We just finished the second day our of Intro to Cheesemaking Workshop and we fell in love with something new - WHEY! This humble by-product of the cheesemaking process captured our interest and inspired us to try some new techniques. This is a perfect example of how a conversation around the Gather table can inspire everyone, including me. While it was not originally part of my lesson plan for this class, but it became clear that we were about to be in WHEY over our heads.
What is whey? Whey, from cheesemaking, is the liquid that is leftover after forming curds and straining them. Milky and yellow, this somewhat unappetizing looking liquid offers so much value. There are two types of whey. Acid Whey comes from acid cultured whey products - when you use lemon juice or vinegar to sour milk. This leaves you with a slightly acidic whey. You can use this whey for soaking grains when making bread, feeding to animals and even for your own skin. The second type of whey is Sweet Whey which comes from making cheeses with rennet. You can also drain sweet whey off of yogurt, kefir or buttermilk. It has many uses like using as starter for fermenting vegetables, adding to smoothies or protein shakes, use as a cooking liquid for potatoes, pasta or grains, use in your compost pile - and our favorite - MAKING BREAD!
Two of our students went WHEY overboard when they took whey home with them and baked up two different loaves of bread. Talk about dedication - after 3 hours of cheesemaking they both went home and baked bread!! And then the students taught the teacher. After some research we learned that when using whey from a salted cheese, to either omit or add salt sparingly to avoid over salting. Makes perfect sense to us! In both cases the normal water in their recipes were replace with an equal part of whey. And we ended up with two really beautiful loaves. We slathered them with homemade butter and got our taste buds working.
We enjoyed our bread and butter along with our homemade mozzarella, Caprese style. And from that homemade butter, we used our extracted buttermilk in our Pressure Cooker Risotto to add a rich, creaminess without being too heavy. In these simple, clean ingredients that would usually get thrown away we struck liquid gold.
And that gives me a moment to talk about food waste. If you attend classes, you know my philosophy on food waste. As a nation, we throw away 40% of our food. 72 billion pounds. Let that sink in for a moment. That would be like throwing my own body weight away 507,042,253 times. 507 million me's - in a landfill. It almost pains me just to think about how much perfectly good food is wasted on a daily basis.
In fact, whey was commonly dumped in our water source prior to environmental laws. Pumped right into bodies of water. And since we just learned that whey can assist in fermentation, can you guess what happened? It created a massive algae bloom that then killed the marine life. This simple little step of throwing away a forgotten ingredient. An ingredient that you can re-purpose many different ways.
So, let's WHEY our options. You can throw it away. Bye bye whey. Or you can save it. Put it in your fridge and start baking some bread. You can bake bread! I know you can!! My favorite - put it in your pizza dough. You'll get a great sourdough like flavor. Use it in your compost pile. Maybe you just don't have time to bake bread. Get it into your garden.
I'll admit - I didn't save ALL the whey. We made a lot of cheese in two days. But we did save some and re-use it where we could. There's no shame in that. Just try to use some of what you might have normally tossed. A little bit of that, one kitchen at a time, will make a huge difference in the end.
Here are a couple of recipes where you could replace the liquid (dairy or water) with whey. And a little homemade butter for good measure! Click below to see the recipes: