It's one of life's big questions: "What makes cheese so dang good?" Cheese starts as milk, of course. But somewhere along the way, it goes from liquid and creamy to solid and tangy. So, who's responsible for that magical transformation? Time…and enzymes.
It's the enzymes in cheese that cause the milk to coagulate or solidify. Enzymes start the process of separating the solid curds from the watery whey, giving cheesemakers the raw ingredients they need to create a batch of brick cheese, a chunk of cheddar, or an ounce of asadero cheese. Without the enzymes in cheese, your mozzarella, muenster, or marbled blue-jack would just be a big bowl of milk.
That's why, in Wisconsin, we pay great respect to the incredible enzymes in cheese. We know that without them, our cheesemakers couldn't produce the incredibly tasty, high-quality, award-winning cheese that every Wisconsinite craves.
We invite you to meet a few of Wisconsin's most famous residents. Take a cruise through our website to meet some of the 600+ varieties, styles, and flavors of cheese produced in Wisconsin. Search our index of recipes to find cheesy inspiration for your next party spread, holiday feast, or weeknight dinner. Or scroll down for the 411 on how cheese is made and how the enzymes in cheese are the first step in an incredible cheesemaking journey.
The rennet enzymes in cheese play a huge role in creating this most admired of foods. Early in the cheesemaking process, cheesemakers add rennet to the milk to start the process of coagulation. Rennet includes the enzyme chymosin which is particularly effective at causing the casein protein in milk to clump together, creating solid milk curd while releasing liquid whey. The rennet enzymes in cheese also trap fats and minerals in the curd, which are essential to creating cheese.
Cheesemakers use several forms of rennet. Traditionally, animal rennet was taken from the stomach lining of young ruminant animals like calves, lambs, and kids (goats). Vegetable rennet is derived from plants that have coagulating properties, such as nettles, thistles, artichokes, fig juice, and other plants. Microbial rennet uses living organisms like fungi, yeasts, and mold to curdle milk. And genetically engineered rennet is made by introducing cells or DNA from animal stomachs into yeast cultures that then develop the same coagulating properties as animal rennet.
Rennet enzymes for cheese are available in several forms. Liquid rennet is easily measured and is great for small-batch cheeses or making cheese at home, but it requires preservatives to keep it from spoiling. Rennet in powdered or tablet form has a longer shelf life without preservatives and is more often used in large-batch production.
Rennet is the name for the enzymes in cheese that cause coagulation.
Enzymes in cheese are the ingredient that causes milk to curdle, separating the solid curd from the watery whey.
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What makes one cheese better than another? It's the flavors in the milk, the skill of the cheesemaker, and the quality of the enzymes in the cheese. And here in Wisconsin, we'll take our milk, cheesemakers and enzymes over any other region in the world.
See, we're a place where cheesemakers have been obsessively making the world's finest cheese for 180 years. An impressive 90% of the milk produced from our famed dairyland goes to make cheese. And while you can't see the enzymes in cheese, you can sure see the results. Just check out the 5,552 championship awards we've won for our cheese – more than any other state or country in the world.
So, next time you have a hankering for the creamy, nutty, tangy, earthy taste of cheese, look for a chunk that has the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese badge on the label. You can be sure the enzymes in that cheese are working overtime to deliver a prize-winning flavor experience.
Craving award-winning aged cheddar, pining for parmesan, or searching for a new cheese to try? The world’s best cheese is just a click away! Explore our directory of Wisconsin cheesemakers and retailers who offer online cheese shopping and get cheese shipped right to your door. What are you waiting for?
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In Wisconsin, we make more flavors, varieties, and styles of cheese than anywhere else in the world. We believe in tradition, producing everything from Italian classics, like parmesan and ricotta, to swiss cheese and cheddar varieties. But every Wisconsin cheesemaker is an innovator as well, which is why we have so many Wisconsin originals, like colby and muenster. Whether it’s a grilled cheese sandwich, potatoes au gratin, or a charcuterie board, Wisconsin cheese makes every dish and recipe tastier.