Monday, January 25, 2010

Rennet from a Thistle?

I met Jon Clark at a recent cheese class where he was a student. Jon is currently teaching English in Hungary. Though he is really interested in making cheese, he does not have the luxury of being able to order ingredients over the internet and have them arrive in a timely or economical fashion.

We discussed that it is possible to harvest your own rennet, and I forwarded him a link to another obsessed cheesemaker, David B. Fankhauser. Dr. Fankhauser shows his attempt to create his own rennet from the stomach of a suckling kid (the goat kind). I thought if Jon were really desperate, this was something that he could try. If seeing where your food comes from does not disturb you, check it out here.

Jon replied and told me he had coincidentally just seen that very page in a recent posting to the blog Serious Eats. In this entry Jake Lahne discusses the use of the Cardoon Thistle as a cheesemaking coagulant.

I have read in American Farmstead Cheese that thistle was used in historic cheesemaking when animal rennet was not available or not desired. Jewish cheesemakers used thistle to create a kosher cheese (avoiding mixing meat and milk). Some cheeses are still made today using this process: Torta la Serena, Torta del Casar, and Serra da Estrela are examples.

I am very curious about trying to use Cardoon as a coagulant. My favorite seed company carries it, so I will try planting some this year. Stay tuned for results this summer/fall.


  1. You are my hero. Good luck with the plantings. I hope the foliage is as lovely as the cheese.

  2. My friend David Peterson, now in Oregon, has been doing quite a bit with thistle derived rennet. I believe he has a seminar coming up in Maine and farmers from Little Falls Farm will cover how to render rennet from a young kid, and David will cover vegetal rennet. David used to live in Maine (we do miss him!) check out

    Jennifer Betancourt
    Tomten Farm
    Edgecomb, Maine

  3. Wow, it would be fun pick his brain. Send him my way if you have the chance.

  4. hi i have just picked a lot of brown thistle heads to soak and boil and mash as per the only instruction i could find on the web. it has turned to curd quickly although it said i may have to leave overnight. it didnt say at which stage or whattemperature to do this. i also used acidity so perhaps it was the acidity. as yet i have not let it mature as im planning to try mozzerella making tomorow and i think i have to wait a day for it to ripen. if the curds create mozzerella tomorow then it works if i still have paneer or cotage cheese then it hasnt worked or i havent used sufficient amounts. i am tryinganother batch with yoghurt leaving overnight so that may prove more telling. wish me luck i have a feild full of thistles to sell!!

  5. i just made some curds with common thistle but used acidity as well, am awaiting a batch with yoghurt to develop slowly so we shall see if that works. also i will attempt to make mozzerella as that will be the quickest way to tell if it has worked as i dont think u can make mozzerella with acidity alone.