Two days before closing camp for our big winter trip, I was bestowed an early Christmas gift in the form of a quart of whey, leftover from a cheese-making adventure. My friend said it was tasty when drunk straight-up with a little maple syrup, and I don’t know about you, but the mere thought of downing a quart of whey in two days, no matter how sugared, was met with the gastronomic equivalent of yelling fire in a theatre. Figuratively, anyway.
But the thought of wasting food is even worse, so I phoned my local resource for turning festering muck into products of some culinary merit, who pulled out the nearest reference book.
“Whey lemonade?” she suggested.
Lemonade? Lemonade? I prefer limes to lemon, and don’t know of any recipe for whey tequila. I had her read on.
“There is a whey cheese that seems easy enough. Gee jee toast? I’ve never heard if it.”
Gjetost. Gjetost! Do you know this stuff? We call it Candy Cheese around these parts, softish and a cool brown color and priced roughly at $750 an ounce, give or take a few hundred bucks. Gjetost? Suddenly the whey is a Christmas miracle.
I asked my favorite cheese maker, Google, for more information, and came across a few recipes that looked promising. With the gist of things in mind, I dumped the whey in a sauce pot and got started, and with a nice puck of the good stuff in front of me, I present
The Mostly Unabridged Guide to Gjetost-Making, or, What To Do With All This Whey
1. Dump the whey in a saucepan and get it boiling.
2. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Leave uncovered. Or, cover it, then uncover it when it boiled out all over the place, if you need an excuse to clean your stove.
3. Nurse your baby Squirrel, wash the dishes, make raspberries at your Squirrel, do the crossword, and cut your fingernails, all the while stirring your whey every half hour or so. My one quart took about 6 hours to really caramelize.
4. When it starts to thicken up, grab a whisk and give it hell. This is where other recipes call for food processors and warn of crystallization, but I just kept it steadily whisking, and all was okay. Plus, a whisk is easier to lick and clean than your food processor.
5. People eat the stuff at many viscosities, from that of a pasta sauce to that of a hard cheese. So do what you will. I whisked mine until it took 10 seconds or more for the whisk’s trails to disappear, which, when cool, hardened to the semi-hard (think Swiss cheese) consistency I find in stores.
6. Cool it quickly! Really. Stop reading and cool it. You should have read this in advance anyway– you had hours! I poured mine into a mold then plunged in an icy water bath, and it set up perfectly. But I’ve read horror stories suggesting that things get tricky if you move too slowly here.
7. Never again wonder what to do when someone plies you with such a lovely gift.
8. Try not to get too fat.
Mine didn’t get too dark in color– maybe because it was cow’s milk, or a couple of days old? The flavor was exactly right, and I don’t get hung up on looks.