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What we do with whey

Make your own yogurt, mayonnaise and more!

Our family likes to research new uses for what we produce on our farm. Over the years we have become very proficient at utilizing all the milk from our cows/goats (depending on the time of year) and we love experimenting with recipes. The one drawback to all this is that we can produce an incredible amount of whey and buttermilk.

We enjoy Greek-style yogurt and lots of cheese in our cooking. According to Ricki Carroll’s Cheesemaking Made Easy one pound of hard cheese starts out as 10 pounds of milk (approximately one gallon), so the non-water elements of the milk are highly concentrated in cheese. The excitement over Greek-style yogurt has also produced a lot of whey for us. It takes about four ounces of milk to produce one ounce of yogurt. When making yogurt we set three gallons of milk and reduce this to one gallon of finished product. While gazing at pails and pails of whey that our goats readily consume, I wondered about what really comes out in the whey, and if there was a better use for it than watering the livestock.

Research told me that dumping it down the sink is not a good idea. Apparently whey has bacteria in it at high amounts that need oxygen to grow. They quickly unbalance septic systems and can cause a lot of trouble. The system can recover but I don’t want to find out just how much would be too much for ours to handle.

Whey is nutritious, containing a large amount of water-soluble vitamins such as B and C that are contained in the milk. The fat-soluble ones are mostly left behind in the cheese. Whey also contains protein, calcium and a large amount of lactose, which is partially why many lactose-intolerant people can consume cheese. The casein protein is usually about four per cent in the whey, making cottage cheese an excellent source.

So, the challenge was on to find ways to use at least some of this very nutritious product for humans. I was a bit leery about the taste, but figured because some people buy the stuff (albeit in flavoured powdered form) how bad could it really be?

  • Drinking it straight up wasn’t too bad as long as it was well strained, and because whey is naturally slightly acidic, it makes a nice base for drinks such as lemonade.
  • Baking bread. We made amazing tender yeast breads substituting whey for the water in recipes.
  • Marinating or cooking tough meats. I was a little concerned the roast would taste cheesy but it did not. The meat was soaked in whey then drained and cooked slowly in fresh whey. When it was done, the liquid was added to the dogs’ dinner which they enjoyed. It definitely helped to pull blood from the meat also.
  • Store it in glass. Whey is acidic and therefore capable of leaching toxins from plastic. If its future use is for cleaning then that’s OK but if it is for eating it must be stored in glass.
  • Use it in recipes that call for buttermilk.
  • Use to water acid-loving plants such as tomatoes. It is also very high in calcium which tomatoes like.
  • I used it to soak calcium deposits off the toilet until I learned it is bad for the septic system. Now I use it to soak milk stone off of milking pails. Amazing how clean and shiny the stainless steel pails are after soaking them overnight with whey.
  • Boil bones in it for soup.
  • Cook potatoes or other vegetables in it. After cooking, I drain the liquid into a pail and use that to water our laying hens. They seem to really enjoy the treat in winter.
  • Frozen cubes of whey added to a smoothie will add nutrition as well as making that yummy slushy texture.
  • There are recipes for cheese that can be made from whey such as ricotta and gjestost.
  • Use in homemade mayonnaise. With whey added, mayonnaise lasts longer in the fridge.
  • Probiotics are available in whey unless heated, making it a valuable addition to iced tea, etc.
  • Can be used in sauerkraut as a starter. Some people do not like this though, saying their ferments are mushy. We have only used whey from kefir for fermenting and quite enjoy it.
  • Although it is not good for waterways or septic fields it is useful for compost piles and soil.

Here’s our mayonnaise recipe using whey:

  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (other mustard would be fine too)
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. whey
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • 3/4 to 1 c. grape seed oil

This recipe is easiest when using a blender. Put in egg and egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, whey and salt. Process until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add oil in a thin stream slowing to a drop at the end while the blender runs the whole time. When it stops taking the oil, the mayonnaise is finished. Let stay at room temperature, covered, for seven hours then refrigerate. This recipe makes not quite a pint of finished product and should be stored in glass.

It is always encouraging to find a use for what other people look at as waste, and we now have a free way to increase our minerals and probiotics intake. With a little imagination the possibilities are endless.

This article first appeared in the Feb. 11, 2014 issue of Grainews.

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