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Jul 9, 2008 05:55 PM

Homemade Mozz...w/o rennet, et al?

I've all of a sudden got a hankerin to make my own mozz. But all the recipes I've seen so far use rennet/citric acid and I'm looking for one without those ingredients. I'm assuming people way back when did not use those when making mozzarella so I'd like to give it a go as they did. I hope I'm not coming off as pretentious, and I certainly have way little experience with cheese but would love to make cheese the natural way. Any advice? Thanks, Hounds.

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  1. Both rennet and citric acid have been used for centuries. Rennet has been used in cheesemaking probably as long as people have been making cheese. In fact, one conjecture is that cheese was discovered when it formed from milk stored in pouches made from animal stomachs (which is what rennet is).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Right you are Ruth. But Kosher cheese isn't made with Rennet so there is a way. I've heard you can use probiotics.

        1. re: rhoda6950

          Yes, my point wasn't that rennet was the only way to make cheese, but that the original poster was incorrect in thinking that "people way back when" didn't use rennet/citric acid (in the form of lemon juice) and that other ways were more "natural." There's nothing "modern" or "unnatural" about using rennet, although you may choose to use other methods for other reasons.

          1. re: rhoda6950

            It simply isn't possible to make most cheese without rennet. Kosher cheese is made with either vegetable, microbial, or kosher calf rennet.

        2. the only cheese you can make (to my knowledge) w/o rennet is a kind of mild farmer's like thing you'd use in sag paneer.

          4 Replies
          1. re: hill food

            There are a number of cheeses made without rennet or rennin. Here's a link:


            TJ sells whole milk mozzarella made with a "vegetable rennet", so apparently it can be made without animal rennet. I don't have a recipe, but I'll look. You might consider contacting fhe group of the above website.

            1. re: Richard 16

              There are alternatives to rennet. The point hill food and I were trying to make was that using rennet to make cheese is neither a modern shortcut nor "unnatural" as the original poster seemed to think, when he said: "I'm assuming people way back when did not use [rennet/citric acid] when making mozzarella ... but would love to make cheese the natural way." You need to add something to the milk to make the curds form -- rennet is the traditional catalyst, but whether you choose to use that or an alternative, it's integral to the cheesemaking process.

              I suggest the orginal poster do some research on cheesemaking in general, and not just look for recipes for mozzerella.

              1. re: iL Divo

                Not technically.

                True ricotta is made from leftover whey after making another type of cheese. (The word itself means "twice cooked").

                If all you're doing is adding lemon juice to curdle whole milk, you're not making ricotta, you're making paneer.

                Mr Taster

            2. I should have also said that the reason rennet (or some kind of equivalent) is used to make cheese is that the naturally occurring enzymes in rennet are part of the chemical reaction that causes the milk proteins to coagulate and form curds. No rennet (or something similar), no cheese. If you're going to try to make cheese, you should probably do some research and learn more about it. Google is your friend!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                someone on the DC board was sourcing fresh rennet, and I did indeed Google for recipes but the first few pages were ungratifying, do you, Ruth (or others) have trusted recipe sources out there?

                I'm a random kinda person, ("try it - see what happens" is one of my mottos - "I'm along for the ride" seems to be a good one as a guest) but I'm new to the process and reading all sorts of conflicting advice. I do realize climate, altitude and ingredients are all going to do different unpredictable things. which is cool, I just don't want to create something poisonous, although I define cheese as deliciously rancid dairy in the first place.

                and yes Google is our friend (for now - but they're working on that!)

              2. Yeah, the others are correct...rennet and citric acid ARE the natural way. I've been making cheese for a while and learned from my great aunt, who, as far back as the 1940s, has used rennet she obtained from her farm's meat processor (slaughterhouse). And she learned from her mother, who did essentially the same thing, so that's how I assume old Italian cheesemakers did it, as well. Now it's conveniently available in tablets or liquid vials. You can also use the vegetarian kind. I've had better luck with the traditional rennet, but if your objections are the source, the vegetarian can be fine - might take a little more than the recipe requires to get a reasonably firm cheese. Also, I use the powdered citric acid sold at a local brewshop, but you could probably use lemon juice or a similar souring agent to replicate the curdling action required to make mozzarella. I'm guessing they work the same, because I replace citric acid with lemon juice when I'm canning...just a thought.

                By the way, mozzarella is a very, very easy cheese to make, and the result is SO worth the effort, even with cow's milk...just make sure you get the freshest, least altered (and definitely NOT ultra-pasturized) milk you can find - that's the way to keep the cheesemaking natural. Ultra-pasturized milk is not always labeled, and employees at supermarkets rarely (if ever) know whether their milk brands come from facilities that ultra-pasturize, so unless you call the dairy or processor yourself, you won't know you've got ultra-pasturized milk until your mozzarella ends up more like sub-par ricotta.

                1. The posters are right about the need of citric acid or rennet to make mozzarella. For an excellent discussion of the subject, see Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, or this excerpt in the new Mother Earth News: The magazine includes a recipe for making cheese. For supplies, including a kit for making mozzarella, see the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company at You can order animal and vegetable rennet there. Have fun!