The Basics // How to make Curds & Whey
When you strain yogurt or raw milk, you are left with curds and whey. The curds can be used in place of store bought cream cheese (with the added bonus of lactic acid producing bacteria!) I add curds to many of my recipes to add thickness and tangy flavor. The whey, which is considered the by-product, is the liquid that remains after the formation of curds. Whey can be used as a starter culture for fermented foods, soaking grains, or taken straight for a probiotic boost.
What will I need?
- A mesh strainer
- Two thin towels -or- cheese cloth and a towel
- A ceramic -or- glass bowl
- Whole milk yogurt - I prefer to use dairy from our local Amish Real Food Club, but if you don't have access to an Amish co-op there are a few brands of yogurt that you can purchase at the grocery store that will render similar results. Organic Pastures Raw Dairy, St. Benoit, Strauss, Traders Point, & Clover are good second choices because they keep their animals on pasture for as much of the year as possible, given the conditions under which they operate. St. Benoit, Strauss & Traders Point also use a relatively low heat pasteurization process (170 degrees) and don't ultra-pasteurize their cream. Ultra-pasteurization is something you want to avoid at all costs when you are culturing your dairy products. The extreme heat applied seriously denatures the proteins and fats, as well as completely wipes out the beneficial bacteria and enzyme content which will make fermentation unlikely at best.*
- Place strainer over the bowl. Make sure there is enough room for the whey to collect in the bowl without it touching the bottom of the strainer.
- Line the strainer with a thin towel or a few layers on cheese cloth. You want to avoid using a thick towel at this stage because it will absorb a substantial amount of whey.
- Pour yogurt into the towel lined strainer, and lightly fold over the corners of the towel..
- Cover the bowl with your second towel to keep out pests.
- Let it stand overnight at room temperature on your counter (about 16 hours). The time that you leave it out will depend on the temperature and the type of yogurt you are using. The whey will collect in the bowl, and the curds will stay in the strainer.
- Remove the towel and feel the curds. If the curds aren't as solid as you would like them to be, leave the bowl out for a few more hours. If they are solid enough, transfer the curds into a glass container and the whey in a mason jar and refrigerate. The curds will keep for about a month, and the whey will keep for up to 6 months. But it is best to use the whey as soon as possible because with each day that passes, the number of beneficial bacteria will decrease.