Eating her curds and whey – What is Whey?

We all know the nursery rhyme about Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey, but in today’s world, I wonder how many people even know what they are.
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey, Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away

Curds are the easy part, in that they are the solids when you make cheese. The whey is just the liquid that is left over and is sometime just thrown away. After making mozzarella the other day, I wondered what use I could put all the whey to, and after a little research I found out there are lots of uses.

Whey after cheese making

Whey after cheese making

Even though whey is just a by-product of cheese and yoghurt making, it is packed full of protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria. Though it should be noted, that anyone with lactose intolerance should avoid whey, since it contains lactose.

In commercial food production whey is added to cakes, breads, pastry and many other processed food as well as for making ricotta cheese. I had never thought that ricotta was a by-product of cheese making, but it is literally Italian for ‘re-cooked’, in that the whey is cooked to extract the ricotta. However ricotta technically isn’t a real cheese, since it is made from albumin and globulin proteins, rather than coagulated casein as in other cheeses.

Some uses of Whey in the Kitchen

  • Re-cook the whey to make ricotta cheese or other whey cheeses such as Anari, Brunost, Prim-ost, Mesost, Mysost, Gjetost, Brocciu.
  • Make whey cream or butter for a tangy, slightly cheesy alternative to normal cream or butter.
  • Use whey as a substitute for water or milk in baking such as bread, scones, American biscuits, pancakes, cakes, pastry, muffins, pizza dough, waffles, etc.
  • Whey can be used to kick start lacto-fermentation in preserves such as sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.
  • Cook rice, potatoes or pasta using whey to add some more flavour to dishes.
  • Make soups and stews with whey instead of stock
  • Make smoothies or milkshakes with whey. This would be a cheaper alternative than adding commercial whey powder.
  • Make a marinade. The enzymes in the whey will help break down the meat.
  • Use whey as a substitute instead of buttermilk in recipes.

If you end up making your own cheese, you’ll end up with gallons of whey, and there is only so much you can do with it in a short time, however if stored in a clean vessel, it can keep for a few months in the refrigerator or it can be frozen.

Whey in jar


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      • Tersie on December 5, 2018 at 9:02 am
      • Reply

      Very useful information. thank you. (I knew what what whey is, but not that you could keep it for so long! I have amde scones and soda bread with it.

      • Helima on December 31, 2019 at 8:23 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you for the information, I did not know whey could be used so many different ways.

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