What is Whey?
...whey is the not so visually appealing yellowish liquid byproduct of all kinds of cultured dairy products upon which bacteria has broken down the sugars in foods and that which form lactic acid, the process is known as lacto-fermentation.
Yesterday afternoon I decided to make Paneer Cheese in the pantry, the recipe can be located at: Paneer (Homemade Cheese) this was a most enjoyable journey and experience and one which left me with 600g of the freshest cheese possible that has already been opened for my breakfast, this is something you have to try, and something I shall be building upon in the recipe section.
However, as a result I was left with 3 litres of whey and began to think about how to reuse it rather than just pouring it down the drain. As with most articles in this section of the site I shall not cover every avenue and shall not necessarily go into great depth, preferring instead to allow you to whet your appetite on a subject and therefore setting yourself off on your own journey of research.
What is Sweet Whey (Unsalted)?
Sweet whey comes from things made with rennet, like hard cheese and most soft cheeses, some of the uses for the sweeter whey include:
Create ricotta from a byproduct: The original ricotta was, and still is made from the whey that’s left over from making mozzarella and other fresh cheese. The whey is heated, often with fresh milk and citric acid. Then the curds are harvested, much the same process as the paneer.
Form mozzarella: To make mozzarella, the curds must be stretched in hot water repeatedly. Reusing the why creates more flavour than plain water alone.
Make your own butter: To use whey to make butter, leave it to cool for a few hours or overnight. The cream present in whey will rise to the top and can be scooped away and used to make butter, this can be a very hit and miss situation, largely depending how much of the cream you removed with the curds in the first place.
Bug control: Strain the whey well and dilute in a ratio of 1:1 with water. Spray this on to plants to help keep any powdery mildew at bay.
Redress acidity in your soil: If you’re growing plants that need require acidity, such as tomatoes, You’ll find that the whey, as it is will lower the pH of the soil and assist.
What is Acidic Whey (Unsalted)?
Acid whey comes from products that have used bacterial action to acidify the food, like goat cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. You can reuse acidic whey for the following suggestions:
Smoothies or mixed drinks: There are plenty of probiotics in whey, in fact it is packed to the rafters with the stuff and has a bracing acidity. Whilst it can be used as a pick-me-up in the morning as a single or double shot but many don’t find it palatable, so if you fall into the latter group try it in smoothies or even cocktails. Replace any milk or juice in a mixed drink for a bit of creamy tang. Just be mindful that whey still contains lactose.
Create a lacto-fermented beverage: A dash of whey can be used to make a refreshing, effervescent beverage. Simply combine whey with soda water and, if desired, simple syrup sweetness. Minus the syrup is one of my favourites, so crack out your SodaStream and simply add 3 or 4 tbsp to half a glass, far better, cheaper and better for you than the tablets you can purchase in your local shop that leave your face scrunched up by the time you finish the glass.
Feed it to animals: This is an age-old practice where I used to live in Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna. The whey from the production of Parmigiano Reggiano is fed to pigs that ultimately become prosciutto, nothing is wasted. If you don’t have pigs and I don’t, simply add some to your dog’s diet for the above reasons, or supplement feed for backyard chickens, it took a while but my chickens have rather taken to it.
Condition your hair: If you use an alkaline shampoo regime such as the no-poo method, yes, I had to research it too. Whey acts as a neutraliser for the pH. Even a standard shampoo washing regime benefits from rinsing your hair with whey thereby making it smoother and shinier.
Sometimes cheese recipes have you add salt before straining, the paneer above is salted following the removal of the whey. This leaves leftover salted whey, which can be used for the following:
Soup stock: Whey adds a deep flavour as a base in soups and stews, much like a stock. Replace part of the stock or water in a soup recipe with whey. This works equally well with unsalted or salted as a stock in primarily a seafood paella.
Bake with it: The acidity of whey has a softening effect on glutenous bread and pizza dough and can assist the yeast in rising. Some recipes may even specify whey in the ingredients. Ensure you adjust your salt accordingly to compensate.
Soak nuts or grains: If you make your own almond milk, or other, why use water when you can soak nuts and grains in whey? It adds flavour and probiotics to the nuts or grains, thereby giving you a head start. Or replace some of the liquid with whey when cooking grains, much the same as for stock. I replace water for salted whey on a 1:1 ratio when cooking split green peas and split red lentils as the basis for a hearty soup on a cold Autumn lunchtime.
The onus is now upon you to decide what you wish to learn more about and befriend your favourite search engine; good fortune.