When I was a kid I always wondered what exactly Miss Muffet was eating as she sat upon her tuffet. People just don’t eat curds and whey these days and most people don’t know what it is.
Simply put, it is milk that has separated after fermenting (culturing) has taken place. Whey is a golden watery liquid and curds are the thick white lumps. They are probiotic rich aka very good for you!
Don’t think this is the same as when you leave your milk out of the fridge and it goes lumpy and smells like vomit (sorry). This is just milk that has gone off. Pasturised milk has had all the beneficial bacteria removed from it and so will not curdle properly unless you add a starter culture (such as kefir) to it. Raw milk, being a live food, will naturally curdle but most people don’t have access to it and in our part of the world it’s not deemed suitable for human consumption (ha! don’t get me started).
Whey can be drunk as a beverage and is great for settling the tummy, being rich in probiotics. It is also very handy to use as a starter culture to use when making fermented dishes such as sauerkraut.
Curds make a delicious cream cheese – the best you’ll ever taste. Delicious on it’s own, it’s even better when mixed with salt and a selection of your favourite herbs such as chives, garlic, lemon rind, or thyme.
In order to make curds and whey, you do need some cultured milk close at hand. If you don’t have raw milk or kefir then the easiest option is to use a good quality natural yoghurt. Here’s how:
1 or 2 litres full fat, live, natural, unflavoured yoghurt (cow, goat or sheep milk yoghurt will work)
1. Sit your colander so it fits over your bowl – make sure the bottom is a few inches away from the bottom of the bowl.
2. Open your muslin out fully and line the colander with it.
3. Take your yoghurt and dump it into the muslin lined colander.
4. Take the corners of the muslin and use them to gently cover the yoghurt whilst it’s draining.
5. Put in a cool place for a few hours or until it has mostly stopped dripping.
6. Take the muslin and it’s contents out of the colander and wrap around the handle of a wooden spoon. Be careful not to squeeze the curds, we’re just using the weight of the curds to allow the last of the whey to drip out.
7. Balance the handle of the spoon over the bowl to catch the rest of the drips.
After around 24 hours, it will stop dripping and you should be left with a bowl containing opaque, golden liquid (whey) and a muslin with cream cheese (curds in it).
Tip the whey into an appropriate sized, very clean container and refrigerate. It will keep for several months in the fridge.
The curds can be used just as they are, spread on toast or crackers. They can be used as a base for dips or try mixing it with different herbs and spices for flavour. Some of our favourites are sea salt, garlic, thyme and/or lemon peel.
The curds will keep for up to a month in an airtight container in the fridge.
To keep a little longer and to add interest and flavour, roll your curds into walnut sized balls, place in a sterilised glass jar and fill with olive oil, making sure all the curds are covered. This will keep for up to 2 months in the fridge and is amazingly delicious!