Whey is the acidic by-product of naturally soured or cultured milk. There are several sources of whey that are easily available in the home kitchen:
- Let raw milk sour and clabber. Strain using cheesecloth or a clean towel. Please note: this only works with raw milk; do not try this method with pasteurized milk.
- Strain cultured yogurt using cheesecloth or a clean towel.
- Strain cultured kefir using cheesecloth or a clean towel.
- Strain cultured buttermilk using cheesecloth or a clean towel.
In all of these instances you will have a liquid that drains into a bowl. It is usually an opaque yellow. This is fresh whey. It can be stored for months in a refrigerator and used for many things. The health benefits of whey are many as it contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and small amounts of carbohydrates (if there is lactose remaining after the culturing process).
Whey was once considered a food in its own right, with historical accounts in which people refer to drinking, cooking, or baking with whey. Here are a few ideas for you in case you have whey hanging around in your kitchen:
Use whey as a culture starter
The whey found in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir contain the active bacteria in these foods. In this way you can use a small amount of whey as a culture starter in vegetables, cultured beverages, and a host of other fermented foods.
Use whey to soak grains
If you are soaking whole grains like oatmeal or rice in order to reduce the anti-nutrients then you might want to consider adding a bit of whey. The acidity of the whey helps to break down hard-to-digest grains and introduces beneficial organisms that will help to make the grains easier to digest.
Use whey in baked goods
Many refer to whey as a “dough conditioner” in baked goods. That means that in baking breads or pastries the whey can create a better textured final product. This is especially helpful in baking with whole grain flours. Simply replace the water or milk product in your baked goods with whey.
Use whey in smoothies
You can replace the liquid in your smoothies with whey for a tangy, fortifying treat.
Use whey on the skin and hair
Some folks claim that whey has excellent toning qualities for the skin and hair. This makes sense in that whey contains cultured acids, vitamins, and minerals. You could try some on a cotton ball and apply to your face as a toning agent.
Whey can be added to pet food or animal food
Dogs, cats, and even chickens may enjoy the extra flavor of whey added to their regular feed!
Whatever you do, do not throw that whey away. It is an excellent food and preservation agent that has been prized over the centuries for its nutritive qualities.