What to do with Whey

When it comes to using the whey from your cheesemaking, there are many ways to utilise the excess water. Here are some ideas:

Ricotta

First and foremost, making ricotta. You can take out those water soluble albuminous proteins by heating the whey to 95C and adding some more milk to increase the yield. After making ricotta, there is not much goodness left, very close to water. Pour the rest to your worm farm and use it immediately.

Baking

Breads, cakes, sourdough can all be made with whey instead of water.

Sourdough starter

Start your starters with whey for 3 days and go back to normal filtered water. Acidic whey will help to yeasts to come out and will protect the environment from spoilage bacteria.

Kimchi or lacto fermentation

Especially whey coming from cheeses where Leuconostoc Mesenteroids starters used. It will jump start your lacto fermentation. Just add 2 tbsp to your jars. You can use only whey as well but some veggies may taste like cheese.

Drinking

Add salt and pepper with a bit of tomato juice, chill it and drink.

Kombucha

Try a whey kombucha with half strong black tea and half whey mixture and ferment.

Fertilizer

If the whey is fresh, pour it into your garden. Make sure it is fresh though, if the acidity is increased like pH 4.5, it will dissolve lead and aluminium in soil which is not good for living things. Dilute the old whey or add some lime to reduce acidity. Chuck it direct into your compost.

Brine

Prepare your brine for feta and halloumi from fresh whey before making ricotta. Whey has Calcium Chloride and other things as same as cheese. Once you adjust the acidity equal to that of cheese, it will be a perfect brine.

Salt Bath

As same as brine, some cheeses may have a salt bath after the press to infuse them with salt and to protect the rind during the aging. Prepare your salt bath brine from whey.

Food for pets

Give it to your chooks, dogs, goats or cows.

Cooking

Boil your pasta, make a tomato soup, use in stews, boil potato, steam veggies, boil chicken or bones and make a soup/broth.

As you see there are many ways to use whey. Do not waste any drop of it! ­čÖé

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Planning

The biggest problem for home cheesemakers is to dedicate the time to cheesemaking without any interruption. Cheesemaking is not a single day process, it sometimes takes 3 days or even longer. When you are planning to try a new recipe there are things to do before hand for a smooth day of cheesemaking. I list those down here from my experience.

1- Write the recipe down to its details to your notebook.

You can even search/ask in the forum and see what people have to say. This will give you an idea of temperatures, time, pH, starter cultures and the other processes. If you are short of cultures, you can top them up before you start. Or may be your rennet is out of date or about to finish.

2- Draw your project plan.

This seems like an overkill but will give you an idea of how long it will take to get into the press/drain stage. I draw a vertical line in my notebook. Every horizontal line is 15 minutes and I write down the steps on this line.

Cheesemakers plan
Cheesemakers plan

3- Make sure your family knows that you are going to make cheese. Your other half may have something else planned for that weekend.

4- Prepare starter cultures in advance. If you are using commercial sachets, prepare them the night before so that you know they are active and working.

5- Lock away pets. You don’t want dog hair in your cheese. Also don’t let the kids run around and create more dust flying in the air and don’t bake bread the same day. Bread yeast will jump into your milk and multiply giving an off smell and taste.

Once your plan is ready you will see that you have everything you need and be more confident to try a new recipe.

Commercial starter cultures

You can make limited variety of cheeses with the mesophilic and thermophilic culture recipes I have given. Sooner or later you will want to be buying commercial cultures from suppliers for specific cheeses and also other cultures for ripening and washing.

The starter cultures are coming in sachets, kept in freezer and they are designed for like 500 or 1000 litres of milk. It would be impossible to measure them according to your recipe as we are using maximum 40 litres of milk in a batch. Also it would not be cost affective if you finish your culture in couple of makings. What are we going to do?

As soon as I receive the sachet, I sterilize a small scissor and the corner of sachet, cut carefully and transfer the culture to a clean and sterile specimen bottle like the one below.

Culture bottles
Culture bottles

This operation is only keeping them tight and secure. When it comes to using them, I prepare a mother culture according to the recipe given by Cheese Forum member Sailor. this method gives you an active starter culture, measuring will be easier and cost affective too. And let me tell you the real secret. Since I have started using the cultures like in the above mentioned method, the quality and consistency of my makings increased. As the culture is measured correctly and in working order, the acidity curves are getting better and consistent with the time.

The other thing is no matter how old your culture is sitting in the freezer or expired for that matter, you can revive and use it with this method. By keeping the temperatures constant and waiting to a coagulation will make sure that the population of your culture is constant. ┬áYou don’t need a pH meter, just wait till it curdles like yogurt.

For freezing and labelling your mother cultures, use clean and sterile ice trays and plastic zip lock bags with labels on them.

Mesophilic culture recipe

This simple recipe of mesophilic culture can generally be used for all recipes requiring a Mesophilic Starter. The taste of the final product will vary slightly from that of a true cheese culture.

  1. Start with 2 cups of FRESH store bought Cultured Buttermilk.
  2. Let the 2 Cups of buttermilk reach room temperature about 21┬░C to 24┬░C).
  3. Then allow the buttermilk to ripen for about 6-8 hrs. (Store bought buttermilk does not have a high enough concentration of bacteria to serve as a starter culture without ripening.)
  4. The resulting buttermilk will be much thicker and sour then what you started with. It should have the consistency of fresh yogurt, if it doesnÔÇÖt let it sit a few more hours.
  5. Pour this culture into a full sized CLEAN ice cube tray and put into your FREEZER. As with all steps of cheese making, cleanliness is next to godliness.
  6. Once frozen, remove the cubes and put into a CLEAN sealed container or plastic freezer bags. It is a good idea to label the container to distinguish it from your thermophilic culture. And also the date of preparation will save you guessing it later.

The resulting ice cubes are each 30 ml of mesophilic starter. Add these cubes (thawed) to your recipes as required. The cubes will keep for about one month. To make more starter culture, simply thaw one cube and add into 2 cups of fresh milk. Mix thoroughly with a fork or a whisk. Allow the milk/culture to stand at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours or until the consistency of fresh yogurt. Then follow from step 5.

 

Thermophilic culture recipe

Thermophilic starter cultures are used mostly by the pasta-filata and cooked curd cheeses. Here is a simple recipe to produce an easy thermophilic culture at home.

  1. Start with 2 cups of FRESH milk. Heat it to 85┬░C on the cook top or in a microwave. Be careful not to heat too high otherwise the cream will separate.
  2. Let the 2 Cups of milk cool to at least 52┬░C.
  3. Add one table spoon of FRESH yogurt either homemade or store bought ÔÇťlive and active cultureÔÇŁ type. Probiotic yogurt can also be used.
  4. Mix the yogurt into the milk thoroughly with a fork or a whisk.
  5. Keep the mixture at 44┬░C for 8-10 hours until a firm yogurt has set. This can be done by using a double boiler on a low setting or by placing the inoculated milk into a small CLEAN mason jar placed in a warm water bath. The bath can be kept warm by placing it on an electric range top at the lowest possible setting (so that ÔÇśONÔÇÖ light is just on). Monitor the temperature closely the first few times you do this and you will become a better judge of the temperature settings of your range top. This way with future cultures you can set the process up and not worry about it for 8-10 hours. Alternatively, you can use an electric yogurt maker.
  6. Pour this culture into a full sized CLEAN ice cube tray and put into your FREEZER. As with all steps of cheese making, cleanliness is next to godliness.
  7. Once frozen, remove the cubes and put into a CLEAN sealed container or plastic freezer bags. It is a good idea to label the container to distinguish it from your mesophilic culture.

The resulting ice cubes are each 30 ml of thermophilic starter. Add these cubes (thawed) to your recipes as required. The cubes will keep for about one month. To make more starter culture again simply thaw one cube and use it as the fresh yogurt used in step 3.

One another way is to use kefir as thermophilic culture (here is the discussion I’ve started on Cheese Forum) .┬áKefir has got a lot of bacteria and yeasts that can be used as starter culture. If you follow the thermophilic starter procedures and use Kefir instead of fresh milk, you would be getting a good and strong culture ecosystem.┬áStrain about 1 liter of Kefir (separate the gems) and use your yogurt maker or keep the temperature about 43┬░C to 50┬░C for a day. This will eliminate most of the mesophilic cultures and some yeast.┬áWhen it is curdled like yogurt (about a day or 2) separate 500 ml and mix it with 500 ml skimmed pasteurized milk. Put in your temperature controlled yogurt maker and keep it 43┬░C to 50┬░C constant till it curdles again.┬áIf you do this for 7 to 10 times, you will get a strong thermophilic ecosystem with lots of different thermo bacteria. I am using this starter for some hard cheeses and feta mainly. It does have gas producing bacteria in ti and cheese ends up with holes. Aroma and texture is also very good.

