How to get whey

Source. Used under Creative Commons license.
Little Miss Muffet
sat on her tuffet
eating her curds and whey.

Be honest, when you were a kid, how many of you know what curds and whey actually were? Odds are that in the US, you grew up with milk which would never separate. Milk which had been heat treated and homogenized so the cream no longer raised to the surface. When milk like that goes bad, you can’t do anything with it other than toss it out. When fresh, raw milk starts to sour, you can still use it! The solids can be made into a nice cream cheese dip. The whey itself can be used for a variety of things, which you can see over here at The Prairie Homestead. I tend to use it for soaking grains and sometimes in my fermented veggies. When I was eating legumes more often I would soak them with whey as well. The soaking process breaks down anti-nutrients present in the grains and beans, making the good stuff in these foods more accessible to the gut.

Whey is in fact good for you, and is nothing like the powdered junk you find in “health” food stores. No wonder why Little Miss Muffet could run so quickly. It has some interesting history too:
Whey is the tart, golden liquid known to the Greek doctors of antiquity as “healing water.” In fact, Hippocrates and Galen, two founding fathers of medicine, frequently recommended whey to their patients. Whey from fully fermented milk no longer contains lactose, and with its dose of probiotic organisms will help maintain a synergistic balance of the inner ecosystem and encourage repair of gut dysbiosis. Whey also contains a fair number of minerals, particularly potassium, and a notable amount of vitamins, especially B2. Source

Yes raw milk is more expensive than the pasteurized sort, but it certainly has a longer life for uses.

How to Get Whey

Raw milk

A jar with a cover
White dish towel


1. Leave milk out to sour and separate. Tip: Don’t do what I used to do and leave it in the original container. It’s going to be hard to get the solids through that little opening.

2. When the milk has become solid, or you see the clear liquid at the bottom, it’s time to strain. Line the sieve with the towel, set it on the edge of the bowl, and pour the contents of the jar.

3. Once the majority of the whey has dripped out, tie up the towel and hang it to get the rest of the whey out. This will take a few hours. Usually I let it hang overnight.

4. Put the whey in a jar to store it in the fridge. Date the jar so you don’t forget when it went in the fridge. This whey lasts up to six months. You can also freeze it, as Prairie Homestead points out.

5. If you want to use the cream cheese (I admit I rarely do), scoop it out of the towel and put in a jar and refrigerate. This is good for about a week.

That’s it! Being able to do this will be a help with making some of the cultured recipes listed in the book Nourishing Traditions.

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I’m sharing this post at Homestead Barn Hop, Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Sunday School, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

This post was featured in the Sunday School Blog Carnival!


21 responses to “How to get whey

  1. I grew up always thinking (pasteurized) milk smelled like it had gone bad. The only milk I could get down was the raw milk I tried at a farm one time. As an adult, I had a boss from Romania, and he once said to me “Milk doesn’t go bad – it just turns into something else” He grew up with real raw milk, apparently 🙂

    Since we don’t use our milk plain, we make it to yogurt first and then strain off the whey. This is how we do it:

  2. We didn’t use all of our raw milk up from last week so I have a (imperial) pint (half a quart???) of milk souring on the counter right now for the first time. Just 10 mins ago I was looking at wondering how I will know when it is ready. Thanks for the pictures. Very helpful!

    • Nicola, your comment has made my week! I feel so happy that I was able to help you out and keep you from possibly tossing a valuable resource.

  3. I didn’t realize it was so easy – I am going to do that with my next bottle of milk.

  4. How long does it take for the milk to separate?

    • It depends on a few things: the age of the milk and surrounding temperature mostly. In summer it will go a lot faster than winter. Right now I’d say around 3 days will show separate but do check it daily.

  5. I saw this before and never tried the raw milk route. I always just scoop off whatever is on top of the homemade yogurt. I have to try this!

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  7. Thanks for writing this great post and sharing it with us. Raw milk has also been proven to help reduce your chance of developing allergies and asthma.
    I’m hosting a weekly linky over at Natural Mothers Network and would love it if you popped over and linked this post! It would be great to introduce your blog to my readership! Seasonal Celebration Linky Thank you :-). Rebecca x

  8. Soli thank you very much for placing this post at Natural Mothers Network’s linky: Seasonal Celebration! You helped make Seasonal Celebration a wealth of intelligent, creative and resourceful information and it’s been such a pleasure for me and many others to read through each post. I am really looking forward to seeing you again Sunday evening or Monday! Rebecca x

  9. Dont even have to leave for long if you dont have time, you can just boil the milk and add lemon to the boiling milk, milk will curdle separting the cheese & whey dont let it boil for too long as it will harden your creamy cheese.

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  12. We’re lucky enough to have a goat to milk due to my sons affliction to dairy. I don’t pastuerize I chill the milk in the freezer once I’ve collected it then put it in the fridge. I’ve recently tried to start making whey. I’ve seen the posts and the pictures and have the nourishing traditions book and all seems easy enough. However my milk doesn’t seem to seperate. My first batch I didn’t take long enough, then the second batch didn’t seperate and went mouldy on top then just today I thought it had seperated but it hadn’t there was a little cheese on top. I’ve strained this for the boys and they ate it all up but I guess I will have to throw my 3rd attempt out and try again. I put it in a mason jar and leave it on the counter. Do you have to warm it first or is it ok to do it straight out of the fridge. If I accidentally freeze the milk before I move it from the freezer to the fridge – it happens sometimes – can you still make whey from that sample. I really want to master this as I know how good it will be for my boys as they both have severe digestive issues. Are there any other tricks I should know? My goat is a toggenburg and the milk doesn’t have a high fat content, it’s quite lean – they are not usually used as a dariy goat, could this be the problem?

    • From what little I know of goat milk, it does not often act in the same way as cow. For example the cream does not rise to the top. I don’t know if it is one which will separate, either. I think Wardee from GNOWFGLINS keeps goats so you might want to ask her if she knows anything about this. Much luck!

  13. Hi! I found your website off google because I’ve been buying raw milk for a few months now, and I always start out determined to do something with my milk once it goes sour, but then I chicken out! Old habits die hard….I am so indoctrinated in the dangers of raw milk! Please hold my hand and tell me it will be okay!!

    • Hi Jackie! I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. Everything will be fine; raw milk does come with a level of learning curve. There are also a bunch of recipes in the real food world which utilize sour milk. I don’t have any but I am sure some of my colleagues in the Nourished Living Network would be able to provide. Much luck!

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