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A Cheese Rennet à la Sourdough Starter

This recipe originates from the Turkish nomad people who live on mountains and travel with their animals. They are called Yörük, and their cheese technology is outstanding. They are totally self-sustainable and, throughout the centuries, perfected their way of living. If there is one culture that is living according to permaculture ethics and principles, they are Yörüks. They are still surviving in today’s Turkish mountains and plateaus. 

The recipe below is a traditional rennet recipe to make cheese used by the Yörük people. It is like a sourdough starter that you need to feed with various ingredients used in the recipe from time to time.


The recipe is:

  • 1 dry or fresh abomasum
  • 1 litre strained yogurt whey
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1 cup beans
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup dry raisins
  • 3-4 carob (optional)
  • 1 tbsp molas
  • 2-3 dry fig
  • 5-10 olive leaves
  • 1 tbsp Potassium aluminium sulphate – Potash Alum
  • 10 Pyrus elaeagnifolia leaves (elders say adding this makes the best cheese)
  • 10-15 hop flowers

Put everything in a 4-6 litre jar and fill it up with whey. Cover the mouth of the jar with muslin and secure it with rubber bands. Stir it every day twice.

After 3 days at room temperature, you will see bubbles. pH at this point should be around 5-4.

It is ready to use at this stage. 1 cup per 5 litres of milk is sufficient for coagulation. You can adjust the amount to your liking or by the flocculation method.

At the beginning of cheese making season, add only whey to the jar and after a while from other ingredients like chickpeas, beans, dry raisins, salt, dry fig or olive leaves but don’t overdo it.

If a fresh abomasum is used, you must use Potash alum to prevent spoiling.

This concoction can be kept at room temperature as long as it is used and fed for about 6 months. But you have to make sure the abomasum does not rise to the top and start spoiling. If you are not making cheese regularly, keep it in the fridge.

You can also strain the juice and freeze it on ice cube trays.



You can prepare 2 jars, one with thermophilic bacteria like yogurt whey and incubate at 43 degrees Celcius. The other would take some mesophilic bacteria like cultured buttermilk and set it at 25 degrees Celcius.

You still need to use a starter culture to acidify the milk before renneting. The rennet bacterial flora will work throughout the cheesemaking and during the affinage period to develop the aroma compounds.



I would prepare the concoction without the abomasum first. And when I am going to make cheese, I would mix 250ml juice with 2 centimetres square dry abomasum the night before. This should be enough for 8 litres of milk.


Explanation of Ingredients

Abomasum: of course, provides rennin, chymosin, pepsin and bovine enzymes to coagulate the milk.

Image by Pearson Scott Foresman – Public domain

Yogurt water or whey: makes the enzymes in the abomasum to be released with its acidity.

Lemon juice: adds citric acid to keep the bacteria under control. Also acidifies the environment to prevent pathogenic bacteria.

Chickpeas, beans, dry raisins, carob and fig: provide bacterial fauna and enzymes to coagulate the milk.

Molas: is food for lactic acid bacteria. Liquid malt sugar would have been better.

Salt and Potash Alum prevents spoilage.

Olive and Pyrus elaeagnifolia leaves, as well as hop flowers, are exciting additions. My research shows that polyphenols from olive leaves help with the shelf-life of the cheese made (link below).

Pyrus elaeagrifolia
Image by Zeynel Cebeci under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Polyphenols, of course, are not the only reason that these leaves are added. There is other stuff happening which we don’t know yet. Anybody up for a PhD thesis?

I am awaiting an abomasum from my butcher. When I have it, I will be doing this recipe.


This article was written by Gurkan Yeniceri and has been reposted from havatopraksu  under creative commons licence 4.0


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