Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How to Make Whey and Cream Cheese From Milk Kefir, Raw Milk, or Yogurt


Homemade whey is a great item to have on hand for traditional cooking.  It is easy to make, and filled with probiotics! You can use homemade whey in a variety of ways, including:
  • to ferment condiments, like mayonnaise and ketchup
  • to aid in fermentation of vegetables, like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi
  • as a probiotic drink
  • as a great add-in for smoothies
  • to aid in soaking of grains, beans, and legumes to increase their digestibility and nutritional content
The resultant cream cheese is delicious and can be used in many ways, including:
  • as a spread on crackers with some sliced cucumber on top
  • mixed with a little honey and vanilla extract for an easy and  delicious dessert
  • as a wonderful food for baby
I use either yogurt, raw milk, or milk kefir to make whey.  When using raw milk or milk kefir, the whey will be slightly cloudy, which indicates the presence of milk solids.  If it is important to make sure your whey has no milk solids present, I recommend using store-bought whole-milk yogurt (this results in a very clear whey).

Many people use cheesecloth to make whey, but I prefer to use a dish towel or a couple small cloth napkins. This results in whey that is more pure as the fine-weave of the cloth traps more of the milk solids. 

Homemade Whey and Cream Cheese
Milk kefir, raw milk, or yogurt 
Equipment needed: Strainer or colander, small dish towel or cloth napkins

If you are using raw milk, let it sit out on the counter for 1-7 days until it sours and separates into curds and whey (it will take longer if the milk is very fresh and less time if the milk has been around for a little while).  If you are using milk kefir or yogurt, no additional preparation is needed.

Place the strainer or colander over a glass bowl.  Line the strainer with a dish towel or cloth napkin.  Make sure none of the cloth is hanging outside of the strainer; otherwise, some whey will drip out of the bowl.

Pour the raw milk (which has already separated), milk kefir, or yogurt into the cloth.  Allow to sit at room temperature for about 4-8 hours.  As it sits, the whey will drip out of the cloth and into the bowl.  Then push the cloth closed over the top and move it all to the fridge.  Let sit overnight.

In the morning, you'll find cream cheese in the cloth and whey in the bowl.  Store the whey and cream cheese in glass containers in the refrigerator.  The whey will keep for about 6 months, and the cream cheese will keep for about 1 month.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

55 comments:

  1. Great idea and post, thanks!

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  2. I have a container of store bought whole milk greek yogurt...think I could use that? I don't want to use my raw milk yogurt (too precious)! Otherwise I will need to try this again with separated raw milk. I tried it once before and there were too many milk solids present.

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  3. Hi Megan,
    It won't work with greek yogurt because it has already been strained to remove the whey (that is why greek yogurt is so thick). But "normal" store bought yogurt would work. I really love the yogurt cream cheese the best!

    Sarah

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  4. Hi, I've been wondering whether whey must come from dairy yogurt, or whether it can come from other cultured products such as coconut milk yogurt or kefir (from coconut milk, goat milk, etc). I see that here you include kefir (though still from cow's milk), so that does answer part of my question - that it doesn't have to come from yogurt only. Any idea whether those other options would work? I'm looking for a non-dairy option to get whey so that I can experiment with fermented veggies and such. Is there something unique to dairy that produces the whey, or is whey simply the probiotic-filled liquid that could come from other sources (such as coconut milk yogurt)?

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  5. Hi Tara - Whey is only from dairy. You may be able to use it even if there is someone who is sensitive to dairy, because the milk solids are removed when you make the whey. There could still be trace amounts, I'm sure, so probably not a good idea if someone is VERY sensitive to dairy.

    However, there are some non-dairy alternatives you could try. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/caldwell-starter-culture-for-fresh-vegetables.html

    But, even though it wouldn't be whey, I would think you could use liquid from coconut milk or yogurt. As you pointed out, those would still be probiotic-rich, so it seems like they would work. I've even heard of some people using a probiotic capsule.

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  6. Hi, my son and I have thrush. Do you think that the cream cheese would still have the good bacteria in it? Loving your blog!!

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  7. Hi spiralmama - Yes, I think the cream cheese would still have good bacteria too. I'm sorry about your thrush. My daughter and I both struggled with it after she was born. She had white patches in her mouth, and my thrush made nursing very painful. My daughter's cleared up after a month or two, but I had thrush for over 8 months! By the end, I was cutting carbs and applying cotton balls dipped in diluted apple cider vinegar after each feeding. I wish I knew then as much as I do now about probiotics! If you can afford it, take some therapeutic-strength probiotic like Bio-Kult and also try drinking kefir (it has more strains of probiotic than yogurt and is much more aggressive at eating the bad bacteria). Let me know if you have any questions!

