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Dec 18, 2013 12:44 AM

Pickling with whey???

After reading a couple websites and recipes about the wonders of lacto-fermentation, talking about making saurkraut w/ whey and soaking whole grains in whey to render their iron more absorbable, I felt inspired.
So I used a recipe I'd found for lacto-fermented saurkraut and whipped it up using some whey I had leftover after making a batch of fresh cheese. But I was puzzled after reading about obtaining whey by straining whey was nowhere near as sour and funky as that. Which had me trying to find out: is whey, whey? Or are there types? None of the lacto fermentation websites I'd looked over distinguished between types. But I guess there are 2 types: sweet, like I used, and acid, which obviously makes more sense for pickling, fermenting, etc.
Is my saurkraut screwed?

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  1. Tried to do some web surfing to find some answers for you and basically failed. Did find this site where the author says she has decided not to use whey for fermenting vegetables.
    I have no idea if what she says is credible or accurate, but i thought some of the things she says might help you in your search for answers.

    1. It really depends on how you got your whey. Its critical that the product you derived your whey from contained lactobacillus bacteria in the first place. The two most common sources for whey that will ferment effectively are (1) raw cow milk and (2) yogurt. Whey from pasteurized milk does *not* work for lactofermentation because the pasteurization process kills all the bacteria. When you were making your cheese did you start with raw milk or add any cultures? If so, your saurkraut is probably fine. If you used pasteurized milk for your cheese and just coagulated with acid then you're *probably* not going to get good lactofermentation. However, all is not lost. Cabbage often has natural bacteria on its surface that can initiate good fermentation. Using bacteria-containing whey is just more fool-proof because it gives the good bacteria a population advantage over microbes that might cause spoilage. In the future, if you use yogurt-derived whey make sure the yogurt contains live active cultures and doesn't have weird stuff like thickeners and carageenan.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Jen_To

        "Whey from pasteurized milk does *not* work for lactofermentation because the pasteurization process kills all the bacteria."

        ULTRA pasteurized milk does not work, pasteurized milk works. I kefir it every day since raw milk is difficult and expensive to source around here.

        1. re: weezieduzzit

          I disagree. Making kefir you are adding microbes in the form of kefir culture and its fine to start with pasteurized milk. Using whey for lactofermentation requires that the whey contain microbes already, which are not always added in the process of making the whey from milk (unless you are using microbial cultures to make cheese then using the whey from that process)

          1. re: Jen_To

            I'm not using kefir "culture" (if you mean that powdered stuff you can buy from Cultures For Life or Mercola,) I'm using kefir grains (pic included.) I use the whey from it to culture other things all the time.

            Before I had kefir grains I would let a glass of Trader Joe's organic milk (not raw, pasteurized but not ultra pasteurized) sit, covered, on the counter for a few days until it separated and used the whey from that. It worked just fine. I'm sure raw milk is a better choice but many people can't even get raw milk and I wouldn't want them to think they *can't* lactoferment because of it.

      2. Yoghurt whey is it. It isn't very sour because of the added sugar. The whey is called for because of it's probiotic bacteria.

        The whey from your cheese may not have any of the lacto bacteria.

        But the best flavored kraut is started without whey, using the natural bacteria. Then if you want the probiotics, add whey from one brand or several after 2-3 weeks.

        1. In the context of lactofermentation, you should be using cultured or acid whey from yogurt, which contains the bacteria necessary for starting fermentation.

          You should note, though, that whey is not required for lactofermentation. Brining vegetables or adding salt can be enough to inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria and encourage lactic acid fermentation.

          1. The whey is for the bacteria, it has live bacteria in it, that then transfers to the vegetable and keeps the balance during fermentation. The "good bacteria" keeps the "bad bacteria" from taking over your ferment and causing rot.

            You will not need as much salt if you use acidophilus bacteria. If you used whey that was cooked, you killed all the bacteria. Straining yoghurt with live cultures is the easiest way to get fresh acidophilus bacteria.

            Sandor Katz is the father of modern lacto fermentation. You will find all the answers about it if you look him up. His books are excellent.