If you are using a full gallon of raw milk to make yogurt or fresh homemade cheese, then you’ll have at least half of the milk separate into whey.
Whey lasts about 2 weeks in the fridge. The best part about having these jars of whey is that you can use for a lot of things – from marinade to skin care, soaking beans or soaking grains. Though I typically use it to rinse my hair every few days, it has been working wonderful on my acid-loving plants in the garden.
But since that requires so little whey, I usually have quite a bit left.
What is Whey?
Whey is the by product when you strain your homemade yogurt or make homemade cheese. Making fresh cheese with lemon juice or vinegar results in acidic whey, which has quite a few uses around the house (as a marinade, soaking beans and even fermentation), garden and even in your beauty routine.
Whey contains milk sugar, some minerals, and a little protein. It contains glycolmacropeptide, which helps lower your appetite by promoting the secretion of hormone cholecystokinin – which means it helps you stay fuller, longer, without eating all too much.
You didn’t know you could get so many uses from a gallon of raw milk – did you? ☺️
Making Whey Caramel
Using whey to make caramel is a fairly simple but lengthy process. All of the lactose (sugar that gives milk its sweet taste) is contained in the whey. When you cook the whey for several hours, the whey takes on a caramel flavor.
You can caramelize whey by cooking on low heat for several hours, all while stirring frequently, but the high concentration of lactose will result in a grainy whey caramel. To help battle this we add sugar as we cook the whey down – which prevents the whey caramel from becoming grainy.
If you are making caramel from sweet whey, it’s best to add a little lemon juice to prevent the sugar from crystalizing as the water evaporates. If you are using acidic whey, you shouldn’t have a problem — using whey and sugar alone will yield a fantastic result without any more acid added.
Start by adding your whey to a stockpot and simmering on low/medium for around an hour until it is reduced by almost half.
Then add the sugar and the butter, and stir frequently on low/medium until dissolved. Turn the heat up ever so slightly to medium, and keep a close eye as it starts a low boil. I kept mine at medium, and it took around 45 minutes to get to this point – don’t walk off too far. It’s best to tackle things in the kitchen while you wait than allow it to scorch the pan.
Over time, the mixture will slowly become darker and thicker – as it thickens it will start to foam, but by stirring constantly during this stage you can keep it from foaming over the pot. Be cautious – because it thickens so quickly and if you aren’t watching you will risk burning the caramel.
This whey caramel results in a lighter version of the thicker dulce de lech that you could use s drizzle on ice cream, drizzled on desserts or even pancakes, or gifted to neighbors for the holidays.