In March of 2016 Winding Road Artisan Cheese of Smoky Lake, Alberta, Canada, started making cheese using Thistlezyme® instead of “traditional” types of rennet. When doing our market research to determine what types of cheeses we should make, we found that there was an increase in demand for cheeses that were made without using traditional animal rennet. The demand for these cheeses was not only from vegetarian cheese lovers, but also from non-vegetarians as well.
This information brought us to the conclusion that there was a specialty market in our area for Cardoon cheeses, and we decided that we should get a “foot in the door.”
Once we received our samples, we started to formulate our cheese recipes to work with Thistlezyme®. As someone who had been making cheese on a small scale for almost 10 years, I initially thought that changing to thistle rennet would be a straightforward replacement. What I discovered was that thistle rennet not only created a unique cheese, but also the way I needed to work with it in my recipes was different. Although it took some time to get the recipes right, I found it refreshing to work with a new product that made me rethink my way of making cheese. Thistlezyme® has a slower curd set, which allows you to ripen and coagulate at the same time. This is why we add our cultures early in the cheese making process. This allows our cultures to activate and help the pH to drop while the Thistlezyme® is starting to do its job.
We have found that the 2.5 to 3 hour set time has helped us with concurrent activity and allows us to get more done in the areas of packaging and cheese affinage. This is just one of the benefits that that Thistlezyme® use has given us.
We also find that we can get a wide variety of textures with the Thistlezyme®. When most people think of using Cardoon in cheese making they think of soft gooey cheeses of Portugal and Spain. We have been able to make a variety of cheeses, from a Camembert style cheese, to a hard grating cheese such as Parmesan. One of the great things about Thistlezyme® is its versatility in the types of cheeses you can make with it. It is even great for making cheese curds.
The other thing people think of with Cardoon Cheeses is the bitterness that comes with them. We have found that in using Thistlezyme®, our firm cheeses haven’t developed any bitter notes, but instead have developed subtle herbal notes and those aged longer have a slight piquant flavor that is in perfect balance with the rest of the flavors. Now don’t get me wrong, Thistlezyme® can produce some nice and gooey cheeses, like our ACS Award Winning washed rind cheese, RDB, whose texture can range from fudgy when young and gooey when aged. We believe that our use of Thistlezyme® really makes this cheese special.
We have created our cheeses around the use of Thistlezyme®, and as a person who swore he would “never use a vegetarian rennet”, I have eaten my words several times over and will never use anything but Thistlezyme® from now on.
***Disclosure – Ian Treuer is Co-Owner and Head Cheese Maker of Winding Road Cheese and is the only cheese maker in Canada using Thistlezyme®. He is also a Thistlezyme® Consultant with Enzyme Development Corporation due to his work developing “Best Practices” in using Thistlezyme® in cheese making.