Re-purposing in the Kitchen
Today’s post follows on the theme of re-purposing kitchen leftovers that would otherwise be tossed. Last time we talked about making crackers from your left over un-refreshed sourdough starter. Today we’ll take a look at one method for using the whey from yogurt making. Specifically, using the whey as a marinade for your meat. (If you’re curious about how to make your own homemade yogurt, take a look at this post. It’s surprisingly simple!)
I don’t know about you, but I always feel particularly fulfilled in the kitchen when I can take something that would otherwise be tossed, and re-purpose it for something tasty 🙂 I’d love to hear about some creative re-purposing you’ve tried; leave a comment if you have something to share!
Ideas for Re-Purposing Whey
There are are actually several ways you can use the leftover whey from yogurt making (pun intended ;P). I’ve experimented with it in my baking, and even tried making ricotta cheese. The ricotta cheese didn’t work out the first time – something I need to try perfecting down the road.
Using it as a substitute for other liquid/dairy in some of my baking has, however, proved tasty. As an idea, I was making a cobbler that called for milk in the batter topping. I hadn’t saved enough milk aside, so I ended up substituting in about half of the volume with whey. And you know what? It was delicious! I was serving it to some dinner guests, and they wanted to know what was in it that made it so tasty… 😉
Today, however, I wanted to explore a simple and practical use – using whey as a marinade for meat.
Brining (an aside)
As you probably know, there are different ways to add flavor to meat and and help it retain its moisture. One is brining in a high salt solution with some other aromatics added in – the salt helps transfer moisture into the meat and keep it there. This can be a particularly useful method with leaner cuts of meat, since they tend to dry out when cooked.
As an aside, I found a really nice basic brine recipe that I use for quick reference, particularly on the salt to water ratio for a quick 1 hour brine on things like chicken breast and pork chops. Check out this blog post for the specifics.
A basic ratio for a quick brine is 1/2 cup kosher salt to 2 quarts water. From there, you can scale and/or add other aromatics.
At these ratios you should be able to get the salt to dissolve just by stirring well, without needing to warm the water first. For very high-salt brines, you often need to heat the water to get the salt fully dissolved.
Marinades: The Basics
Another common method for flavoring meat is marinading in a solution that is typically acidic, along with aromatics, fats, and sometimes sweet. The mom of one of my college friends used to always tell us a marinade should have three components. With this key, you could make any number of creative and effective marinades. Ready?
- Something acidic, to help tenderize the meat and open it up for flavors. (Think vinegar or citrus juice.)
- A fat, to help transport the flavors into the meat. (Think healthy oils like EVOO, coconut, or avocado.)
- A sweet, to keep the flavors locked in. (Think honey, fruit juice, fruit nectar, even maple syrup!)
- And a bonus – other aromatics or flavors you want incorporated. (Think fresh herbs, smashed garlic, sliced onion, sliced chilies for some heat, something smokey like chipotle or liquid smoke, other spices like curry/cumin/garam masala. The sky’s really the limit here!)
I’m not sure if there is scientific evidence to back this up, but I do think that if you utilize these three to four types of ingredients you will end up with a winner every time. And it gives you a basic recipe to follow while leaving you with full flexibility on the flavor profiles! Perfect for a budding creative cook 🙂
Marinades: Incorporating Whey
So how does whey fit into the picture? Well it turns out that whey is reasonably acidic. Once I learned that it got my wheels turning about where I could use something acidic. Since marinades require an acidic element, using the whey as a marinade was a natural fit. Also, to boost my confidence on combining whey with meats, I had read in the Yogurt Culture book I’ve been referencing, a suggestion for poaching fish in whey. So I figured at least you could combine it with meat and it wouldn’t be a disaster 😉
I’ve tried whey as a marinade now with both pork and chicken, and really like the flavor complexity it adds to the meat. It brings something like a nuttiness to the dish. It also does seem to help with tenderizing/moisture retention, so I think it’s been a success so far! Check out a few of the flavor combinations I’ve tried. Give one a try yourself, or make a few modifications and experiment!