Over the past few weeks the Lifeway Kitchen team has been experimenting with straining our kefir into a thick cream. The results are amazing (check out this recipe to see for yourself), but we’ve run into one problem: what should we do with all of the whey.
Wait, whey? What’s whey?
Milk, and therefore kefir, is made up of liquids and solids (on a VERY basic level). When we strain kefir through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, we’re essentially separating some of the liquid from the solids. The liquid that is separated happens to be whey, a natural component of milk that has a slightly tangy taste and tends to be a bit cloudy. We’re not ones to be wasteful, so when our kefir creations provided us with close to a gallon of whey, we did some digging to see what we could do with it. Turns out, you can do a lot!
What’s Up with Whey
Before we talk about what to do with whey, we wanted to take some time to explain what it actually is. If you take a stroll down the sports nutrition aisle (or snack bar aisle, for that matter) of our local grocery store, you’ll undoubtedly come across a plethora of products that contain or are fortified with whey protein (including our NEW Lifeway Protein Kefir!).
Whey is one of the two proteins found in milk, the other being casein, and makes up approximately 20 percent of the total protein in milk. It’s also a complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Protein is important for a healthy diet in all people, as it is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. But protein isn’t important just for muscle! Studies show that protein may help support weight maintenance and weight loss, as it promotes a feeling of satiety (it makes you feel full). The fuller you feel, the less unnecessary snacking you’ll do.
Even more, some studies show that protein may help:
- Alleviate stress
- Improve mental performance and memory
- Reduce the symptoms of problematic skin (acne)
- Support a strong immune system
Cool, right? And all from a protein found in milk (and our kefir, of course).
What to Do with Whey
We don’t typically see liquid whey available in stores and historically it has been treated as a waste product by the cultured dairy industry. Greek yogurt is yogurt that is strained of some of its whey (which is why it’s so thick), and whey is separated and discarded from milk when making certain types of cheeses. At Lifeway, we strain the whey out of our Farmer Cheese products, but we keep the whey in our drinkable and frozen kefir!
We’re really excited about the new recipes we’ll be bringing you over the next few months that we’ve developed with our strained kefir (also called kefir cream in our kitchen), but we don’t feel too good about wasting the whey that is left over, so we’ve done a bit of research.
Whey can be used in a variety of different ways (see what we did there?), including:
- to lacto ferment vegetables and fruits
- to soak grains, nuts and seeds
- as a milk or buttermilk substitute in baking
- to change the pH of your garden soil
- as extra food for pets
- to tenderize meat
Some people even use it as a hair conditioner or to make a face mask! There are tons of different ways to use extra whey. We’ll keep you up to date with what we try and in the mean time, head over to our recipe page to see what we’re cooking up with our kefir.