A New Use for Leftover Whey, Lemony and Refreshing

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A couple of weeks ago, after trying the yogurt Caroline made in our test kitchen with just two ingredients (milk + yogurt), I set out to make my own.

And it worked! Perfectly! The first time! (This almost never happens to me.) I was left with yogurt more wonderful than any I ever purchase—but also a lot of yellow-y whey.

The Beginner's Guide to Making Impossibly Creamy Yogurt
The Beginner's Guide to Making Impossibly Creamy Yogurt

While I tried sipping the whey on its own, I wasn't in love (understatement) with its taste or slickness. I couldn't bring myself to pour it down the drain, but I also didn't have the energy to do one of the thousand things it's good for, from making bread dough to freezing it for later (please, no more whey!) to marinating meat: I was looking for something extremely low-maintenance.

A quick snoop around the internet led me to lacto-fermented lemonade. It's simple—whey (I had plenty of that), lemon juice, and sugar—and I went with the simplest method, from Hello Glow.

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Sarah Jampel
Sarah Jampel
My first experiment in lacto-fermented lemonade! Mix 1 cup organic came sugar, the juice of 2 pounds of lemons, and 1 cup whey in a big jar. Fill to the top with water, seal, and wait 2 to 3 days. (That's where I am now!) Then transfer to the fridge and drink up! Not your lemonade stand lemonade...

All you do is...

  1. Mix lemon juice (I juiced 2 pounds of lemons, then sent it through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds and some pulp) with 1 cup of sugar (many recipes also recommend Sucanat—a brand name for whole cane sugar; you can also dissolving the sugar in some hot water first) in a gallon-sized jar.
  2. Fill the vessel with water (leaving a couple inches of space at the top).
  3. Leave in a warm spot in your house for two days.
  4. Move the container to the refrigerator.
Doesn't look like much but it's good—I promise!
Doesn't look like much but it's good—I promise!

Since my lacto-fermented lemonade wasn't tasting so exciting after just two days (probably because my apartment is not that warm), I left it for a couple more.

And even after four plus days, it's still not shocking in flavor (I was expecting tang and punch and funk!): It still tastes like lemonade, but it has a slight creaminess and is actually less pucker-inducing than the standard variety. Its mellowness makes it incredibly drinkable, like store-bought lemonade (in a comforting way). Kids, I imagine, would love it!

Yes, it does taste more exciting than it looks.
Yes, it does taste more exciting than it looks.

My fermented lemonade was not fizzy, but apparently there are ways to induce carbonation: The site Raising Generation Nourished recommends transferring the lemonade to swing-top bottles and adding an additional tablespoon of sugar to each one (kind of like kombucha's second fermentation).

And there's other experimenting to be had, too. You can combine your lacto-fermented lemonade with various fruit purées (like this blackberry version on Girl Versus Dough); you could use it in cocktails; you could freeze it into granita.

Or, you could sell it at a cute little stand on your street corner.

Have you experimented with lacto-fermentation or natural sodas? Give me your advice in the comments! (Please.)

Tags: Alcohol-Free Drinks