The Whey of the Problem

Once again my food conservator has struck, wondering what to do with a surplus of something meant to be discarded, something needing a new life.

Today, with the semester finally behind me, Nan and I got to playing with my cheese making kit she had given me back in December. We opted for mozzarella cheese since the kit proclaimed thirty minutes needed. Ingredients and instructions were fairly simple--basically mixing milk, rennet tablet (the coagulator), and citric acid (the stretcher) together at specific temperatures, until you pull and stretch this taffy-like substance.

And so, with some stirring, constant measuring of temperature, waiting, and again heating, we produced our very first homemade cheese. And its texture and taste proved neighbor-worthy, offering tastes across the fence.

Leftover whey proved the true challenge. After all the curds transformed into cheese, we were left with almost one gallon of whey. Nan would have simply dumped it down the sink, sending it to its demise. The food conservator, on the other hand, quickly turned to the internet, ferreting out all the possibilities for recycling. Giving it to your animals (pigs, chickens, dogs) seemed like an easy solution; however, Sasha took several sniffs and quickly retreated, wanting nothing to do with leftovers.

The most appealing solution (and also the one that would use up the majority of whey) was adding it to stock. Thus, with wilting celery and aging carrots occupying the vegetable drawer, I quickly added them and an onion to a 3:1 whey to water ratio. After several hours, a gorgeously rich stock (enhanced with some leftover parmesan rind) was ready to transform the frozen roasted squash from November and the bits of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce hanging out in a container in the fridge into a rich spicy soup.

And as for the rest of the whey--tonight's quinoa and brown rice will be cooked in it, adding a bit of flavor and softening to the grains.

Once again, the food conservator triumphs, rescuing the whey from the problem of waste.


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