CHEESE ARTICLES in honor of SHAVUOS! (On which it’s traditional to eat dairy foods / meals.)
by Rabbi Dovid Wheeler
(photo - Fig, Vegetable, and Microbial rennet)
Rennet, it does a cheese good.
Rennet is the ingredient that allows milk to curdle into cheese.
There is a great misunderstanding regarding the concept of Rennet in the making of Kosher Cheese. Many believe that if cheese is made with animal rennet, there would be a violation of Basar vChalav (the prohibition of mixing/eating meat and diary). I am glad to say that would not be the case.
Everybody probably knows the story of how cheese came to being. Once upon a time, there was a nomad that put his milk in his (animal skin) stomach pouch (made from an animal stomach) and went on his journey. When he arrived to his destination he took the top off of the pouch held it to his mouth for a drink and out came a coagulated kind of cheesy thing.
So we see that it is true that by putting milk in side a dried animal stomach we can get curdled milk. But what is rennet really? Can it truly be Kosher?
Rennet is from an enzyme found in the 4th stomach of a kosher animal (animals that chew their cud have 4 stomachs). It is known and documented that milk that has been obtained from non-kosher mammals can not be made into either cheese or butter. They will simply not coagulate under normal circumstances.
In order for Rennet to be kosher though the animal needs to be schechted (slaughtered per kosher methods) and deveined according to halacha (Jewish law). Once this is done the enzyme is extracted and that is what is used to make milk (from a kosher animal) into cheese.
Since the process involved is time consuming and very expensive it is very rare that you will find Kosher rennet from an animal.
I read the other day that there is someone in Israel that stated he can make rennet from the stomach of either cows or goats that had been killed on the road. It would be true that he is making rennet, but the cheese that he makes from it is not fit for Jewish kosher consumption as the animal is a Nevaila (died from disease or injury).
All vegetable based rennets (such as fig juice as used in days long gone) are Kosher, but only if they are added to milk by a Torah observant Jew will the cheese be kosher. This is because of a halachic restriction from Chazal (the sages of days past).
All Microbial rennet is generally kosher and will follow the same rules as vegetable based rennets (though it’s possible it may be grown on a non-kosher medium, and therefore should be checked or certified before purchase or use).
So though some rennet is animal derived, it is not a meat product and therefore cheese is not a violation of mixing meat and dairy.
Feel free to enjoy some kosher cheese with your Shavuos holiday meals!
About Rabbi Dovid…
Just a plain American Husband, Father, Rabbi, Reflexologist, Herbalist, and owner of koshercurds.com (100% kosher cheese making supplies, cheese making workshops) and davidsnaturals.com, and lover of nature with all that it has to offer. He lives in Israel with his wife and son in the Golan Heights. koshercurds.com - 100% Kosher Home Cheese Making supplies and workshops.