Taylor Mardis KatzAlthough it may look strange, with its neon-yellow hue and slightly tangy smell, whey is a truly fantastic ingredient to have in your kitchen. Whey is an acidic by-product of cultured or soured milk, and contains water-soluble proteins, vitamins and minerals. It lasts for months in your refrigerator and can be used for a variety of purposes – from soaking grains to making a refreshing batch of ginger beet kvass.

As a poet, I appreciate whey not only for its ability to ferment anything in its company, but also for its far-reaching pun possibilities. I’ve been known to exclaim, “That’s the whey, uh huh uh huh, I like it!” when tasting a delicious fermented concoction. Forgive me: There are simply so many wheys to enjoy whey.

In my last post, I discussed how to strain yogurt using a colander and cheesecloth, leaving you with thickened yogurt and a bowl full of whey. Whey can also be attained by making a batch of mozzarella or feta cheese, processes that also involve straining off whey. (Click here to learn how to make ricotta from whey.) You can also make whey by straining kefir or buttermilk, or by clabbering raw milk. (To clabber raw milk, leave your milk out on the counter in a sealed container for 3 to 5 days, until it turns thick and separates into curds and whey.)

No matter how you get your whey, it’s time to put it to good use. But which whey shall you choose? Since summer is just around the corner, I thought I’d focus on refreshing beverages involving whey. I’ll start with one of my favorite recipes, a flavorful tonic that’s refreshing in both wintertime and summer: Ginger Beet Kvass. This ancient elixir has been consumed in Russia for centuries, and has been said to aid digestion, cleanse the blood and liver, and alleviate nausea related to hangovers and morning sickness. This recipe, which involves lacto-fermenting beets with whey, increases the already powerful nutritional benefits of beets, with the added flavor and nutritional properties of ginger. This recipe makes 1/2 gallon of kvass.

Ingredients:

2 large beets, chopped into 1/2-inch chunks




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