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  8. Hi! I have been clabbering my raw milk for ages and making whey and cream cheese, all i know what to do with the cream cheese is to blend it with strawberries and maple syrup to make a "yoghurt" but i have a tonne of whey, and all the recipes i have only call for small amounts of whey. how do i make it into an drink that doesnt taste so sour? or should i make a smoothie with it with other things? i want to use it for probiotics because i want to start GAPS soon but dont know how to make it yummy!
    Thanks! Alyssa

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  9. Hi Lissi - we don't typically drink the whey; rather we use it for making fermented condiments and veggies. Natasha Campbell McBride does have a recipe for veggies and drink that uses quite a bit of whey. Look under "Vegetable Medley" here: http://gaps.me/preview/?page_id=30

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  10. Help...I'm trying to find out if the raw milk needs to be covered or uncovered when it is left out to sour and separate? I have "Nourishing Traditions" but the book doesn't specify either.

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  11. Ah! I just finished making home made cream cheese and was so frusterated I couldn't find any recipies about using unpasturized goat milk. All the recipies said to almost boil it, so that's what I did and I added lemon juice. Now I see here that I can just let the raw milk sour naturally. I would really like to know how different this cheese would taste. IS THE CHEESE SOUR? I also would like to know if I should leave the milk jug open or closed. Thanks! I'll check back on this page :)

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  12. I don't think it matters whether or not the milk is covered to get it to sour. I have always left the lid on, to keep fruit flies from going in!

    The cheese made with soured milk is indeed sour as well. Depending on what you use to make it, the taste is different. For instance, we much prefer the taste of cream cheese made with yogurt to that made with kefir or soured milk.

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  13. Thank you for the response! Have any ideas for flavoring the sour cheese into something more appetizing?

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  14. You say the cream cheese is sour when made from raw milk. Is there any way to improve the flavor of this cream cheese? Sweeten it or add something else?

    Also, can whole fat buttermilk be found anywhere or is it always 1 1/2% fat? Have you tried making cheese/whey from buttermilk?

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  15. Depends on what you are going to do with the cream cheese. I really like the yogurt cheese as-is. It is very tangy, but delicious on red crackers with cucumber slices. Sometimes I will throw the kefir cheese into smoothies. It is also delicious with a little honey and vanilla mixed in.

    I've never tried using buttermilk; and I've never seen anyone sell whole-milk buttermilk.

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  16. Hi, love your blog!

    I just did this for the first time but my cream cheese came out tasting kind of rancid. I'm used to tart, fermented foods, but this was really sour. Is that what it's supposed to taste like? Or did mine go bad?

    Thanks!

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  17. Thank you for your previous answers! I have successfully soured & separated raw milk into curds & whey. (it took 7 days!) The curds are a little smelly! I've added some some salt and whipped it with a spoon. Its a beautiful pale yellow creamy color. What should I do with it...let it sit in the fridge for a few weeks, months? It's a bit too stinky to eat...yet...will it age and get better? Is this "Farmer's Cheese"? What will it turn into if I allow it to ripen for 6 months?

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  18. Del - It can definitely be rather sour, especially is you use sour milk or kefir. I prefer the cream cheese made form yogurt, as the flavor is better.

    Bonnie - I've never let it sit in the fridge longer than a few weeks, so I've no idea what it will do over several months (I would guess the flavor will get stronger).

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  19. I just bought raw milk from a farm I PA yesterday. I separated the milk into five glass mason jars. Today I don't see a cream layer on top. The farmer said he didn't skim the cream off. Its only been still and in my frig for 12 hours. Where's my creamy top?

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  20. Is it goat milk, or cow milk? Goat milk is naturally homogenized so it doesn't have a cream top. If it is cow milk, perhaps the cream is the same color as the rest of the milk (that sometimes happens depending on what the cows are eating). Have you tried scooping a spoonful off the top to taste?

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  21. Apparently I didn't wait long enough for the cream to rise. 24 hours later I had 2" cream at the top of my mason jars. Weeeeee! I'm a spanking new raw milk and kifer drinker and am so excited to be sharing the "liquid gold" with my family including my 9 week old. Hopefully she benefits through the breast milk! :-)

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  22. Is it OK if there are some milk solids in the whey. I am using it to make sauerkraut and to ferment grains. Thanks!

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  23. Hi Elizabeth,
    Yes, it is fine if there are some milk solids in the whey.

