Whey from Ask Grandpa

Whey is the watery liquid that is left after you have produced cheese from milk by curdling it (coagulating the proteins in it by adding rennet).

So, milk, quesque ça que ça? The best food there is, that's what it is: some fats, a lot of sugars and proteins, vitamins, a lot of minerals, the works. After all, Mother Nature meant it to be fully sufficient for the sustenance of some boisterous young 'un.

What do we do with (cows') milk, except drinking it (recommended)? We dis-suspend the fats, making butter, we make part of the proteins (the casein) coagulate to make cheese, and the rest (the whey), what do we do with it? ("It's mostly water; let's pour it in the drain!") (Nobody will buy this stuff; let's pour it in the drain!") ("It tastes uninteresting; let's pour it in the drain! May be the calf can drink some of it?")

An all too true overview. Whey is mostly water, all right, but what there is in it of other things, they aren't to sneeze at: rests of fat, the globulin and albumin proteins, most of the sugars, and almost all of the precious minerals. The cow extracted a lot of those minerals by digesting those large amounts of vegetable stuff she eats during a day, and thoughtfully didn't use it up all for herself, but put a lot of it into the milk, to make it truly nourishing, not just only a snack. And we, we don't appreciate it, the unspeakable fools we are! (As we are such unspeakable fools generally, it shouldn't surprise anybody, at that.)

OK, so what do I have to suggest? Drink a glass of whey a day? -- It wouldn't be such a bad an idea at all, if we could get hold of the whey. Most of the cheese production of today is proceeding inside those fairly large industrial complexes we call dairies. They are, like any industrial concern, very sensitive regarding supplementary income that might accrue from any by-product, so they do not throw the whey away, I am happy to say. They dry it, and sell the white, flaky rest substance to the food processing industry, to go into a lot of the products we consume daily, like bread, cereal mixes, confectionery, and so on. They probably have to sell it for a pittance, but at least it makes a contribution to the bottom line. We actually do get access to all those minerals and things, so why am I ranting so much?

Because there is a better way of preparing foodstuff from whey, and one where prices are very high, in such areas where there is a traditional market for the product. – "What damn product? Speak up, or we'll... !". – Sorry, we missionaries tend to be rather circumspect when it finally starts getting close to the gospel. The gospel of whey contains just one, Scandinavian word "mesost", sometimes "brunost", 'brown cheese'. "Mesost" is translated something like 'messy cheese', although it isn't a cheese at all, and it simply is the end result of boiling away most of the water in whey, caramelizing the sugars in the process, the product being a gooey, nut-brown mess of the consistence of rather stiff porridge. The goo is cooled (cf. a note later on), and put in cheese-cloth in a form, the way ordinary cheese is handled after curdling, partly dried in air, attaining a consistence between that of St. Paulin and a gruyere (there should develop no mould, though). You use it, sparingly, on bread and butter the way you would with any true cheese. It is delicious, to us born to the fare, but repels all of you other idiots, who don't know what ails you, or what is good for you.

That being the gospel of whey, we now have to go into technicalities: mesost really shouldn't be made from cows' milk, as it will be too sweet then, too bland. The stuff needed is goats' milk, if you want to be a real aficionado, but mesost from cows' milk isn't to be sneezed at either. If you can't have Beluga every day, you might condescend to have cod roe now and then. Next thing is (if you wish to start off immediately), that you have to choose between either of two, rigorously to be held on to ways of cooling the goo down to room temperature after boiling off most of the water: you either have to stir it continuously during the entire cooling process, with no let-up, or let it cool by itself, without as much as touching it. The simple reason is, that as the stuff contains a lot of sugars, it easily starts crystallizing into a sand-like form of candy sugar. It won't if you either stir continuously, or let it alone during cooling off. If you sinfully err, by pausing, even just a minute, in the stirring, or by touching a self-cooling batch, you will get concrete-like slings of this 'sand' inside your 'cheeses', and it is at the same time irritating, and a detriment to the taste of the thing, as so much of the taste is locked into those crystals.

The Dark Side of the Force of Mesost is the tendency of the stupid public to demand a peanut-butter-like mesost product, locally known as 'messmör' ("mesost butter"). To make it they don't dry it out the way they should, and they (ouch!) are adding sugar to it. Children allegedly like it, but there should be limits to what children are exposed to. Had they been brought up on real mesost, they would have... (yes, you know what they would have done) if their parents tried to bring this accursed messmör into the house. If anybody suggests to that you try it, kill them. They obviously are one of the culinary Enemy's hordes, and any jury will free you.

Markets: Norway, and Northern Sweden. Not much, eh? Moreover, all of it being taken these days (when farmers don't produce the delicacy locally any longer, the way they used to) by Gudbrandsdalens Mejeri in Norway. However, another way of looking at it is, that then you have the rest of the planet to yourself, to develop production for, and to develop the markets in. Go to it! The Gudbrandsdalen people probably can license the technology. Think of all the health food shops in the west, and of all the stuff that could be made cheaply from local dairy whey surpluses in the developing world, to be sold locally, or exported. Finally you might be able to climb out of the health food rut in the West (however high the norm of prices are there), and get at the huge 'normal' grocery shops. If you become a mesost billionaire, couldn't you please hire me to tend garden, or something? (Please, tend to the goats' milk variety too; I don't dare to think of what will happen to me if Gudbrandsdalen stops producing it.) In France they produce a lot of goats' cheese, so there would be an opportunity, if not a market (you know the French, don't you? If it isn't French, it doesn't exist. But they could become rich exporting it). Also the rest of the Mediterranean area have lots of goats, as does the Levant. Do something, please!

Updated: 1999-10-20 

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