I’ve written about the benefits of fermented foods and how I’m trying to incorporate more into our diet. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, especially when you really don’t know what you are doing, like me, so I am going slowly. Our first step in the fermentation process: Whey and Cream Cheese.
Whey is the liquid left over after milk has been curdled and strained. It is the starter for many cultured and fermented foods, so I thought it would be a great starter for me. Whey has been an ancient remedy for upset stomachs to aching joints for centuries. Since you simply leave the raw milk on the counter, there’s really no way I could mess it up!
This is day one. It’s been sitting for about an hour and you can notice a layer of cream on the top about an inch thick – yum. This is why we buy full fat raw milk. You actually can’t use pasteurized milk because commercial milk spoils. However, the raw milk curdles and then turns into something you can actually eat! Nature knows what it’s doing. If you live anywhere in the North Georgia area, I know of a great farm here that sells raw milk (for pets, since it’s illegal to sell for human consumption in the state of Georgia – crazy). If you live elsewhere, visit realmillk.com to find a good source near you.
If you don’t have access to a good source of raw milk, you can use full fat organic plain yogurt or make homemade yogurt and simply start with the straining process. Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own. Homemade yogurt is my next goal. I’ve tried a couple times and I think because it was winter and we keep our house fairly cool, it didn’t work out for me. It needs a steady temperature – I’ve learned the hard way.
Day 4. Here you can see that it has separated. The instructions were to let it sit 1-4 days until it separates. I knew mine would probably take on the longer side since we keep our house pretty cool (65-67 degrees fahrenheit).
Next, I simply used a glass bowl with a strainer over the top and a thin clean dish towel and poured the mixture over the towel and let it sit for about 3 hours. The juice that is dripping down is the whey and the top part will be the cream cheese!
Here is a peak at what it looked like right when I poured the fermented milk into the towel. Thick, almost like yogurt and a little chunky. Not too appetizing – yet. It actually looked very similar to this when it was finished.
Next, I tied up the towel with a rubber band and hooked it on the cabinet knob and let the remaining whey drip into the bowl until it completely stopped dripping. You can also tie it to a wooden spoon over a pitcher and let it hang until the dripping has stopped.
After I let this finish dripping for a while (it took about 3 more hours) I simply poured the whey into a mason jar and stored the cream cheese in one as well (note the first picture). The “cream cheese” is more like yogurt consistency, but I think it will make a great base to a veggie or fruit dipping sauce!
I filled a quart jar with raw milk which yielded about 1 1/2 cups whey and 1 cup cream cheese.
Sweet or Savory Cream Cheese Spread (Taken from Nourishing Roots):
Sweet: Mix in 1 cup homemade fruit jam, OR 1/2 cup raw local honey, OR 1/2 pure maple syrup. You can spice it up with cinnamon, nutmeg, or get creative!
Savory: Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped chives, 1 tablespoon onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste. OR an Italian version of 1/4 cup finely chopped basil, 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.
The whey will last in the fridge for about 6 months and the cream cheese for about 1 month. My first use for whey is sauerkraut. It’s been sitting on the counter for 1 day, so it has a couple more to go – stay tuned!
Have you ever made cultured or fermented food? What is your favorite?