Well, yesterday was indeed a banner day! Not only did we successfully make mozzarella, but we made whey as well! Whooppee, you say...it just looks like gross yellow-y clear liquid. Weirdly, I think it looks a lot like clarified butter, which makes some sense, since clarified butter is butter with the solids removed. But, unlike clarified, butter, almost all the fat has been removed (its in the cheese curds!). Basically, after all the curds are skimmed out to make the cheese, you have high protein, low fat whey left. What to do? Historically, there were few choices. You can't throw it in the river. The high protein messes with the river life, and makes a big stink. Same problem with dumping it in your fields. You can feed it to your pigs - they love it! (Ever wonder why delicious Parma ham and Parmasean cheese come from the same place? All that whey has to go somewhere, and I say, happy pigs are a great way to get rid of it!) Sadly, as I do not live on a farm, and didn't feel like dumping it, there was only one thing to do - make ricotta cheese!
That's right. Feeling supremely confident with my adorable cheese balls resting in the fridge, I decided to soldier on. Reheat the whey - up to 200 degrees F, and add 1/4 cup of cider vinegar. I should mention that while the heating is happening, the whey stops looking like clarified butter, and starts looking more like vanilla pudding. Very weird. Anyway, after you add the vinegar, a second separating happens. Kind of like what happens when the curds separate, but the separating bits are much, much smaller. Scoop it all out and put it in cheese cloth. I bet you've never used cheese cloth for the purpose for which it's named! I know I hadn't.
You tie up the corners of the cheese cloth and let the little bundle drain over the sink. Please note the high tech equipment! It dripped for about a half hour.
After most of the liquid went down the drain (now pretty much completely devoid of proteins) I untied it, and there was my (flavorless) ricotta cheese stuck to the cheese cloth. Yum. It really wasn't very appetizing. Anyway, after I scraped it all off the cloth, I added salt and the tasty tarragon and parsley DH had chopped really fine. I'd have a picture, but it was so good!
Whey is really good for you. You know how many of those protein powders are made of whey? Considering the amount of cheese made in the world, I wonder how many gallons of whey are made in a day? I would guess almost as much as there are gallons of milk made into cheese. Yikes! If we all ate whey ricotta instead of using those gross protein powders, we might all be happier. Just think - all those cranky body builders eating low fat, high protein whey cheese instead of chemically flavored protein drinks?
Here's to ricotta. Yes whey!