Vegetarian cheese is cheese that is not curdled with rennet, which is an enzyme that exists naturally in animal stomachs. Rennet is the popular name used by cheese makers to coagulate milk, forming curds. Most vegetarian cheeses are coagulated with plants, fungi, or bacteria. Right now, there are many alternatives to rennet that is in use by cheese producers. There are two types of rennets; they are microbial rennet and vegetarian rennet.
This rennet consists of enzymes that come from either bacterial or fungal origin. However, some microbial rennets are originated from micro organisms that naturally generate chymosin, which is an enzyme that is responsible for the coagulation of milk. There is however many strict vegetarians who may prefer to avoid cheese with this kind of rennet all together, even though animals are not involved in any way in daily production processes.
There are specific plants that also have the enzymes essential to coagulate milk. Plants that have found more common use as coagulants are fig tree bark, thistle and mallow. In agreement with certain spiritual and cultural traditions, customary cheeses from Portugal and the Middle East are rennetted with vegetable rennet. Artisanal Premium Cheese stocks a wide array of Portuguese thistle-rennet cheeses. They have a distinctive texture and bright, herbal tang that appeal to vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians.
Types of Vegetarian Cheeses
• Butlers Blacksticks Blue: This is a soft, blue-veined cheese from Lancashire, England. It is made only with pasteurized cow’s milk, the cheese is aged for eight weeks, during this time it develops an amber hue and a smooth but sharp flavour.
• Sherwood Smoked Cheddar: This cheese is smoked. It is a moist but hard cheese and is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and also covered with paprika.
• Saint Andre: This type of cheese is a soft ripened and enriched with cream.
• Cranberry Chevre with Cinnamon: This cheese is a combination of cranberries and cinnamon which produce an exceptional cheese that is tangy and spicy to taste.