Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whey to go!!

So now that you have this yogurt, what can you do with it? First, let’s assume that you have made plain, unsweetened yogurt. One of my family’s new favs is yogurt cheese. By simply draining off the whey from the curd, you will get cheese. The cheese is already cultured, but it is best as a soft cheese. We eat it in place of cream cheese. Spread it on a bagel and sprinkle some sea salts on it and you have a great morning start. I have also used this cheese as a base for a cheese spread (like Aloutte) by adding some dried herbs and seasonings to it. Spread that on a cracker and enjoy. Additionally, it will more healthful for you since that cheese still has the active cultures in it.

So you may at first want to toss that whey that you strained off the yogurt, BUT DON’T!! That’s some valuable stuff there and you will want to keep it in a clean mason jar in the fridge. I use this whey to make bread (adds tenderness and feeds the yeast) and to make pickles. If you get Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions, it goes into great depth about using whey as a means for fermentation (making traditional pickles). This whey still has some of the cultures the yogurt had and will add these to the food being pickled making it a live food, adding to the healthy benefit. I also think it is essential in fermenting foods. I tried to make sauerkraut once without the whey and it became moldy after a week in the crock. Recently having made kraut WITH the whey and it has stayed fresh and mold free for weeks in the fridge. The difference being the live bacteria keep the bad molds and bacteria from getting hold of the food and keep it preserved. You can use the whey and pickle almost any veggie (and some fruits) you can think of. Think of all of the traditional foods that used to be fermented- kim chee, sauerkraut, okra, carrots (see my ginger carrot recipe in a later post), onions, peppers, radish, chutneys and preserves.

How to make yogurt cheese

First line a colander with large coffee filters (I use a china cap-a conical shaped strainer) making sure to use one filter on bottom first and build the walls around it. Place this strainer over a large bowl. After yogurt has been removed from warmer, slowly empty jar of fresh yogurt into the strainer. You should immediately see some “water” dripping out of the strainer. This is the whey. The milk solids will stay in the strainer. Allowing this to stay draining for at least 6-8 hours on the counter is ok, but you can put it in the refrigerator if you prefer. This process will work better when the yogurt is warm because the whey will separate from the solids more easily. Expect to get about half, or even a little more, of the yogurt batch to become whey (so 1 quart of yogurt will become 2 cups of whey +/-).  You will notice that the cheese will become more solid around the edges first and the center of the strainer may still be a bit liquefied. In this case, I will very gently scrape the edge of the strainer to the middle and allow the wetter cheese to get to the edge. I will occasionally collect the strained whey into a mason jar so I can see how the straining is progressing. When the amount of whey coming off has slowed to virtually nothing, I will jar up the remaining whey and put the cheese into a container in the fridge. The cheese should easily come out of the strainer and peel away from the filter. Use a rubber scraper if needed. Enjoy!! This cheese should stay fresh for at least a week or 2 in fridge (if you don’t eat it before then). The whey will stay fresh for at least a month.

Cheese spread

1 batch of strained yogurt cheese

½ t. – 1 t. garlic powder (or granulated garlic)

½ t  chives

½ t. parsley flakes

½ t. sea salt

½ t. white pepper (black will be ok if you don’t have white)

½ t. dried minced onion

*all herbs are dried, but you can use fresh.

Add all ingredients to cheese and mix vigorously to combine thoroughly and incorporate air into cheese. Adjust seasoning to your taste (you can experiment will chili powder, cumin, curry, etc.). Chill and serve.

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