Under the Milky Whey

Fresh Whey and Vegetables

Chop A-Whey!

A quick look on Pinterest reveals that you can lacto-ferment pretty much anything – from garlic to hummus. I saw fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, beers, mayonnaise, BBQ sauces and even mustard on there. Apparently it is amazing what won’t be improved by bunging in some whey.

As you know, I happen to have quite a lot of whey taking up all the space stored very carefully in my fridge.It is the yellowish liquid in the photo above, and it is the by-product of making your own cheese, or straining yoghurt.

Apart from the miracle of being the new superfood, due to all the probiotics; you can feed whey to animals, use it as a fertiliser, make various toiletries for skin benefits, and body builders dry it then consume it by the bucket load.

You can also soak beans, or grains in it before cooking, use it instead of the liquid in pancakes, cakes, and bread (or pizza dough). soups, and stock. You can even add it to shakes and use it as a cheese starter in some kind of lactose Inception.

Whatever you do with it, you should not pour it down the sink. Apparently, it can de-oxygenate water systems. So, for this reason, and the fact that I hate waste, I’m going to use mine. Don’t worry, it also freezes really well, so if you can’t get through it all, you can keep it for later.

You may have noticed that I enjoy a nice pickle, go crazy for chutney, and take pleasure in preserves. It is only natural, then,  that I should have a go at lacto-fermenting as a novel way of preserving food, and as a way to use up leftovers. I’ve had a good dig round the internet, including over at the lovely host of Cheese, Please!, who lacto-fermented cucumber and carrots to come up with the following recipes.

For the first, I wanted to be able to make a direct comparison with a pickle that I already know. I make pickled fennel a lot, based on the River Cottage Preserves book, so I used the same aromats and dill here.

The second lot are inspired by a friend of mine who makes amazing pickled cucumber from a mysterious Asian salt. I have no idea what this stuff is, but it is hot, sour and sweet at the same time. I have tried to recreate this with the whey – we’ll see where we get to.

Apparently, lacto-fermenting is pretty long-lasting, but depends on how strong the cell wall of the thing you are preserving is. You can expect the fennel to last between 4-6 months in cold storage, and the cucumber to last up to 3. The fermentation will continue, even in cold storage, so it is something to be aware of, and date the jars well before you store them in a cool, dry place.


Lacto fermented fennel and cucumber

Perfectly Preserved

Recipe: Lacto-Fermented Vegetables


For the Fennel:
1 tsp mixed peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 bulb of fennel, cored and thinly sliced
Fronds of dill
100 ml whey
300 ml boiled water, allowed to cool
1 tbsp rock salt

For the Cucumber:
1 tsp mixed peppercorns per jar
1 tsp juniper berries per jar
1 large cucumber, in 3 cm slices on the diagonal
1 red chillies, sliced on the diagonal but seeds left in
Fronds of dill
200 ml whey
600 ml boiled water, allowed to cool
1 tbsp table salt
1 tbsp sugar

3 jam jars


Sterilise your jars on a hot cycle in the dishwasher, or by washing in hot soapy water, drying and placing in a low oven for an hour.

Prepare the vegetables, and boil the water for your fermenting liquid.

To the sterile , still warm jars, add the relevant spices, then layer up the vegetables, making sure to get a layer of dill fronds in between them as you go. Pack them as tightly as you can.

Mix together the whey, water and salt, as well as the sugar for the lacto-fermented cucumber. Fill the now packed jars with the fermenting liquid, up to 3 mm from the top of the jar. Screw on the lids tightly and store in a cool dark place for between 3 days and the maximum time for the vegetables.

I intend to leave these for about a month, before I try them. When I do, I will be sure to let you know what I thought.



Filed under Fermented

11 responses to “Under the Milky Whey

  1. I always use whey in baking rather than throwing it out, but have never tried lacto-fermenting. It sounds like a great idea. Thanks and look forward to hearing about the results of your first efforts.

    • Thanks Hilda. I’ve been wanting to try this for ages. I think this has a lot of potential when the autumn forage happens. I’ll be sure to report back in a month

  2. Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    lovely post

  3. They look lovely! Just watch the pressure though if you’re leaving them for a month. After just 3 or 4 days, the pressure nearly took my eyebrows off when I opened them! You may want to release it a bit every now and then.

    • Oh really? That’s very good to know, Thanks. I am hoping that I can store these slightly longer, so it is an experiment, really. I’ll make sure the pressure is taken care of.

  4. Pingback: March’s Cheese, Please! Challenge Round-Up – Fresh Cheese | Fromage Homage

  5. afracooking

    You had me at “whey” 😉

  6. I always thought lacto-fermenting meant you let the lactic acid bacteria do their work, I had never heard of directly adding whey in…I guess that gives them a headstart? Thanks for this informative post.

    • Hi Aneela, thanks for this very interesting comment. I’ve been inspired to do a bit more research on the topic, thanks to you.
      It seems that lactic acid bacteria are readily available in the air and on surfaces. When encouraged via any fermentation process, they will grow, as other bacteria present will start to do so, but they quickly make the conditions too acid for other bacteria, so the lactic acid bacteria thrive. The use of whey is a way of introducing a few specific lactic acid bacteria, chiefly lactobacillus caseii, which do the job just as well as any other.
      As I mentioned in the post, lacto-fermentation using whey is also an excellent way to use a by-product of the dairy industry that causes damage if it gets into water systems in high quantities, because it has a high biological oxygen demand.

  7. sladkosnedka

    I love this idea cause I make my own cheese and I have whey all the time.
    So can anyone tell me if that works as long term storage?
    Ediblethings did you try them and how they were???
    Love your blog btw

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