Rennet Cheese

The magic of rennet cheese

How do you turn ordinary milk into extraordinary cheese? For most cheeses, it all starts with rennet. When added to milk, the enzymes in rennet start the process of solidifying the milk protein and giving cheesemakers the solid curds that will eventually become aged cheddar, gorgonzola, mozzarella, or parmesan. Not every cheese is a rennet cheese – some cheeses use milk curdled with other products like vinegar or lemon – but every rennet cheese is part of that magical transformation from raw milk to the tangy, creamy goodness that's prized around the world for its taste and texture.

Here in Wisconsin, we're completely under the spell of rennet cheese. Doesn't matter if it's brick or butterkäse, baby swiss or blue – when rennet cheese says "Jump!", we say "How high?" and "Can we have some cheese when we stop jumping?" Of course, it helps that Wisconsin is home to the tastiest, highest-quality, most award-winning cheese on the planet. That makes Wisconsin a pretty magical place.

Take a look around our website to meet a bunch of stand-up rennet cheeses. Search our index for recipes for your next holiday gathering or a Tuesday night grilled cheese sandwich. Or scroll down for more info on the magic of rennet cheese.

The real deal on rennet cheese

Rennet is a set of enzymes that's found in the stomachs of ruminant animals like young cows, sheep, and goats. When added to milk, rennet enzymes cause the casein proteins in milk to cling together and form a solid curd while trapping the fats and minerals that are essential to making cheese.

Of the 1,800+ varieties of cheese in the world, the vast majority are rennet cheeses. While animal rennet is still used widely throughout the world, many cheesemakers today also rely on several other kinds of rennet. Plant rennet, or vegetable rennet, is derived from thistle plants like artichokes and nettles as well as fig leaves, melons, and safflower. Microbial rennet uses microorganisms found in certain molds. Fermentation-produced chymosin is a genetically modified solution that isolates rennet genes from animals and introduces them into yeast, bacteria, or fungi to create the enzyme that can curdle milk.

Rennet is typically available in several forms. Liquid rennet is the easiest to work with because it can be measured with greater accuracy, but rennet powders and tablets are more often used in larger production facilities because they keep longer.

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FAQs: What is rennet cheese?

What is rennet cheese?

Rennet cheese is a cheese that uses rennet in the cheesemaking process to coagulate the milk and to separate the curd from whey. Rennet is a mix of enzymes that causes the casein proteins in liquid milk to clump together, forming a solid curd that is eventually transformed into cheese. Traditionally, rennet was taken from the stomachs of young ruminant animals like calves or lambs. Today, many cheesemakers use rennet produced from vegetable sources or microbes or from the genetically modified genes of ruminant animals.

What cheeses are made without rennet?

Some cheeses use acids like vinegar or lemon juice rather than rennet to curdle the milk. Queso blanco, cream cheese, mascarpone, quark, and ricotta are a few of the cheeses made without rennet.

Why choose rennet cheese from Rhinelander or Racine?

When you're looking for the best rennet cheese in the world, look north to Wisconsin. Our cheesemakers have been perfecting old-world recipes and inventing new rennet cheeses for 180 years. And they've gotten pretty darn good at it. It's not unusual for our goudas and gorganzolas to outperform their counterparts from Holland and Italy at the World Championship Cheese Contest. And it's well-known that Wisconsin produces more flavors, styles, and varieties of cheese than anywhere else on earth.

That's what happens when a whole state is focused on how to make cheese as tasty as possible. It's why 90% of our milk goes to making cheese, and why we are the only state in the nation that requires our cheesemakers to have a license. You heard that right – you can't just go making cheese willy-nilly in Wisconsin.

So next time you're looking for some real rennet cheese – whether it's a block of brick, a slice of stracchino, or mac and cheese with muenster or marbled blue-jack – just look for the Proudly Wisconsin Cheese badge on the label. That's when you know your rennet cheese is the real deal.

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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