Kitchen lessons

As a permaculturist and homemaker I am always learning even as I am winging it either in the garden or the kitchen. Growing up and in the Marines I learned PLENTY about cleaning the space where I live. Knowledge of cooking and some of the other kitchen skills useful for a homemaker/homesteader though are coming along more slowly. What I lack in knowledge and experience I often make up for with intuition. However sometimes there is no replacement for knowledge!

To help me get some of that knowledge, I’ve been using the book entitled Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon since I received it as a holiday gift this past year. More than just a cookbook, it gives the reader a great deal of compelling evidence for the benefits of eating a diet rich in a variety of proteins, fats, and fermented foods along with many recipes for making everything from basic stocks to fermented meat dishes. It is a really handy resource and one that I am slowly digging deeper into. For now, I am trying to master the art of making whey.

Whey is the key ingredient in lacto-fermentation and is used to start the fermentation process. Fermenting foods makes the nutrients more readily available to the body and increases the level of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Americans could really benefit from eating fermented foods. The standard American diet of processed foods and simple carbohydrates depletes the digestive system of helpful microorganisms and at a minimum causes people to have poor digestion with the gas, bloating, and malodorous smells that go along with it.  Poor digestion and the resultant poor absorption of nutrients leads to a host of health problems, many of which  I experienced for years when I ate an atrocious diet heavy on fast “food”, soda, and processed grocery store items containing MSG. These days my diet is as organic as I can afford it to be (which is fortunately most of the foods I buy) and I include home made fermented vegetables and a bottle of store bought kombucha now and then too. I feel better at 41 than I did at 31 by a long way!

Making whey is pretty straight forward. I only use raw whole milk to do it. Despite it’s apparent simplicity, I have made some mistakes and I still have yet to master the art of getting all of the cream out the first time once it intitially separates. Recently, to start the process I  allowed the milk to sit on the counter at room temp to separate the cream (this is the normal procedure). When the separation was finished I put the whey/cream mixture back in the fridge thinking, “I’ll get to that later”. Well that that turned into a lot later as I eventually forgot about it. An unwelcome experiment developed in the back of the fridge. I ended up with what looked like a big glop of cheese on top of some very murky looking, chunky whey. The moral of the story, follow through to completion without procrastinating! I have a suspicion that the big glop of cheese may have been edible but I had no one to ask so I poured it all on to my compost heap knowing at least some microbes made the trip.

Separating the cream from the now much thinner liquid also seems simple-just pour it through a clean cloth and leave to drain into a new container and there you have it, whey and cream neatly separated. Alas, I am inelegant when I make my attempts, though I am sure I will get better in future. Perhaps a different type of cloth or towel is all that is needed. This week, I actually managed to get most of the cream out after to attempts to separate it, the first of which was very messy and resulted in a total loss of the cream. Fortunately more cream was left in the whey and I got it separated fairly well. The cream is so delicious when it’s done just right. I like to eat it with raw honey. Yuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmm.

Pouring the whey through.

Pouring the whey through.

The mess aside, making whey is very worthwhile. I’ll be making some sauerkraut soon with it. This kind of kraut is absolutely delicious and to me is so much better than the kind pickled with vinegar. Drinking a little in water is also a great way to aid the digestion. There are many recipes featuring whey in the aforementioned book and on the internet. Give it a go!

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