If you’ve read anything from the Nourishing Traditions world about soaking your grains, you’ve seen the recommendation to use whey as an acidic medium. I prefer it for soaking my oats because I have found it least likely to impart a sour flavor to the finished oatmeal.
What is Whey?
My brother, a big weightlifter, is huge into the “whey protein powder” drinks for big muscles. Don’t get this sort of whey confused with the powdered stuff, which I’m sure has some “I-am-not-real-food!” sort of health issues. (UPDATE: A faithful commenter tells me that powdered whey is just spray-dried regular whey.) Regular whey is a byproduct of cheesemaking, just like Little Miss Muffet had: curds and whey. It is a nearly transparent, yellowish liquid that pours like water. You may be thinking, “Great, now I have to make cheese.” Luckily, this is much easier than that sounds.
What is Yogurt Cheese?
I get my whey from yogurt, which I happen to make homemade, but you could use plain, unsweetened yogurt from a store with the same results. Yogurt cheese has the same consistency and almost the same flavor as cream cheese, but with power-packed probiotics for good digestion and more. If you use cream cheese, even if you don’t want the whey, this process is the most frugal substitute for cream cheese you’ll ever find. It costs less than 50 cents for 8 oz. of yogurt cheese if your milk is on sale for $2 or less.
How to Make Yogurt Cheese and Whey
It’s almost embarrassing to post something this easy. Love it!
- Line a colander with a tea towel or cheesecloth.
- Place a large bowl or measuring cup (at least 4 cups) under the colander. Make sure the opening is wide enough to be underneath all your yogurt (see next step).
- Pour a container of yogurt (I do a quart at a time) into the towel.
- Wait. See the whey draining out? *peek*
- After an hour or so, rig up some way to hang the towel so that gravitational pressure gets all the whey out of the yogurt. Here’s my method:
- After ~4 hours or whenever your yogurt stops dripping, that’s it! You have about 3 cups of whey in the bowl and 1 cup of yogurt cheese in the towel.
- Yogurt cheese lasts 1-4 weeks (you’ll know when it goes bad) and the whey lasts up to 6 months.
Looks, tastes, and behaves just like cream cheese! The only thing it doesn’t do great is melt, like in a hot food recipe.
- A quickie version: You can put a few Tbs of yogurt onto a coffee filter on top of a jar, and in an hour or less you’ll have a smidge of yogurt cheese for your toast on top and whey to soak your oatmeal in the jar.
Whey Recipes: What do I do with Whey?
- Make tortillas (uses 1/2 cup of whey per batch)
- Make soaked homemade crackers
- Use as up to half the water in any bread recipe. You’ll need to add more flour, even up to a whole cup for a loaf of bread.
- Soak oatmeal.
- Soak other grains, including breadmaker bread.
- Freeze in ice cube trays and add it to smoothies as protein.
- When I have too much whey on hand, sometimes I’ll start throwing it willy nilly in place of liquids in recipes: pancakes, soup, biscuits, soaked baked oatmeal…I haven’t had any massive failures yet, although clearly, attempt at your own culinary risk!
Yogurt Cheese Recipes
- Fruit Pizza
- Creamy Garlic Veggie Dip (in Healthy Snacks to Go eBook)
- Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew
- Avocado Dip
- Homemade Fudgesicles (now in Smart Sweets along with 30 other healthy desserts!)
- Use in place of some or all the ricotta in a pasta recipe
- Yogurt Cheese and Jelly Sandwiches
- Any dip, dessert or main dish that calls for cream cheese!