For the past few weeks, I've been making a lot of ricotta for a project at my full-time job. As a result, there's been a lot of whey floating around. When faced with my first windfall, a coworker told me that dumping the whey is a sin, and that I should throw some on ice and drink up. And now, I've got a big problem.
Consider this my official plea to cheesemakers: Forget about cheese. Start selling whey.
I'm beginning to panic a bit. See, my ongoing stash of whey has become a very real part of my diet. Ever since that first glass a couple of weeks ago, I've been drinking it every day. It's satiating, slightly creamy, and refreshing; a satisfying snack, in liquid form.
And now I fear that I'm going to become a ricotta-maker on a regular basis not for the ricotta itself, but for the whey. It could be worse-- or dare i say, whey worse — but with my ricotta project nearly over, the end of my whey stash is terrifyingly in close sight. Buying ricotta is easy. But whey? I have yet to see it on my grocery shelves.
I've had a pretty continual supply, since each time I do another pass on a ricotta recipe, I'm left with about 4 cups of whey. The shelf life even outlasts the ricotta itself. I think it's about 6 days, though none has made it that long, now that I'm dependent.
I think that whey speaks to the dairy- and cheese-lover in me. I'm not sure it's for everyone, honestly. But if you're a yogurt lover, you'll find whey slightly reminiscent of the tanginess in some plain varieties. It's just slightly sour, very hydrating, and super creamy, without actually containing any cream. The flavor is unique and straight-up satisfying. There are only trace amounts of fat, since the curds, not the whey, retain the fat from milk during cheesemaking. Whey looks nearly like nonfat milk, almost translucent. It is vitamin- and mineral-rich, and very high in protein. Hence whey powder, which is often marketed as a muscle building supplement.
I haven't experimented much with it because I've been enjoying it plain so much. But I'm curious if any of you have experience playing around with whey. I've read that you can use it as a bread starter, and that it's good in shakes. I wonder how it would be as a brine, akin to one you'd use for pork chops. Or might it work similarly to a buttermilk soak for fried chicken? Maybe if I'd stop drinking it I could do some experimenting.
I swear that I'm becoming a major believer in the stuff. I came into work the other morning after having indulged a bit too much at a friend's Super Bowl party and I swear that a big glass of whey had me feeling significantly more sprightly. It seems like such a waste (hm. whey-ste?) for cheesemakers to dump their whey, but I know a lot of them do. Because of its high acid content, disposing of whey properly can actually prove to be a logistical hurdle that some dairies must undertake. In fact, because of this, many cheesemakers keep pigs and feed them the whey, due to its high nutritional content and delicious flavor. Lucky hogs.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and recipe developer in New York.
Related: DIY: Make Your Own Ricotta
(Image: Nora Singley)