A few days ago I wrote briefly about whey, and was delighted and honoured to receive some feedback from food writer Anne Mendelson. Anne is somewhat of an expert on the topic, being the author of the marvellous book Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages.
Anne points out that ‘there are two broad categories of whey: "sweet," or soured, depending on whether the lactose in the original milk is still intact or has been converted to lactic acid through bacterial fermentation.” She goes on to explain that the lactose in milk is all contained in the whey, so "sweet" (that is, unsoured) whey contains as much lactose as plain milk. If this sweet whey is boiled down sufficiently, you end up with ‘a sort of caramelized fudge, with a grainy consistency because the concentrated lactose forms rather large, sandy crystals.’ This is, essentially the ‘whey cheese’ much beloved of Scandinavians.
The Book of Cheese (1918) by Charles Thom explains the process of making ‘Norwegian whey cheese’ in a little more detail. I can hardly imagine that the method has changed significantly in the last hundred years, so I give you the description below:
Mysost, Norwegian whey cheese.
The whey contains nearly 5 per cent of milk-sugar which can be recovered by boiling. The Norwegian process which produces Mysost consists in raising the whey to the boiling point, skimming off the albumin as it rises, then concentrating the remainder of the whey. As it reaches sufficient concentration, the albumin is thoroughly stirred back into the mass and the mass finally cooled into forms. Mysost is a brown, hard brittle mass consisting principally of caramelized milk-sugar. Analysis shows such percentage composition as follows: water 10 to 20 per cent, protein 10 to 15 per cent, milk-sugar 30 to 55 per cent.
I had no idea that whey was so versatile. We have already considered it as a refreshing beverage, a useful bakery ingredient, and the source of ‘candy’ and cheese. We must get around to considering whey porridge, whey-whig, whey-brose, whey butter, whey wine, and whey vinegar. Have I missed anything?
Quotation for the Day
To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.