Cheesemaking leaves you with a little bit of cheese and an incredible amount of whey. What can we do with the leftover whey?
I asked my Old Order Mennonite friend, when we were talking about cheesemaking, “What do you do with the whey?”
She looked surprised and said, “I toss it down the drain. Oh, I’ve heard of people who fed it to the animals, but no one I know does that anymore. After you make butter and then cheese, is it anything more than sour water?”
And yet, I can easily see why someone would think it not much more than acidic water. By the time a firm cheese is made, and then ricotta, the whey has very little of anything left in it. However, I have discovered that a few things can be done with the whey which does, in fact, contain nutrition and health benefits.
- Definitely make ricotta after making your hard cheese. That decreases the volume of the whey a lot, and gives you some spreadable cheese.
- Or serac, which is a pressed ricotta.
- Make bread. Just use the whey the same way that you would use water or milk. It works well as the liquid in sourdough starter.
- You could pickle – or more accurately – ferment boiled eggs in whey.
- Almost any baking recipe calling for buttermilk, and many calling for sour milk, can use whey – I use it in pancakes, cornbread, biscuits, muffins, and dumplings.
- Soak grains like oatmeal before cooking.
- It is fabulous for dogs, giving them shiny coats.
- Add spices and cook rice or barley.
- Add a little honey and slowly, slowly simmer it down to make a brown cheese called gejtost. Like many soft cheeses, this can range from creamy (use like a dessert sauce) to soft but sliceable. In Norway, it’s common for breakfast. (It’s an acquired taste, though.)
- Make like Cleopatra and pour a few cups of it in the bathtub for a less expensive milk bath. It is slightly anti-microbial and is supposed to help with acne.
- Marinade meats – whey is acidic and will tenderize and flavour red meat!
- Soak chicken breasts in whey, bread and then fry.
- Mix with fruit juice and carbonated water for a healthy drink.
- If you have miso, use whey as the base for a miso soup.
- Use as part of the liquid in making gravy or a cream soup or white sauce.
- If you can find a recipe, make blaand – a Scottish fermented whey drink. (And if you can find the recipe, send it to me!)
- Make biscuits (although I wouldn’t add the powdered milk)
- Make fermented orange juice, rather like Orangina (which I love – must make this).
- I haven’t tried this (but then, I haven’t made blaand, either), but it seems that you can use whey instead of vinegar/lemon juice in homemade mayo.
- After shampooing, massage hair and scalp with whey and then rinse with cool water.
- Caramelize it. Seriously.
- Make whey pickles – although I admit to having absolutely awful luck with these.
- Greek delis keep feta cheese fresh by submerging it in whey (with salt, I wonder?)
- Mix half and half with iced tea for an unusual summertime drink.
- If you have pigs, whey is wonderful for fattening them up.
- Chickens like whey, too, as an occasional treat instead of water. Chickens can not process lactose, so should not have too much, but the protein is very good for them.
I have read that whey will keep in the fridge for six months, but my experience is that it won’t. Unlike whole raw milk, whey will actually go moldy!