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  24. I don't have access to raw dairy and the only whole milk yogurt available at the store is Greek yogurt (the rest is all non or low fat stuff). I saw above where you said Greek yogurt won't work for this, but after mine has been sitting in the fridge a few days I have to stir it because a thin watery substance has separated from the thick stuff and sits on top of it - is that not whey? Will a low-fat yogurt work at all?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Betsy,
      Maybe your greek yogurt is different from the stuff I have bought (which was VERY thick). It does sound like whey is separating out from it. Even the stuff I buy probably still has a small amount of whey in it, so you could try it but just may not get much at all out of it.

      Lowfat yogurt should also work fine for making whey, as I don't think the fat content affects the whey at all.

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  25. I've had my first batch of raw milk (bootlegged in from out of state!) sitting out for 7 days now and have only been able to skim off about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of cream cheese from the top. It hasn't separated. Should I let it sit out longer?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, let it keep sitting! Depending on how fresh the milk is, it can take quite a while!

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  26. Hi there, I just found this blog today. I am attempting my first raw milk whey project but how do I know when it is ready to strain? Will the cream be at the top with a "clear" whey at the bottom; or will the liquid under the cream be "milky"? Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks, Nicole

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    1. With raw milk, it will start to form curds. It may still look a bit milky, but the whey will definitely start to separate form the milk solids. It can take quite a long time with raw milk (even more than a week), especially if the milk was very fresh.

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    2. If I can not see through my whey, should I let it sit longer? The picture at top seems almost see through. Mine is not like that. Thank you for your posting. I appreciate it!!

      Kelli
      Northern NJ

      http://kelliyanez.mybeyondorganic.com/Web/us/en/requestinfo.dhtml

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    3. It sounds like you just used a straining cloth that is not as finely woven as what I use. The whey is still fine, even if it is cloudy. That just means there is a bit more of the milk solids left in it, but it should still work fine.

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    4. Hello,

      i've made whey months ago, and i haven't finished using it.I stored it in a glass jar in the fridge. Today, i looked at the lid, and there is a lot of blue,white mold growing. I wonder why, it scared me so much. it is only on the lid.Should I continue on using the whey? I smelled it and it doesn/t seem to have a big yogourt smell, as i used to get when the last time i opened it though.Should I continue to use it? I dont understand why though. Should i discard the lid or wash it?
      i dont know what to do. Please HELP!

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    5. Not sure why this happened, but I would throw it out. I'd try washing the lid VERY well in hot soapy water a few times.

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  27. Dear Sara. I really do appreciate this site. I have just reciently started devouring the book the Makers Diet. They mention countless uses for Whey. I am able to aquire raw Goats milk very fresh. The next thing I am going to try is lacto vegies. I have made my own Kim chee and love processing my own.. Thanks again for the site it is well written..
    Robert, in Addy Wa

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  28. Hey Sarah, like some have said my curds too were very sour when made with sour milk (I think I let the milk sit in the fridge too long before I decided to let it seperate), and I was wondering what herbs or spices you or anyone else recommend mixing in that enhances the flavor while cutting some of the sourness? Thanks

    Jon

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    Replies
    1. Meant to say I made it with raw milk that had become sour. Oops.

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    2. Yes, the cream cheese from making whey can be quite tangy. You can make it more palatable by adding some honey and vanilla. It would also probably work well in ranch dip. I often add it to smoothies with lots of fruit and a bit of milk/cream. I bet it would be superb with some savory spices, like basil and garlic, although I haven't tried that yet.

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  29. sorry little dislexic, fixing spelling,. Pa raw milk must be extremely fresh by law because the expiration date is very short. I did a test and left one in the fridge for 6 weeks after the expiration date and it did not spoil, only got thicker. I do culture most of mine with kefir grains i bought few a couple bucks on ebay 3 years ago. Kefir cheese is excellent! I get my milk from a local amish couple in middleburg pa. 100% grass fed and they make great cheese also. they actually started selling meat from their cows also. great flavor, but steaks are a little chewy. The peril of using dairy cows for meat production...

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  30. Hi! Loved the post! Thank you!
    I just made my first attempt at whey & sour cream. I would love some feedback/tips from those more experienced than I. I'm just a newbie. ;)
    http://sherlockmama.com/?p=136

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  31. How long is TOO LONG to let the raw goat milk sit out to make whey? The milk itself is from 9/18/12 and 9/19/12 -- it was refrigerated for probably 10-12 days & then I realized that it wasn't as fresh as the newer jugs I'd just gotten, so I set it out on the counter to use for whey. It has sat out on the counter for probably 10-12 days now & it's STILL not separated out into curds/whey, though it looks like it is JUST STARTING to.

    Is there a time frame of where it's been out TOO LONG? Or can whey only just get better/more cultured the longer it sits out & "ages"?! It's at room temp & has been the past 10-12 days.

    THANKS SO MUCH! I've made whey many times using raw goat milk, but this batch has taken the longest of ANY to separate... it was very fresh, higher fat content because the moms had goat babies maybe 3-4 weeks prior. Just some background for you!