Salt

Every household has it. It is in every living thing. Life started in salty water. We don’t know much about it but we use it everywhere. It opens up our taste buds and then the aromas flow into our brain in a better way.

salt

It is called NaCl, Sodium Chloride by scientists. We call it salt, it is easier. There are many types of it, kosher salt, sea salt, Celtic sea salt, rock salt, iodized salt, Murray river salt, Tibetan pink salt, smoked salt… They are all salt of course with different properties. They have different additional minerals, microbial life, and salt content.

Cheese making and salt crossroad during the ageing, brining, rubbing, milling. Salt prevents available water to go into bacteria by holding it. That is why some cheeses aged in salty brine solution (feta), rubbed with salt (blue), added during the milling (cheddar) to enhance the flavour as well as protecting the cheese from spoilage bacteria.

The best salt you can get would be home brand rock salt. As we cheese makers use a lot of it, I buy it in bulk. A grinder or mortar and pestle will make it finer to use in cheese and you can chuck it into brine as it is. I also use sea salt from the health food shop. It is the wet stuff in plastic bags.

Normal table salt and iodized salt are not recommended in cheese making as they have additives, iodine and other things added. Iodine kills lactic acid bacteria which are the starter cultures and anti caking agent does not allow correct flavour development.

So stack up some rock salt in your cupboard and always make sure you have excess as you don’t know when you will be needing it.

Oh also protects you from daemons if you spread to window sills. ­čśë

Rennet

The very first ingredient in your cheese making is rennet. As you may already know, there are recipes using lemon juice, tartaric acid, citric acid but those recipes are not for real cheeses. They are usually made fresh and consumed straight away.

Rennet is an enzyme or actually couple of enzymes. It is secreted from the 4. stomach called abomasum of grazing animals. When a young grazing animal drinks milk from its mother, the milk needs to get into a solid form so that it can be digested. Otherwise it would go quickly in the digestive track and the animal can not get the beneficial vitamins, minerals, fat and proteins out of milk. The enzymes named as chymosin, bovine and pepsin and a real rennet would have all 3 in it in different ratios. These days vegetarian rennet is mostly chymosin created by injecting the DNA of chymosin into a bacteria and let the bacteria create the enzyme.

Here you see the 4. stomach
Here you see the 4. stomach of a goat

Chymosin used to be called rennin thinking that it is secreted from kidney glands but it is renamed to give a better name and to prevent confusion for the science minded people.

Rennet is available at cheese making supply stores. In Australia, you can get it from web shops like http://cheeselinks.com.au, http://www.thecheesemaker.com.au and http://greenlivingaustralia.com.au. Only vegetarian rennet is available through these shops. Although I looked for real calf or goat rennet but could not find it. There are some in 10 litres containers which is not practical for home cheese makers. I here thank you again to Barry Lillywhite for sending me some real calf rennet.

There are also two shops in Canberra selling rennet. These are Buts and Brew in Kaleen shopping plaza and Cooking Coordinates in Belconnen Fresh Fruit Market where I have given workshops before. These two shops are selling Mad Millie cheese making kits and they supply rennet and other things.

Rennet comes in a 50 or 100 ml bottles and the usage is written on it. It is usually added to at 2 ml or 1 ml per 10 litres of milk depending on the strength of rennet.

You can not take rennet through customs, so don’t try doing this. It is an animal product and not allowed.

Rennet can be kept in the fridge (not in freezer) and will service you till it expires. Even when they are expired, you can still use it by increasing the dosage as its strength is diminishing.

Also get couple of plastic syringes from chemists as you will need these to measure the rennet correctly. Using more rennet than specified in hard cheeses results in bitter taste and defects. In fresh cheeses it is not so much important but still obey the instructions that came with it.