The Curdling Specialist

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Traditional rennet is made from the fourth stomach or abomasum of a milk-fed calf less than 30 days old, before chymosin is replaced by other protein-digesting enzymes. The key to rennet’s importance in cheesemaking is chymosin’s specific activity. Where other enzymes attack most proteins at many points and break them into many pieces, chymosin effectively attacks only one milk protein, and at just one point. Its target is the negatively charged kappa-casein that repels individual casein particles from each other. By clipping these pieces off, chymosin allows the casein particles to bond to each other and form a continuous solid gel, the curd.