Sunday, July 13, 2008
Ricotta, My Whey
I'm from Memphis...sorry, I couldn't resist! ;-)
Caspian Sea Yogurt, and What to do with the Whey
We're back to making Caspian Sea Yogurt. What's interesting is that our original live CSY culture was purchased (via internet)during the cooler spring months. It didn't get as hot during shipment as the culture we recently purchases did.
The yogurt produced from the milder-weather shipment was itself very mild, and had a unique honey-like consistency when poured. It endured a range of temps and fermentation times, and to make it was as easy as adding one part culture to 5 parts milk, any sort. We poured it into clean mason jars, covered each with a coffee filter and jar ring, and set them on top of the fridge to ferment anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. The consistency of the resulting yogurts ranged from a thin cream-type consistency to thicker, denser yet "slick" honey-type pourable yogurt. If we over-fermented some of it, it began separating into strata of solids and whey, and all we had to do was insert a knife or such down the side of the jar and pour off (and collect) the clearish whey liquid while the thicker solids remained in the jar. We stirred up the solids (which were not in fact solid, but just very thick yogurt) and store all in the fridge.
It was the perfect self-perpetuation yogurt, though it did not have the taste or consistency of what we'd come to think of as yogurt from the supermarket. This was more or less like cream, with a different viscosity, and Caspian Sea Yogurt is so mild, it's adaptable to eating straight or in almost anything else...smoothies, over granola or cooked oatmeal, you name it.
I grew to enjoy it, and Jack absolutely loved it...in fact, craved it.
Then I killed off my culture :(
I left the jars on top of the fridge too long, too many repeated times, and also began mainly culturing the new batches with the whey...which is ok but I won't ever do exclusively any more. The end result is that there was no middle ground final product...all the CSY became solid and whey, half one and half the other, and was very very tart...a sure sign it was over-fermented. After a while, every batch was just too sour to enjoy eating, though not dangerous to consume. More and more batches went out to be poured at the base of our potted fig tree. Eventually, I faced the music and discontinued making the CSY till we could get a fresh starter culture.
I started making the CSY again a week or two ago, and the starter culture was shipped during excessively hot weather. I suspect that would explain the different consistency of my former CSY and the ones I'm making now. But thankfully, till we can order another in the cooler months of winter, this CSY still has much to love about it...no cooking, no fuss, delicious...just with a bit of a different consistency than the first batch..not as "honey-like" to pour and quicker to form solids and whey. That's my first clue it could easily over-ferment, so I'm keeping diligent watch on the hours I leave them atop the fridge, before removing them to the fridge to halt the fermentation.
There is still some whey produced, and I pour it off after it's been chilled (easier then)and save it. Some of the solids make their way there, too, in with the poured-off watery whey. Whey is very tart and if you pour it off the CSY, the CSY is very mild and goes with more things.
So....what to do with the whey? If it is kept as is, it's still alive with probiotics...good bacteria that pump up the body's defense systems and increase immunity and digestion. However, I wanted to explore more uses.
It's said to be a good hair and body rinse, but I haven't tried that yet.
I saw mention that whey from cheesemaking can be used to make ricotta, and I wondered if the CSY whey would work as well, even though CSY is not a cooked hard cheese. The instructions were easy, so today I tried it out, just to see what would happen.
Making Ricotta from Caspian Sea Yogurt Whey
The instructions said to heat whey to 200 F degrees, stirring occasionally, then to line a colander with a clean pillowcase (or very tightly woven cheesecloth, not regular cheesecloth) and drain it through itand allow it to drain. Sounds easy!
I had heated 3 quarts of whey (shown in picture above), which had some CSY solids in it. At the end of the heating period (a few minutes)it foamed up and had to be stirred down. I settled a pillowcase-lined colander over a separate stockpot and poured the heated whey through it. Most of the liquid went straight through, and at first I thought there wouldn't be anything to show for the experiment. But with a rubber spatula, I gently scraped the fabric and there was a little something there...some ricotta. Yayy! Could it be that easy?
I let it drain a couple of minutes and scraped it together into a small pile. It probably made 3/4 - 1 cup, and was nicely moist. If I'd wanted it dry, I'd simply drain it longer. I lightly salted it, as the instructions suggested, and the flavor was delightfully mild and delicious! Refrigerated, it can be used over salads, to stuff pastas, to add to cheesecakes and sweet creamcheese desserts, or with chopped herbs for a spread for crackers or crusty dark homemade bread. I tasted it on whole grain crackers and nothing else, and it was great!
So ricotta can be as easy as Heat, Strain, and eat...who knew???
Are there any of you out there making Caspian Sea Yogurt? I wonder if kefir whey would also work...anyone tried it? One of the nicest things about fermented milk products is the ability to experiment and come up with really useful, easy, and delicious foods!