Vegetarian Cheeses, Parmesan, et al.
Not exactly Parmesan
First off, under EU legislation .. "protected designation of origin", rather like Champagne, for a cheese to be called Parmesan, it must be produced in certain regions of Italy, and strictly to controlled traditional methods, which means it's made with animal rennet, and looks to be distinctly non-vegetarian. Therefore vegetarian alternatives will not be called, or marketed as, Parmesan, so don't be put off if they are labelled as "Italian Pasta Cheese", "Italian style hard cheese" or "authentic full flavoured cheese".
Rennet, a coagulant used in the production of many cheeses, is traditionally an animal product, often a by-product of the veal industry. Go Google it and it sounds pretty gross.
There are however plant-based alternatives, they apparently often lean towards a slightly more bitter cheese. Examples include nettles, thistles, dried caper leaves, amongst others. Enzymes from thistle or cynara are used in some traditional Mediterranean cheese production.
These "real" vegetable rennets are suitable for vegetarians. But with no Worldwide industrial production for vegetable rennet, these real vegetable rennets tend to be used in small scale, hand made cheese production. Commercial "vegetable" rennet is usually made from certain molds, however the science of "microbial rennet" is still quite new.
These days the vast majority of US and UK commercially made cheeses are made using GM-based rennet. Which, personally thinking, sounds a little suspect.
Certain acids such as citric acids are used in some cheeses, soft cheese as an example.
Some alternatives known to be suitable vegetarian cheeses shown below as we learn of them, if there are any you can recommend, please let us know.
- Pilgrims Choice extra mature, available at Tesco amongst others carries the Vegetarian logo.
- A range of speciality cheeses from Valley Spire, purchased from Lidl carry the suitable for Vegetarians logo. Including Oak Smoked Cheddar, Double Gloucester with Onion and Chives .. assume the Wensleydale with cranberries and Wensleydale with Apricots will be too .. just haven't lasted long enough to confirm just now. Valley Spire seems to be a Lidl "Own" brand.