What is Whey?

If you have ever opened a carton of yogurt, you’ll probably see some watery substance on top. It might freak some people out, but it’s not gross…it’s whey!

When you strain milk or yogurt or kefir to make your cheese, the drippings are whey. Always catch this liquid into a clean container, and store it in a jar in your fridge. I’ve caught dripped whey before, and let the jar sit in my fridge for months…and I threw it out because I didn’t know what to do with it!

Here’s why you might want to keep and use this yellow-y lemony smelling stuff:

-Whey is full of good bacteria. Gut health is a popular subject these days (at least in the accounts I follow) and everyone is concerned about leaky gut. They’re all about selling probiotics and balancing the good bacteria in the gut. Whey is full of those wonderful enzymes that are good bacteria! No need to buy expensive pills when you have a natural source of probiotic that’s dripped off yogurt. (Of course, there are different strains of bacteria in a probiotic pill, so I’m not bashing them, just saying if you wanna be frugal, just make your own!)

-Whey is an old-timey Gatorade. Huh? Gross!

No, no, let me explain.

It’s full of not only good bacteria and probiotics, but it’s full of electrolytes and minerals! That’s so cool! Here’s a recipe for my Wheytorade. I realize many of you don’t have access to whey, but isn’t it a good reason to try your hand at cheese or yogurt making?

-Whey has been used as a beverage since Hippocrates’ time! According to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, whey was used for medicine from ancient times up until more modern times. In the 1940’s in Europe, it was used to treat all manner of stomach ailments and even tuberculosis.

-Whey can be used to inoculate your ferments. If you are making kraut, kvass, or kimchi, add a bit of whey to get the process started with a dose of good bacteria. It’ll help keep the bad out, and make the ferment even stronger.

-Whey can be slipped in a recipe in place of lemon juice. I did this with a lemon Dijon salmon recipe the other day. I used up all my fresh lemons, so I just poured my whey into the recipe. I actually forgot about it, and the taste wasn’t affected at all.

-Whey can also be slipped into a smoothie for a superfood boost!

-Lastly, if you just have an abundance of whey, and I hesitate to say this, you can also feed it to the pets. If your kids won’t drink it, the dog, pigs, chickens, whatever you have…will. The plants like it, too. When I was reading about cheesemaking in the Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery, the ladies said they just throw it to the hogs. Maybe they just didn’t realize how useful it was!

I’m tickled to death when I can turn something considered a by-product into something yummy. Check out this recipe for Whey Pie with Whipped Cream Topping.

Whatever you do, don’t throw out the whey!

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