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What You DON’T See Is What You Get

You know milk comes from cows and that you need that same milk to make ALL dairy products—including cheese. What you might not know is that the cows are preparing their milk to be made into cheese before it (the milk) even leaves the cow. They do this by using an enzyme in their body called rennet.

There is just one problem…the people that make the feed for cows, sheep, and goats put additives in the feed these animals eat so this can’t happen.

They do this to make the milk stay fresh longer since it has to go from the farm to the processing plant to the store.

Okay, so that’s what rennet is?

Cows, sheep, and goats are ruminants. This means they have 4 stomachs—each stomach having a special job when it comes to processing and digesting food. In the 4th stomach of these animals you will find an enzyme (chemical) called rennet. The rennet helps the baby digest its mom’s milk, but it also allows the milk to coagulate (get firm).

Firm milk? Yes, it coagulates the milk to make the curds needed for making cheese. That’s right—cheese is made from firm milk. Different times and methods used to coagulate the milk make different kinds of cheese.
Rennet coagulates the milk while it is still sweet and good to eat or drink. Another word for this is curdle. Without rennet in the milk, milk will sour before it curdles. This means that without rennet we couldn’t have cheese.

No cheese? How can that be? Let’s find out…

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Facts for Kids

Here is what you need:

It takes time for sedimentary rocks to form. And unlike other non-living things, sedimentary rocks can ‘grow’ as more sediment is forced onto an existing sedimentary rock. This is why:

  • 1 quart of milk NOTE: Raw milk will make better cheese but is more expensive and sometimes hard to find (depending on where you live) If you use pasteurized milk from the store, you may not get as good of results, but it can work
  • 2 cooking pots with lids
  • Rennet drops NOTE: These are available from most any health food store or can be purchased online—don’t worry, rennet is not expensive
  • Butter knife
  • Cheesecloth or lose weave muslin
  • Stove

Here is what you do

  • Pour half the milk into each pot and bring to a temperature of 85 degrees
  • Add rennet according to the directions on the bottle to ONE pot (a few drops is all it takes) and stir
  • Cover the pots with their lids
  • Leave the milk sitting out where it can stay at room temperature overnight (24 hours) NOTE: the ideal temperature is about 70 to 75 degrees
  • Check to see if the curd has formed—it will be a soft solid with a layer of milky liquid (whey) on top
  • If the curd has formed, carefully pour off the whey, cut the curd into squares (like cutting a cake), let set for 20 to 30 minutes, and cook over a LOW heat to about 105 degrees
  • Pour the cheese into a cheesecloth or muslin bag and gently squeeze the rest of the whey out of the curd
  • Put the curds (cheese) into a bowl and flavor with salt and sugar to taste
  • Refrigerate and use within 2 to 4 days
  • Leave the pot with the uncoagulated milk-covered for another 24 hours
  • Smell this pot of milk, but don’t taste

Hint:

Only one pot of milk will coagulate—the one with the rennet

What happened

Putting the rennet drops into the milk took it back to its natural state and allowed the process of coagulation or curdling to take place. The milk without the rennet cannot curdle before souring and going bad.

Even though you may never see the cows your milk comes from or the food they eat, you CAN see what it does…and doesn’t do.

Isn’t that amazing!