Lets just play what if, What if you can’t get Rennet? What if you can’t get Lemon Juice(after all this is Canada, lemons don’t grow here)
What does grow in most parts of Canada that can be used in place.. The amazingly useful, ever so healthy Stinging Nettle.. In the book, on the net, and in the medival write ups, The Juice of the nettle or a Decoction formed by boiling the leaves in a strong solution of salt will curdle milk providing the cheese-maker with a good substitute for rennet.
Right now in my garden, I have many cucumbers, fresh cherry tomato’s, herbs and peppers ready, do you see where this is heading.. O that’s right folks.. we are going to make Feta so we can make kickbutt proper greek salads.
So lets start the journey together.. Its worth noting that in order to be called Feta cheese it really needed to be at least 70 percent sheep milk.
During morning chores, milk the sheep, goat or cow.. Don’t have a barn or a milking animal, huh…. ok go buy whole milk, or even better got a source for raw whole milk? (make sure its legal in your state or province to get raw milk)
Then head out to your trusty patch of stinging nettles growing on one edge of your compost pile, I trust you have been eating some as greens, drying lots for winter use and animal feed, plus making amazing liquid plant food for the garden at times? I like to take the top four to six inches off the plants, if you pick for most of the season, they don’t tend to go to bloom much at all, , pick a full 8 cups metal pot stuffed full, you want leaves and their stems.. bring them in, give a rinse, pick off any damaged leaves and put two cups of water, three heaping tbsp of canning salt and stuff the leaves and stems back in and put on med heat, they will wilt right down and all will be under water at that point, give them a good bruising with a big old wooden spoon and put them to simmering. We are going to reduce the water by half to about a cup of very strong salted Nettle Decoction for use in our cheese making process.
Now, if you have a cow, you are milking out gallons a day, if you have a freshened goat, you might get a gallon a day but with a sheep and on the end of the lactaction cycle, I am getting more like a liter a day, so that is what we are making, a liter of sheep’s milk into a nice little portion of feta. Now it is worth noting that sheeps milk does in fact have a higher count of proteins for cheese makings so in the end you get more product from the sheep milk compared to cow or goat milk per liter (just pointing this out, that it depends on a few things in regards to how much cheese you are going to get)
So I follow my normal process of carefully heating my milk, and added in my cooled very strong salty nettle juice and waited, and waited and waited……….
And finally after hours I have Soft Cream style cheese!, Nettle Flavoured Salty Creamy Cheese..
Now I like Cream Cheese, I do, and I even like the flavor nettles can bring to cheese, I have used them as a dried herb when I am planning on making soft farmers cheese.. BUT I followed the recipe given in the nettle book to make a hard cheese that would break into cheese curds. So is the recipe wrong, or did I do something wrong? Honestly not sure, got a good amount of nice whey for baking bread with, got a good portion of soft farmers cheese for some use, will figure it out.
And that is the difference between reading it and doing it, the figuring, the flops, the what the @%^&? and how do I fix that, Can I fix it, or is the info wrong, should you only expect soft farmers cheese if using Nettle juice? I think I would want to add more salt next time.
So I will throw it out there, any of you ever use Nettles as a replacement for Rennet, and if so care to share how much you used, how you make the juice itself, and your portions?
On the flip side, ever tried to make something that the books make out to sound so easy only to find that even if you have skill in the area (I make yogurt, Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese’s, Farmer Cheeses and Feta using my goat and sheep milk using the typically called for products), that its a good old flop?