Simply, rennet is the enzyme which sets to separate and curdle your milk for cheese, separating the solids from the liquid. “You can use Lady’s Bedstraw” I hear Monica say… This will provide both a natural rennet and colour from the flowers. Following her instructions I set about testing out the method with the last of some bedstraw that my parent’s are lucky to have growing around the more wild peripherals of their coastal garden.
Gathering a good handful, bruising the stems and wrapping in a muslin cloth I tied them ready. Heating the milk to 35ºC and adding the ‘straw’ bag, I set it aside it to cool and separate. Waiting…waiting…waiting because Monica said it may take up to 12 hours to form curds.
At last, success! I had managed to get some curds to separate. I strained the hanging in muslin overnight. Voila, soft curd cheese. Not as much as I would expect to get from the amount of milk but curds no less! Alas, I found the taste of the bedstraw…a little too ‘bedstraw’. But a swift addition of some stored wild garlic and fresh garden chives and the crackers were topped and eaten.
My verdict – I am still a terrible cheese maker, but the magic of cheese making is still fascinating. And Kathy doesn’t need to know about her student’s continued failures.