Over the past few years I have been experimenting with culturing (fermenting) foods. I have a close knit group of friends and we share culturing secrets and ideas. So why culture, you ask? The reason is to add beneficial bacteria to foods, allow them to proliferate, and they end up working for us. Once consumed, these beneficial bacteria (also known as “belly bugs” to my kids) are similar to what you would consume if taking probiotic supplements. They get into the gastrointestinal tract and help to balance the microbial terrain of the intestines. They work to control candida (the yeast that can wreak havoc in the GI tract), they make vitamins-yes, they make vitamins for you-and keep harmony between the other microbes. Whey, the liquid component of milk, is full of these beneficial bacteria, thus whey is essential when beginning the culturing experiment.

Making Whey

The steps for making whey are super simple. You just set it up and forget about it.  You will need:

  • yogurt with live cultures-I recommend full fat, plain yogurt although I’ve been told you can get more whey with lowfat yogurt I haven’t given it a try. When it’s all said and done, I will eat the yogurt, so I really want the full fat version. The yogurt must have live cultures. Most yogurts do have live cultures, but I look for one that specifically says it on the container.
  • butter muslin or very fine cheesecloth-I use butter muslin because I have never been able to find a cheesecloth that is fine enough.
  • a gallon glass jar
  • a wooden spoon
equipment for making whey

equipment for making whey

The steps are simple:

  1. Gather your supplies.
  2. Fold the butter muslin so you have two layers.
  3. Pour the yogurt in the middle of the butter muslin. this part may be a little messy, but it doesn’t take long to perfect this step.
  4. Pull up all four corners of the muslin and tie them around the wooden spoon.
  5. Gently put the yogurt portion of the “sack” into the gallon jar allowing the wooden spoon to hold it up high enough so the yogurt doesn’t touch the falling whey.
  6. Allow to sit for about 12 hours and the whey will drip to the bottom of the gallon jar.
  7. For 1 quart (32 oz) of yogurt you will get about 1 pint (16 oz) of whey.

hanging yogurt for whey

The leftover yogurt is still useful too and can be used any way you would use a Greek yogurt. I love to eat it plain, but I also add some fruit and honey for my kids, or I will blend it up in the blender and make popsicles that are perfect for a hot, summer day.

There are so many ways to use whey and add more culture to your foods. Some of my favorite are:

  • add to homemade lemonade and allow to culture
  • used for making beet kvass, a medicinal beverage with roots in Russia
  • added to herbal teas
  • add to salsa (see my fermented salsa recipe here)
  • use when soaking grains to decrease the anti-nutrients (I use mostly for soaked oatmeal)
  • Add to soak some beans, specifically black beans (which I happen to love)  also to decrease the nutrient blocker

There really are lots of uses for whey and making it this way is so easy that there’s really no excuse. So get crackin’!