Stinging Nettle Sheep Cheese Recipe

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 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?


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5 Responses to Stinging Nettle Sheep Cheese Recipe

  1. Heidi Tijssen says:

    A few years ago I read about the nettle rennet and gave it a try. But I had the same result as you, no better: no good result. I thought the problem was that I had not any cheese making experience, but now I’m thinking that the recipe is not telling us all. Especially, because I tried my luck again with another herb and it did work. I used some strong tea of lady’s bedstraw (galium verum – in mrs. Grieves “A modern Herbal” it is also called cheese rennet!) and it gave curds and whey. Because I had only 1,5 liter milk, I had to press it in a small press. I used a tin with a pull off lid, the top edge removed and holes in the bottom, put in the curd in a handkerchief, replaced the lid which now sunk in, put a stone on top, rested it on a oven rack and waited. After pressing I put it in the fridge and after a few weeks I had a very hard, but eatable cheese! I wouldn’t exchange it for the local cheese I always buy, but if need arises, I can make my own cheese.

    • Hi Heidi

      thanks for the info, and I will certainly have to look into that herb, and also see if I can grow it in my own area, I am currently researching other possable sources that will work as Rennet, we will see how they turn out when put into practise. I have a round two of the stringing nettle post coming soon, with some more info that I found out.

      Great job on making a mini press, I can see how that would work just fine!

  2. jj says:

    I recently tried making feta from my own goat milk. The whole process seemed to go fine, and I decided to brine the cheese (rather than aging it dry in the fridge), as that is what I associate with feta, myself. Three days later, it is gobby goo in the brine container. I went back and checked, and I did not miss any of the steps in the actual written recipe…no idea where I went wrong…

    • Hi JJ

      I am pretty sure that I know what happened, as in the recipe I have for Feta, it talks about this happening and how to prevent it, my recipe has a trouble shooting area and what you are talking about it is in it.

      So when you make the feta, and you have the cheese, according to my book, you need to let the curdes dry and form a outer skin for at least three days, (they need a slight feel of toughness to the outer skin if that makes sense) once they have this, then they can go into the salt brine, and will get harder and let out more whey, but if they are put into the salt brine before they get that coating, they will turn into that mushy goo. They recommend a min of 72 hours to firm up, but if they go soft, they say next time, wait another day before adding ot brine etc. I perosnally feel a couple curds, you can feel the difference when you touch them.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  3. jj says:

    Thanks! That helps a lot…was trying to figure out what I had done wrong…

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