It has been talked about a lot but there is no real recipe in cheesemaking forums using vegetable coagulants.
While I wouldn’t change my real calf rennet to anything, I am interested to develop a recipe that works with a vegetable coagulant agent as it involves research, reading and bit of engineering.
I have done a lot of research. Basically it will be a thermophilic cheese with higher than usual acidity with added calcium chloride for better coagulation. If anybody knows a Portuguese, Spanish or Algerian artisanal cheesemaker who uses plant coagulants, please try to get some information from them and send me a comment.
The plants that are talked about listed below. However I am only going to try globe artichoke as I have only this one growing in the garden. I can also use fig sap but research linked above says a strong odour and browning happens with the cheese that is not desired. I am sure there is a way to use this properly as even Bill Mollison said it is one of the most efficient coagulant for cheesemaking.
Galium verum – Lady’s Bedstraw
Cynara cardunculus – Wild arthichoke
Cynara scolymus L. – Globe artichoke
Urtica dioica – Stinging nettle
Ficus – Fig sap
The process to prepare the artichoke flowers that I am following is entirely experimental. I collect about 10g of purple stems from the plant, dry them under shade, ground them in a clean, sterile mortar and add them to 250ml of slightly salty whey to release the enzymes. I am not sure which enzyme works here exactly. I will keep the whey solution at room temperature in a sterile jar for a day.
The starter amount is slightly higher about 3% of the total milk. Artichoke coagulant works best around pH 5 but that is too high acidity. With some less activity, between 6 to 6.3 will work too. Adding about 3% percent mother starter with CaCl2 will help with the acidity and better coagulation (according to the research I linked above).
The curd may not be as strong as calf rennet curd so very gentle cutting and stirring is required. I will follow the flocculation technique to watch the coagulation, I can then determine the cutting time. Also with the 250ml artichoke rennet, if the floc happens before or after 15 minutes, I can then adjust the amount of veg-rennet.
This cheese will be a hard cheese with cooked curd till I get some shiny texture and pressed only half the weight of the curd like a Tomme style. As I am starting with a higher acidity, I need to closely watch the development during the cooking stage.
The yield is expected to be less than that off the calf rennet but I am hoping the texture and aroma will be different with this one to compensate. If I hit a sweet spot with a nice aroma and texture, I can live with that. I can always do ricotta with the remaining whey to compensate as well so it is not a complete loss.
The quality of the milk is also important. Rich milks like sheep and water buffalo works best. Preferably raw cow’s milk also works. Goat’s milk with some losses also works but it is too delicate to work with.
Now the recipe:
8 Litres of raw milk
240 ml mother thermo starter
3 drops of CaCl2
Add CaCl2 and starter to cold milk
Heat the milk to 28C to 30C and keep it for about an hour. Depending on the starter activity, we are aiming a pH value of less than 6.3 in an hour or hour and a half including the time to heat.
Once pH achieved strain the artichoke rennet through a sterile muslin to remove the stems and add it to the milk by stirring up and down to distribute the rennet evenly.
Put your floc cup on the milk and start the chronometer. Floc multiplier is 3.5 (Tomme style).
Cut to half centimetre cubes and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Start cooking the curd by taking the temperature to 35 in about half an hour. When the curd pieces have shrunk to quarter of the beginning size and have a shiny appearance, you can stop.
Drain the whey to the level of the curd and let the curd stick together in the bottom.
Take it to a muslin covered draining basket, put a water bottle with a weight equal to quarter of the curd.
After 15 minutes, remove the cheese, unwrap, turn it over, wrap and press again with the same weight for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the cheese, unwrap, turn it over, wrap and press again with the half weight of the curd.
After 15 minutes, remove the cheese, unwrap, turn it over, wrap and press again with the half weight of the curd for another 15 minutes.
With this delicate pressing, the curd will not shatter and drain from the holes.
Now you can continue pressing with a weight equal to the half the weight of the curd.
Brine salting as usual; 1 hour per 500 g of the cheese. This is saturated brine with a pH of 4.7 to 5 at around 14C
Affinage is in the cheese cave for about 3 months and at 85% humidity with 10C.