What To Do With Whey: Sauerkraut

In every single cheese making class I’ve ever taught, I am asked:  “What can you do with the whey?”

Whey is the byproduct of making cheese, it’s the yellowish liquid that separates out from the thick, white curd.  And, my usual answer is:  “By the time I’m done making cheese, I’m DONE cooking.  I usually feed it back to the animals, the goats and chickens love it…not the dogs though, it gives them diarrhea.  BBBuuuutttt, you can bake with it, put it in smoothies, drink it, soak then cook grains or beans in it….” 

And now, I’ve added, “You can also ferment with it,” to my answer.

Fer-WHAT with it??

Ferment.  Thanks to my friend Karen, I now own Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  An incredible down home, back to our roots (sometimes our ancient roots) cookbook and source of incredible information and education.

It is there that I am learning about… fermenting… with whey.

For Sauerkraut, start with 1 medium cabbage, cored and shredded.

I kind of ribbon sliced mine into a big bowl.  If I used my cheese shredder with it, it came out way too fine.

Next, add 1 Tbsp caraway seeds, 1 Tbsp sea salt, and 4 Tbsp whey.  In Nourishing Traditions, it even gives you a recipe for making whey.  But, if you are already a cheese or yogurt maker, just use the whey from that. 

I used whey I had saved from making feta cheese.  (Another post for another time….absolutely one of the most creamy, delicious cheeses I’ve ever made.)

Then, get a pounder.  I used my Vitamix black thing.  You can use anything firm and heavy that will be good at pounding.  Your fist might not work though.

Pound for ten minutes to release all the juices.  Sit somewhere in the sunshine, where you can enjoy the view and be thankful that you’re pounding cabbage.  For Ten Minutes.  (Don’t give up here…I almost did, but it’s worth it…keep going!)

Now, pack it tightly into a jar.  Mine ended up filling up one and a half of these jars.  It’s OK if you have only a 1/2 filled jar.  It didn’t seem to do anything to the final end product.  (Different from canning, where you want to have a specific amount of space at the top of the jar.)

Cover it tightly and….contrary to popular thought, let it sit out on the counter.  For 3 or 4 days. 

WHAT????  But, the USDA says anything out on the counter for more than 2 hours must be thrown away!  How can I let something sit there for days?????  And I don’t even have to can it???

You can.  The salt, the acidity of the whey and the fermentation process are what’s important here in preserving the cabbage.  I am still learning all the science behind it, but, throughout history (before canning was developed), food was preserved through fermentation.

It’s OK.  You’ll live through it. 

So, after 3 or 4 days (I gave mine 4 days because we keep our house pretty cold…do 3 days if your house is warmer or it’s summer), remove the lid. 

BUT DON’T REMOVE THE LID BEFORE THEN!  Fermentation is an anaerobic process.  If you let any in any oxygen in the first 3-4 days, you’ll ruin the process.  I know it’s tempting, you almost can’t even WAIT 3 or 4 days.  But, you must.  Trust me.  And trust Sally Fallon. 

Now that I have authorized you to remove the lid:  Look at it!  Smell it!  It’s bubbling, right??  Cool!  And, it smells sauerkrauty!!!  Now, put it in a cool, dark place.  The only place I have like that is my refrigerator at the moment, so that’s where both jars went.  The flavor develops if it is left to age for 6 months, but ours lasted a meer 2 weeks before the last morsel was eaten.  No aging here…it was too good.

Next time, I’ll make enough for an army so we’ll have some that’ll make it to the 6 month mark!

So, there you go.  One thing you can do with whey.

Have fun!!!

–  The Goat Cheese Lady


About The Goat Cheese Lady

I am Lindsey. At first I was a city girl. Then I was an urban farmgirl, attempting to balance city and farm life. Now, after moving to the country, I have embarked on life as a rural farmgirl, complete with my husband, the Animal Whisperer, man of exceptional knowledge and patience, two boys who are louder than my sister and I ever were, a herd of milking goats, and a flock of egg-laying chickens. Coyotes, mice, country dogs and prairie dogs are frequent visitors. Just 45 minutes north is Colorado Springs, the setting for our first six years in the goat world. Our family. Our city friends. Our introduction to cheesemaking. But we...and our growing farm and soon-to-be creamery...have set up shop down off of Highway 115 in Penrose, Colorado.
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9 Responses to What To Do With Whey: Sauerkraut

  1. Peter says:

    You don’t have to use whey to make sauerkraut. The whey is used to start the fermentation on vegetables that are hard to ferment or to make low-salt or no-salt ferments. Cabbage is very easy to ferment. All you need is sea salt and cabbage. I let mine go for about 10 days until the fermentation slows down and then move to the refrigerator.

  2. john says:

    I made goat cheese from a kit… yummy saved the whey and used it to make sauerkraut was great. Read later on line I shouldnt use that whey because it was heated to 170??? what the real scoop?

    • John, My guess is the site you read was saying that because the whey was no longer “raw”. By heating it to 170, you had pasteurized it, thus killing active good bacteria. However regardless of whether it is raw or pasteurized, the whey can be used to make sauerkraut or any other fermented food. Non-pasteurized whey just has more beneficial bacteria in it. Lindsey

      • John says:

        woo hoo thanks made my day! i am so into this fermentation and cheese thing! i was worried i would have to pitch the whey

  3. Too bad I already disposed of the whey from this weekends cheese attempt. I will have to give this a try next time!

    • What kind of cheese did you attempt? Lindsey

      • The no expectations kind 🙂 Mostly testing the technique then concerned about the quality of the end product.

        I followed the “Basic One Gallon” make from http://biology.clc.uc.edu/Fankhauser/Cheese/Cheese98.htm (Greek yogurt as a starter rather then the package of mesophilic culture) but followed the pressures from the Mad Millie’s Farmhouse (11 for 10, 22 for 10 and 44 for 12h) recipe as the Fankhauser instructions are more laissez-faire and I like specifics :). It is in the fridge now and we will see what we have in a couple of weeks. Poor temp control and non-existent humidity control are not in my favor.

        After working with such high quality and fresh milk by you let me see what a difference there is with the stuff we call ‘milk’ from the supermarket. :/
        I plan to do a more careful and specific (probably the Farmhouse as it has the shortest cure time for impatient folks like me) once I figure out what to do for a press. Balancing 44lbs of weights and water on a tiny little press just doesn’t cut it and I am hesitant to spend ~$100 on a real press at this point.

        • Thanks for all the details!!! As I told you in the class, you almost can’t ruin a cheese…as long as you’re open minded. Due to the lack of humidity in the fridge and the non-exact temperature control, you may have cracks in your cheese (especially if aged more than 2 months), but DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED!!! It will be awesome!

          Let us know how the end result turns out…and what else you try along the way!!!


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