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Brinna Sands reports that in Iceland whey, known as "mysa," is sold in quart containers as a thirst quencher. It is actually very refreshing, similar to buttermilk but thinner; if it has been drained from a sweetened skyr, the whey is slightly sweet as well.
In this country, whey has generally been considered a "waste product" of cheese making. Large amounts of it have been "dumped" in waterways, creating general havoc with their ecosystems. But people here have missed the boat with whey, since it has several nutritional benefits that are quite substantial. It contains almost all the calcium found in milk (1 cup contains 1/3 of the calcium you need daily). The flip side of this is that once the whey has been drained from milk, the resulting products, whether yogurt cheese or cottage cheese or other cheese, contain only about 15% of the calcium found in a whole milk product. This doesn't mean they are nutritionally empty but it does mean that these particular products are not good sources of calcium.
One cup of whey also contains 1/6 of the potassium you need on a daily basis (almost as much as in a banana). This is another reason it functions well as a thirst quencher, particularly for athletes who have an increased need for potassium. And finally, it contains about 25% of the protein, and is fat-free, as well.
The flavor of whey takes a bit of getting used to. If you like buttermilk, you'll probably find it very pleasant. But it you're a bit more tentative about it, you can mix it with juice, or flavored carbonated water... or use it in recipes.
Once you use whey in baking, your mind will start spinning with all the places you can substitute it. Its benefits in baking are two-fold. Wherever you might ordinarily have used water, whey is a nutritional plus. And its natural acidity reacts perfectly with baking soda to produce all the leavening (carbon dioxide bubbles) you need.
The reaction of baking soda with whey creates pancakes that are extremely light.
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose or Traditional Whole Wheat Flour or a combination of both
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whey
2 large eggs
2 to 4 tablespoon vegetable oil
Mix the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
In a smaller bowl, beat together the whey, eggs and vegetable oil.
Blend the liquid ingredients with the dry taking about 20 seconds. (Don't overdo it. Pan-cake batter is like muffin batter; a light hand in mixing means a light pancake on the plate.)
Cook on a cast iron skillet, if you have one. (Cast iron is the original non-stick cookware. Once it's seasoned, you need only to grease it very lightly for the first batch of pancakes. It also maintains an even heat so you're less likely to lose a batch of pancakes through scorching.)
This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. III, No. 7, End of Summer 1992 issue.