So, after you've strained your yogurt to make Greek-style yogurt or after you've made a lovely batch of cheese, you're left with beaucoups green, watery whey. Usually after using two gallons of milk for mozzarella, I have nearly 1 1/2 gallons of whey. What to do?
Don't throw it away! It has nutritional goodness galore and here are ten ways to make use of all that loveliness.
Use it in breads, cakes, biscuits, muffins, and pancakes.
You can substitute whey for water in any baked good recipe to make a softer, more tender crumb, but keep in mind – especially with yeast breads – that it will make the crust brown more quickly and more deeply. For some this is desireable, for others – not so much.
Use in it smoothies.
Body builders pay hefty sums for whey protein powder to consume while they bulk up, but with the pure, liquid form available to you, add 1/2 cup to your next smoothie for added sweetness and protein.
Use it to ferment your vegetables.
Eating fermented foods is an essential part of keeping your colon healthy and thus allowing your body to absorb the nutrients it needs. Use just a few tablespoons of whey when you make your next batch of sauerkraut, kimchi, or ginger carrots, or stir it in to your homemade mayonnaise to prolong its useful life.
I should mention that whey derived from cheesemaking is not the best for lacto-fermentation, merely because it is separated from the milk solids quickly due to the coagulant and the slight heat. Whey derived from cultured dairy products like yogurt or kefir carries all the benefits of the culture plus has the time to naturally separate from the milk solids, allowing the time for the good bacteria to proliferate. The latter is definitely the preferred method in this case.
The “strength” of your whey is also significantly impacted if you use pasteurized milk – since all the bacteria was killed in the heating process and most of the enzymes damaged, pasteurized whey just doesn't have the same “oomph” as other wheys. Yet one more reason to drink raw milk!
The fresher the whey, the better with this one, and cheesemaking whey is definitely preferred.
Heat any amount of whey to 200 degrees F, then strain it into cheesecloth or a tea towel laid over a colander. Amazingly, the sweet ricotta curd is lurking there in amongst all that clear liquid.
Ricotta can be eaten fresh with a bit of salt, or is scrumptious in the morning with a bit of fruit. And of course, there's the traditional lasagna and other Italian pasta dishes.
Use it to soak your beans and grains.
An acidic medium is needed to break down the phytates in grains and flours and make them more digestible in our bodies. Whey is an excellent option for this.
Hippocrates was said to have recommended drinking whey to many of his patients, specifically for it's beneficial and healing properties. It is full of beneficial bacteria to heal the gut, it is chock full of protein, and it no longer has lactose in it, since it has been separated from the milk solids, making it easy to digest. If the thought of drinking it straight makes you a bit queasy (as it does me), check out Nourishing Traditions for at least one yummy recipe or mix it with juice or yogurt (how ironic, since you spent all the time separating the two…. heh…)
Use it for skin and hair care.
Many commercial shampoos and facial creams are labeled as “protein rich,” but you don't have to look any farther than whey to get fantastic protein for your skin and hair.
For skin, use it in the bath. Add 2-3 cups into your water and soak for 10-20 minutes. The acidity of the whey helps balance your skin's pH and the whey proteins help rejuvenate skin cells.
For hair, comb some whey into your tresses after a shower for soft, shiny, strong hair. Personally, I like to just use it in the shower after shampooing and rinse it out after a 5-10 minutes – most people swear it doesn't have a smell, but I find that I get whiffs of mozzarella at the oddest moments if I leave it in all day.
Use it in your compost.
Just as it's excellent as a fermentation starter for vegetables, it's an excellent fermentation starter in the compost too. Due to its acidity, use it sparingly – perhaps 1 litre once a week on a large compost pile just before turning it.
If you're using the Bokashi method of composting, don't add it directly to your Bokashi bucket, as you want to keep the contents of the bucket as dry as possible, but add 1/4 cup to the Bokashi water that collects at the bottom to enliven and multiply all the lovely microbes present.
In vermicomposting, use it only if your food scraps are too dry and at that point, only a tablespoon or two – those little worms don't like much acid and you want to keep them happy, multiplying, and pooping.
Use it in the garden.
Some call whey “Nature's Miracle Gro,” as it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and other minerals that are essential to plant growth. However, use it with care – a little goes a long whey! Once a week, make a 1:1 ratio of water and whey and pour about 1/4 cup at the base of each plant, being careful not to get any on the leaves.
Feed it to pets and livestock.
For all the same reasons whey is good for humans, it benefits animals as well. Dogs especially do well with the protein and it is a traditional food to feed to hogs to fatten them. Chickens and cats can also benefit.
Usually I would draw the line at feeding it to cows and goats, as it drives me nuts that conventional mass feeds are made of ground animal parts and then fed back to animals of that same species (including the whey from commercial cheesemakers) but since MILK is the one food that is specifically meant to be used within the same species, whey should benefit the livestock as well. If you've used veal rennet, that's another issue, perhaps…
Do you have any favorite uses for your extra whey?