    PS -- this is for baby formula, so I want to be sure it's "safe."

    THANK YOU!

    Gwen from KS

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    1. I don't think there is such a thing as too long. It can definitely take a long time with fresh milk. I've had to let some milk sit for 3 weeks at room temp!

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    2. I've got some goats milk sitting out on my kitchen bench at the moment and it's been sitting there for 6 days, but it's gone red on the top. Is this normal or not good? I used frozen milk, defrosted it in the fridge before I put it out on my bench. I was also wondering if it is meant to be covered properly so no air comes in or if it's meant to breathe?
      I've made whey once before with cow's milk,but it was more white than the whey you have a photo of here. Did I not leave it to curdle enough?

      Any answers would be greatly appreciated!!

      -Audi

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    3. Red sounds bad to me. I've never had it look red in color. Mold perhaps?

      Whey from cow's milk can easily be more white than shown in my picture; it really just depends on what type of cloth you strain the curds through. I use a cloth napkin, which removes almost all of the milk solids. If you use something more like cheesecloth, you will definitely have more milk solids in your whey (and the milk solids are what give the white color). Either way, the whey is fine.

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  32. 1) I have out on the counter @ 12oz of grass feed raw cow's cream that had @ 3oz of milk in it that had begun to sour in the frig. I'm attempting to make whey. It's been laying out now on its side in a plastic gallon covered bottle for 2 days now. Will this produce whey since most of the liquid was cream?
    2) I also have @ quart of raw milk that has soured now in the frig, should I go ahead and do the same with this and would this be quicker, and yield more?
    3) I've read all the questions and answers on this blog they were so helpful. I think I'll return the cheesecloth and buy a designated dish cloth. What should the dish cloth be made out of? And should I just boil it in good water alone to clean it? Thank you.

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    1. You should get some whey from the cream (though not a lot).

      Yes, you can use the soured milk from the fridge, and it will yield more whey.

      I use 100% cotton dish cloths. And I don't boil them; I just rinse them out well in the sink and then run them through my washing machine with my other laundry. (We use a Free and Clear laundry detergent, with no fragrance or colors.)

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  33. can you use the cream cheese to make cheese cake? Thanks, Terri

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    1. The cream cheese is rather tart, and I've never tried it for a cheesecake. At a minimum, you'd probably need to use a it more sweetener to balance out the tartness. And you'd need to make sure you let the whey drip extra long to get the cam cheese nice and firm. I would try it with a flavored cheesecake, maybe chocolate or strawberry. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

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  34. My first attempt at cream cheese was interrupted by sick children....I have had raw cow's milk sitting on my counter in covered mason jars for two weeks, is it still safe to use? Thanks in advance!

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    Replies
    1. It should still be safe to use. However, it may be VERY tangy from the extra time at room temperature. When I have had overly tangy cultured milk, I usually throw it into a fruit smoothie and then it tastes great!

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  35. What a great find.... My Grandmother taught me how to make curds and whey over 65 years ago and I have my first attempt on the counter now. It is from one gallon fresh goat milk and has been at room temperature for about 10 days. It appears to be almost done. I am so excited to try it. I also skimmed the cream and made fresh goat milk butter that is delicious. I used the buttermilk in my morning smoothie...... Why do I appear to be the only guy doing this? Ole guy I might add.lol

    Thanks for the great Blog I just subscribed.

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    Replies
    1. Welcome to the blog! You're not the only guy, but there don't seem to be many! I hope your curds and whey are great.

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  36. Just making my first batch of curds and whey from very fresh goat's milk.What exactly
    am I looking for to tell me it's done? Threw the whole gallon into a big crock like I do for cultured veggies...next time will seperate into individual jars for easier handling. Since this batch is all together, I'll have to ladel
    down and see what I've got. Hope that doesn't disturb the process. Top is getting sort of thick...it's been 3 days. Pls advise. Thanks! Appreciate the site.

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    Replies
    1. I've never made it with goat milk, but I can tell you that with cow's milk there is a very obvious change. It will separate into the yellowish looking whey and the chunks of white curds. Just be patient, as the process can take quite a while with very fresh milk. It may take a week, or even two whole weeks!

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  37. I put week old raw milk with a squeeze of lemon juice in a glass jar,uncovered, for a day or two. Now there is a light yellow cream on top and the milk has turned firm. Thicker than sour cream, I think. There is no whey. Can you tell me what it has turned to and can I eat it? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Although I've never added lemon juice to my milk, it sounds like your milk has now curdled. So if you want to get whey from it, just pour it into a cloth-lined colander and let the whey drip out.

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