Curds and whey are the two products that result from the curdling process of cheese making. The curds are creamy thickened chunks of young cheese. Whey is a liquid substance that separates and is strained away from the curds. Cheese curds are typically either seasoned and served fresh, or salted and dry aged. The whey liquid can be consumed for its health benefits, turn into secondary cheeses, or added to fruits and vegetables in a lacto-fermentation process.
Things You'll Need
- Cheese mold
- Press or weight
- Sweetener (optional)
- Sea salt
- Quart jar with new lid and ring
- Thick bottom stock pot (non-reactive)
- Wooden spoon
- Kitchen thermometer
- Fine mesh strainer
- Large bowl
Taste the fresh cheese curds before adding anything. Subtleties in the dairy and other ingredients that were used are easiest to identify at this stage. Select salts, fresh or dried herbs or spices to complement the pleasant flavors already present in the curd. Basil, thyme and oregano all pair well with high-quality cheese curds.
Sprinkle the selected seasonings over the curds. Toss the cheese curds with clean hands to coat them evenly. Taste a season-coated curd and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Line a cheese mold with double thickness of cheesecloth so at least 2 inches is hanging outside the mold. Fill the mold with the seasoned cheese curd. Fold the excess cheesecloth over the curd and cover the mold.
Place the mold into the press or add a weight to the lid to force the remaining moisture out. Remove the pressed curd from the mold and cheesecloth. Dip the cheese form in a layer of wax for further aging.
Drink the whey by itself or mixed into a hot or cold beverage. Nutritionists often suggest whey consumption for health benefits derived from the vitamins, minerals and active bacteria. Sweeten the whey with honey or sugar to reduce the bitter taste.
Cut raw fruits or vegetables like apples, yellow summer squash or zucchini into ¼-inch slices for lacto-fermentation using the whey. Pack the sliced fruit or vegetable into a wide-mouth glass quart jar, leaving 1 inch of space beneath the rim. Add 4 tbsp. of the whey and 1 tbsp of natural sea salt to the jar.
Pour purified or distilled water into the jar until all the air bubbles are gone. Use a chopstick to move the slices and release any remaining air. Push all the sliced down so they are completely submerged in the acidic liquid.
Seal the jar with a new lid and ring. Place the sealed jar of sliced produce and whey on the counter for three days of room temperature storage. Eat the fermented slices right away or move the jar to the refrigerator for a two months maximum for fruits and up to a year for vegetables. The acidic whey converts sugars and starches in the produce into lactic acid for safe consumption by diabetics and those avoiding carbohydrates.
Put fresh dairy whey in a heavy bottomed non-reactive stock pot with the lid on to begin the secondary cheese making process. Let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Heat the acidified whey up to 200 F over medium heat, stirring continuously. Remove the stock pot from the heat and allow the whey to cool to room temperature.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and nest it in a large bowl. Gently scoop the coagulated ricotta curds from the cooled whey with a fine mesh strainer. Place the curds from the strainer into the lined colander.
Move the curds, colander and bowl to the refrigerator to drain for three hours. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth. Twist the gathered edges together to form the ricotta curds into a ball and squeeze out the remaining moisture.
Feed the remaining whey liquid to pets or livestock. Add the fresh ricotta to a sweet or savory dish that calls for a creamy cheese. Store unused ricotta in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two days or freeze for up to a month.
Tips & Warnings
- Fresh cheese curds and secondary cheeses made from whey have a high moisture content. The moisture keeps them soft and easy to melt and spread.
- Always work with clean equipment and clean hands when preparing fermented foods like curds and whey to avoid bacterial contamination.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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