By the whey…

So, yesterday I shared my cheese-making experience for the pizza.  The cheese that I made was extra crumbly, so there was a TON of whey left over.  We’re talking probably 10-12 cups worth.  Being the frugalista that I am, I didn’t really want it to go to waste, so I’ve been using it for everything.  I’ve heard that it’s really good for watering plants with, but I’m selfish (and don’t have any plants…) so I’ve been using it for myself.

This is a pretty amazing deal because 1.  I already factored the price of the whey into the cost of making the cheese, so this is essentially free, 2.  there are a ton of nutrients (including lots of protein) in the whey, so it’s like I’m cooking with a supplement…for free, 3.  I’m not using water, which makes me feel like I’m conserving..and not spending those .2 cents out of the faucet (hey, it doesn’t sound like much, but I know when my bank account gets down to the last $5.00 I always look back to places I could have saved haha).  4.  You can also substitute it for milk..which saves you a lot more money than substituing water!

Here are some of my uses, with the results:

Pancakes

I have this amazing multigrain pancake mix that I buy in bulk from Bloomingfoods.  I substitued the whey for the milk..I made 2 batches of pancakes which saved me 1 cup and 4 tablespoons of milk.  Considering organic  milk is expensive, I didn’t think that was too shabby.  The result?  Pancakes fluffier beyond my wildest dreams with a fuller flavor than usual.  Bonus: I drizzled the top with my homemade creme fraiche that I’ll post about later.

Barley

Like I said earlier, barley is my new love.  It also soaks up tons and tons of water.  I filled a pot half full with whey protein and added some barley.  Now, if you haven’t noticed yet, when I’m cooking I don’t really believe in measurements.  You can’t really mess these things up, and if you do, there’s always a fix for it.  So anyway, I put a bunch of barley in and started it cooking.  When the liquid got low, I just added more whey.  I also added chopped up potatos and diced acorn squash I had roasted a few days ago.  Interestingly, the whey imparted an amazing flavor to the potatoes.  Perhaps it has something to do with the protein breaking down the starch?  I’m not really sure..  I would be interested to try making mashed potatoes by coooking the potatoes in whey and substituing it for milk.  Other ingredients I added to this barley:

pressed garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, pepper

The overall taste was very home-y.  It had a subtle milky flavor to it, and the potatoes and squash made it feel comforting.  If you don’t like squash, I would definitely recommend adding something with a little color, because I think it might be a little bland otherwise.

Other add-ins I would like to try:

grainy mustard, spinach, sweet potato, chunks of beef, fennel

I feel like barley possibilities are pretty endless

Boxed Rice

I found an old box of Nature’s Way whole grain chicken and herb rice.  Again, I substitued whey for water.  Doing so in this recipe was pretty analogous to substituting chicken stock for water in rice recipes.  It added a little extra flavor.  In the future, I wouldn’t do a 1:1 substitution.  You definitely need about twice as much whey than the called for amount of water.

So, overall, I think you can do just about anything with whey.  I tasted a little bit and it probably wouldn’t be bad to drink by itself – in fact, a lot of cultures have carbonated drinks they make from it.  You could add it to a smoothie or a milk shake, bake with it, or even make more cheese.  If you do the same process as before – heating it to 185 degrees and adding vinegar, you can make ricotta.  This didn’t seem advantageous to me, though, because I heard you only get about a cup’s worth of cheese.

I still have quite a bit left, so I’m excited to see what other possibilities I can think of.

edit: (1/24/2012)

Oatmeal

I honestly didn’t really like this combination.  The whey gave it a gummy texture very reminscent of instant oatmeal.  Definitely not my favorite.

Mashed potatoes

I really liked this.  I think the whey actually made the potatoes cook faster, which was certainly a plus.  As with most of the food I have cooked in whey, I think the potatoes had a “fuller” flavor than those cooked in water.

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