Lately I have been making a lot of ricotta from fresh whole milk, which results in a lot of leftover whey. Too much whey to know what to do with. My freezer has become a stockpile of whey, and most of the ideas out there for using it up, only call for a little bit. lacto-fermentation, and adding whey to your beans while soaking are great ideas, but I would need to eat a lot of beans to use up all my whey. So when a friend told me that she had heard you can make caramel from whey, I got to work. This was the perfect whey (haha)! It seemed like it would work the same as making dulce de leche, which is just slow cooking milk and sugar- instead of whole milk I would use whey.
The result was a smooth, thick and tangy caramel, with a viscosity similar to a heavy molasses. Perfect for using in baked goods, dumping on ice cream, and eating by the spoonful.
This recipe does take a long time to make, but much of it is hands off, and it’s not as sensitive as making caramel the traditional way- which I usually end up burning or impatiently stirring before the sugar melts, making a chunky mess. —Mia
Simmer the whey in a heavy bottom pot on medium until it reduces by about half. Skim the foam off the top if needed.
You could probably do this part at a higher temperature while keeping a close eye on it and stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch. I like the hands off factor of this recipe, so once I got it to a slow simmer I walked away from it for an hour.
After about 1- 1 1/2 hours your whey should be reduced by half and you can add the cane sugar. Stir it until the sugar is melted and it comes back to a simmer.
Leave it again to simmer and caramelize. Check on it periodically to stir and assess the progress. Once you add the sugar, the caramelization process will take just over an hour.
As it cooks down and caramelizes it will start to bubble and foam, keep it going on low and keep an eye on the color. Once the color is a medium-dark amber (your preference) and the viscosity looks like syrup add the cold butter and stir as it melts, continue to stir until the butter is completely mixed in.