When you regularly make cheese and other dairy products at home, you’ll be impressed by two things: the amazing creations you can make from a few ingredients and the amount of whey you generate. When you turn milk into cheese or yogurt, you separate the solids, or curds, by cooking and draining off the liquid, or whey. Commercial manufacturers of Greek yogurt generate so much whey it’s created environmental problems. If you make your own cheese and yogurt, you likely want to be at least as conscientious as the big brands. Corporations are testing large-scale solutions, but at home you have many small, easy, and tasty alternatives to pouring that whey down the drain.
Read more about using whey
Sour cream is one of my guilty food pleasures. I eat it regularly, sometimes daily. I eat it at breakfast with crepes and baked into Sour Cream Scones with Tart Cherries. It goes in creamy dressings for potato and other salads. It’s the base for dips and midday snacks. I put sour cream on baked potatoes, tacos, and empanadas. And I use it in desserts, including cookies.
I call sour cream a “guilty pleasure” because it can be high in calories and fat. Most commercial reduced-fat and nonfat versions are primarily whey, modified food/corn starch, salts, stabilizers, and artificial gums—not a good alternative. So if I’m buying sour cream, I read the labels closely and buy full-fat versions that only list “cultured cream” or something similar as the ingredient. But you can easily get the best flavor from the fewest ingredients by making sour cream at home.
Learn to make Homemade Sour Cream and Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies
When I started sharing cheese and homemade dairy recipes and teaching workshops on making cheese last year, you learned how to use a simple starter to make yogurt and an acidic kitchen staple to make cheese. But to expand the range of dairy products and cheeses you make in your kitchen, you’ll need to become familiar with powdered starter.
These magical little packets of bacterial cultures do the same thing as yogurt and lemon juice: they acidify, or ripen, warm milk, letting the good bacteria grow. But the beauty of them is in their specificity. Each starter culture has particular strains of bacteria that create different flavors and textures from the same milk. The range of available cultures is impressive, and I recommend reading about them in Mary Karlin’s and Gianaclis Caldwell’s books to really understand how they work. Here, I’ll give a quick intro that will let you make and use cultured buttermilk.
Learn to make Cultured Buttermilk and Honey–Chili Buttermilk Biscuits