Don't lie! We know you have been throwing it out!
We have done it, too. When you first start making cheese, you have enough to worry about without paying attention to the greenish-yellow stuff floating around in your pot. After all, it’s really all about the curds.
However, when you get to where you’re making cheese regularly, you start to realize that throwing out the whey is quite a waste. Why? Because the whey typically has lots of vitamins, minerals (particularly potassium) and proteins in it. There is no whey we can tell you how much, because it varies with the recipe for the cheese, including how hot the milk was heated. However, in general, it is thought to have half the good stuff in the milk you used.
First, we need to clarify that there are two kinds of whey-acid whey and sweet whey. This is important because many cheese makers try to do things with acid whey that will not work. For example, you will not get Ricotta or Gjetost from acid whey. Whether the whey is acid or sweet depends on the way you have made your cheese. Let’s break this down:
This comes from cheeses where you use lemons, vinegar, citric acid, etc. to acidify the milk. For example, if you make our 30 Minute Mozzarella, Panir, Lemon Cheese or Whole Milk Ricotta, your whey will be acidic. It also comes from making Chevre, Camembert, Feta, etc. where the pH is down around 4.6-4.8. This whey is tangy tasting and it may be frozen to use later.
Pour on acid loving plants or where the soil is too alkaline.
Make a fruit drink by reconstituting the juice with it instead of whey. Or, make lemonade by adding sweetener.
Add seasonings and use as a marinade for meat.
Add a few tablespoons of it to the soaking water of your beans.
Feed it to your dog(s) or chickens.
Cook your oatmeal, rice or polenta in it.
This comes from cheeses where bacterial cultures have been used and the whey has been drained at a pH of 5.2 or above. This includes all hard cheeses (Cheddar, in particular), Yogurt Cheese, and most soft cheeses. This whey not only has vitamins, minerals and proteins, but also beneficial bacteria (which aids digestion). It has a milder flavor than acid whey. It may be frozen for later use, but not if you will be making Ricotta or a whey cheese from it.
All of the uses above apply to this whey.
It may be used as a substitute for buttermilk in any recipe, especially pancakes, cornbread and scones.
It may be used as a substitute for the liquid in any bread recipe. (Some recommend using only ½ cup at first, but most of us end up replacing all the liquid with whey.) It may cause the bread to rise a little faster than usual and brown quicker, but the taste is wonderful.
Add to soup.
Add to bath water.
Freeze it in cubes and add it to smoothies.