin (EC 3.4.23.4) but there are also other important enzymes in it, e.g., pepsin and lipase. There are non-animal sources for rennet that are suitable for vegetarian consumption.

Contents

Production of natural calf rennet

Natural calf rennet is extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber (the abomasum) of young, unweaned calves. These stomachs are a by-product of veal production. If rennet is extracted from older calves (grass-fed or grain-fed) the rennet contains less or no chymosin but a high level of pepsin and can only be used for special types of milk and cheeses. As each ruminant produces a special kind of rennet to digest the milk of its own mother, there are milk-specific rennets available, such as kid goat rennet especially for goat's milk and lamb rennet for sheep's milk.

Traditional method

Dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves are sliced into small pieces and then put into saltwater or whey, together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. After some time (overnight or several days), the solution is filtered. The crude rennet that remains in the filtered solution can then be used to coagulate milk. About 1 gram of this solution can normally coagulate 2 to 4 litres of milk.

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