Monday, 18 July 2011


Whey! Let’s have some meat!

Whey, Lactoserum, Petit Lait: the by-product of making cheese. What do you do with it? That’s one of the big questions in life. Sometimes a little is kept to add to the next day’s milking, to start off the coagulation (like a bread starter), and those dedicated souls who still make their own rennet use it to dissolve the veal stomach (see my Beaufort Alpage blog - coming soon).

However the majority goes down the drain, mores the pity, as its still jam-packed with protein, fats and minerals. Some entrepreneurial Italians decided to make a mighty fine cheese by reheating it and adding acid, and re-coagulating the proteins that are left to form a fragile curd called Ricotta. Some cheese-makers put the whey in a centrifuge and separate out the cream that remains, using it to make a mighty fine butter. Many farmers put it on their fields as fertiliser and some industrial firms freeze-dry it and use it to add protein to foods – such as baby food (read the ingredients…). The monks at the Abbaye de Tamié, use it to heat the abbey (by converting it, rather niftily, to methane).

But the age-old method for reusing whey was to feed it to the pigs. To do this in Britain the whey must originate and be used on the same farm, to minimize cross contamination, so it’s not that common anymore. Yet in France, that’s not a problem, and as my local pork producer offered to show me the whey (pardon the pun), I popped in for a visit (and to lend a hand, naturally).

As is typical in France, it’s a very small, not intensive, farm where Jean Claude keeps pigs and sheep. He receives the whey once a week, and feeds it to the pigs. As you can see they adore it! He says it also contributes to the flavour of the meat. All the meat he produces here he processes himself into various forms (nothing is wasted – tripe, cooked head, pigs trotter salad are all on offer) and sold on local markets. So I helped make a pigs liver terrine and, we’re in France after all, it finished with a mighty fine meal with all the family!

Great subsistence farming. If you’re in the Roanne area look out for Malème’s pork products.