Mozzarella With Thistle Info

Information on Using Thistle Rennet

The backstory for this cheese all began with a working trip to Spain a couple of years ago.

I was in search of the famous cheese Torta del Caser that's made with thistle from the Cardoona plant. The Cardoona is a huge and very prickly thistle, it's also a member of the artichoke family. The beautiful purple flower parts are dried and used to make the enzyme (rennet) that coagulates the milk.

The cheese comes from the drylands of Extremadura in western Spain and when ripe, its soft paste can be spooned out of the cheese almost like a fondue.

The difference between using this rennet and more standard rennet (with chymosin) is that Cardoon extracted enzymes never stop breaking down the proteins in milk which creates, after a few weeks, a very soft paste. This type of cheese was primarily made with sheep's milk and had a reputation for making a bitter cheese when using cows milk.

When working with Thistle rennet my immediate thoughts were, how do I get rid of the bitterness and make it work with cows milk. My trials over the past year or so have led me to quite a wonderful and unique process of cheese making.

To begin with the rennet is added right after the culture with no wait period, and the milk always needs calcium chloride, even raw milk. Thistle rennet works much slower than traditional rennet. So an early rennet addition is needed to enable the protein changes in the milk and the acid development to reach ideal conditions. The real treat is that Thistle rennet keeps breaking down the milk proteins whereas traditional chymosin rennet stops early. Thistle rennet never seems to stop working after being added to the milk, even as the cheese is aging. 

Cheese made with Thistle rennet benefit greatly from fresh good flavored milk. The milk I use begins to show a flavor of honey and peach as July and August come on. I can’t wait to make another batch with high summer milk from the grass pastured herd of Jerseys.

This particular recipe is for a moist cheese so the goal is to convert acid while at the same time preserving moisture in the final curds.