The whey it goes
After my first cheese-making session, I was left with a fair bit of whey – a little more than a litre of it. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to use it, so I stashed it in the fridge until I could figure it out.
Then it hit me: ricotta is traditionally made not from whole milk, but from the whey left over after making other cheeses. That’s why it’s called ricotta, or “re-cooked.” The whey that runs off in the cheese-making process is filled with a variety of proteins, which coagulate when heated under acidic conditions.
So a couple of days later, I pulled the whey from the fridge and subjected it to my usual ricotta-making process: I warmed it to 200°F, turned off the heat, stirred in 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid crystals dissolved in a little water, covered it and let it stand for 10 minutes.
Only nothing happened. OK, I thought, sometimes it takes a little more acid. So I added some more. No dice. It produced billowing white clouds, much like what you see in a bowl of miso soup, but the particles were too fine to be strained out.
Since then, I’ve started reading Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. She points out that whey-based cheeses need to be made using whey that is no more than 3 hours old. She also calls for the whey leftover from making hard cheese. Which means that I was using whey that was too old, and from the wrong kind of cheese. From what I’ve read so far, neither of these points is explained in detail, but my anecdotal experience certainly didn’t disprove them.
Not all the whey went to waste, however. I used a cup of it instead of milk in a batch of lemon-poppy seed muffins (adding some extra baking soda to the recipe to counteract the increased acidity of the whey), and a little more than that in the dough for my goat-cheese pizza (which didn’t seem to notice the extra acidity at all; bread is a commonly suggested use for leftover whey). Next time, I’ll make sure I’m better prepared to make ricotta immediately, or I’ll freeze the whey for later use in other baked goods.
How do you use the whey left over from your cheese making?