Whey as a Medicinal Drink 1 Fig. 1: 14th c. Tacuinum of Paris (ricotta cheese) English: Ricotta (Recocta)“Nature: froid et humide. Optimum: Celui qui est obtenu à partir de lait pur. Usage: Ilnourrit le corps et l’engraisse. Dangers: Il provoque des occlusions, est difficile à digérer,et favorise les coliques”Translation:“Nature: Cold and humid. Optimum: That obtained from pure milk. Usefulness: Itnourishes the body and fattens it. Dangers: It causes occlusions, is difficult to digest, andfavors colic.” [From the Tacuinum of Paris, Français : Ricotta (Recocta)]Historical Information & Discussion:Whey is a by product left from cheese making and was a useful tool for the cook, thefarmer, and the physician. There has been much written during the Middle Ages that1 Tacuina sanitatis (XIV century), Making Ricotta Cheese, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tacuin_Ricotta31.jpgDescription 8-alimenti, latte, Taccuino Sanitatis, Casanatense 4182..jpg
spoke of the nature of many food items. The nature they were referencing talked abouteither the hot or cold nature as they believed how they acted on the bodies humors(reference fig. 1 above).The use I have presented for you here is as a medicinal drink similar to a soothing herbaltea. The last two lines of Scappi’s “To Make Purified Whey of Goat Milk” is the mostconcise source to date that I have seen, and the most direct in stating the uses for whey.The recipe states that when one was done making ricotta cheese the whey left could beflavored with Rose Petals and implies that it is being used as a medicinal drink for thesick by stating “one can give it to drink, or do it another way dependent upon theinstructions of the physician.”Hippocrates (460~370 B.C.) is called the father of medicine; he prescribed whey to hispatients, and is quoted as saying “May your foods be your medicines.”2 The following isalso attributed to Hippocrates “… when Adrianus, the son of Ceneus, had a pain all roundthe belly, and discharged by stool a large quantity of bloody matter, for twenty days,prescribed goats whey, boiled…(he goes on in his instructions) whey warmed byheated flints…that after a patient has drank whey and milk...”3 Hippocrates calledwhey Serum, and was also prescribed by Galen of Pergamon (129~217 A.D.) to the sick.Galen of Pergamon a Physician of the 2nd century had a considerable amount to say aboutthe uses of whey. He drew on the writings of Hippocrates and others as a foundation forhis own writings on the subject. Galen speaks of the virtues of whey by saying “…Simple whey is particularly proper for tender patients…whey is also safely exhibitedto children, women, and old persons, even during the heat of a fever…The use of whey issingularly effectual to patients laboring under diabetes...”4Another Roman physician whose writings Galen drew upon for information on whey wasAulus Cornelius Celsus (ca 25~50 B.C.) who wrote De Medicina a primary source forinformation on diet, pharmacy, and surgery.5 Celsus described the purgative quality ofwhey. He writes that “…whey of goat’s milk, is in itself an innocent medicine, andthat species is best which is made from the milk of black goats, who feed in goodpastures, and have lately brought a kid…”6 This last bit of information brings one towonder why unless you have a basic knowledge of animal husbandry. The richest milkof any lactating animal is found in the earliest part year while the animal is feeding onrich new pastures, recently given birth, and thus will have the highest in fat content intheir milk at this time of the year.2 Organic Whey, History of Whey, http://theorganicwhey.com/whey/history-of-whey3 Hoffmann, Friedrich, A treatise on the vitrues and uses of whey, London, 1761,pg.17~20, http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=SwtbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader4 Hoffmann, Friedrich, A treatise on the vitrues and uses of whey, London, 1761,pg.17~20, http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=SwtbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader5 Aulus Cornelius Celsus, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aulus_Cornelius_Celsus6 Hoffmann, Friedrich, A treatise on the vitrues and uses of whey, London, 1761,pg.17~20, http://books.google.com/ebooks/reader?id=SwtbAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader
Setting:The drink here is more in the category of a soothing herbal drink similar to a herbal tea,and that is the way I am presenting it here. But due to additional properties present in thewhey, rose petals, and honey it would also have been used as a health drink during theMiddle Ages.13 Hildegard von Bingen, Miniatur aus dem Rupertsberger Codex des Liber SciviasPeriod Source:Translated by:Helewyse de Birkestad, February 2011, (mka Louise Smithson)Per fare siero di latte di Capra purificato Cap LXVIII, Sesto Libro, Opera diBartolomeo ScappiPiglisi il latte munto allâ€™hora, & pongasi dentro il quaglio, o presame, &come Ã¨ preso pongasi al foco lento lontan dalla fiamma, & come il latte viene ascaldarsi, si caverÃ con destrezza il cascio, che in alcuni lochi si dimandastruccoli, pongasi poi dentro un poco dâ€™aceto o dâ€™agresto, & facciasi bollirpian piano, finâ€™a tanto che haverÃ fatta la ricotta, & passisi per unsetaccio fisso, & ripassisi per la calzetta di bombagina bianca, & se esso siero sivorrÃ con le rose, si lascierÃ stare in infusion per tre hore, & piu o meno second ilbisogno, & come sarÃ stato il sopradetto termine con le rose, si colerÃ unaltra volta per lo setaccio, & si sarÃ intepidire per forza dâ€™acqua calda, &allâ€™hora si potrÃ dare a bere, e farne altro secondo che sarÃ commesso dal Phisico.To make purified whey of Goat milk. Chapter 68, 6th book, ScappiTake milk collected within the hour, and put inside of it rennet or thistlejuice (used as a curding agent) and when it is ready put it to a slow fire a long way fromthe flame. When the milk starts to warm one takes carefully from it the cheese that inanother place one presses. Put then inside (the whey) a little vinegar orverjuice and let it boil very slowly until the ricotta is made (reference fig.1 above), and13 Hildegard von Bingen Miniatur aus dem Rupertsberger Codex des Liber Scivias.
pass it through a basket hair sieve, and pass it again through the stocking of cottonstuff. And if you want the whey with rose one leaves it to infuse for threehours or more or less dependent upon your needs. And when it has finished withthe roses one strains it another time through the hair sieve. And one can warm it upwith a little hot water and immediately one can give it to drink, or do itanother way dependent upon the instructions of the physician.14Modern:Take the Whey that remains after making Ricotta, warm it to 90º~95º using the indirectheating method, make a bouquet garni (rose pedals placed in a piece of fine cheese clothand tied with string) of rose pedals and place in the warmed whey for 2~3 hours. Strain itagain thru a fine piece of linen (or a yogurt strainer also works) to remove any remainingparticles left from the cheese making process. Store in a clean glass jar with a lid untilready to drink; to drink mix it with a little warm water to bring it to a comfortable andsoothing drinking temperature. One may also add honey to taste if desired.Supplies:1 pint Whey (from my cheese making) Note: this whey is a mixture of goat and cow whey because this is what had on hand.¼ cup of dried petals (rosa rugosa) tied into a piece of fine butter cheese cloth to make abouquet garniAs much warm water as needed to make a mug of liquid warm (8~10oz)1 tsp. of honey if desired (or honey to taste)2 non reactive pots to be used double boiler fashion1 clean glass jar with a lid that can be placed into a pot of hot water to sterilize it.1 strainer (to place the linen into for straining / you can also use a large rubber band andthe mouth of the jar making a small well to act as a filter)1 piece of fine linen (or a yogurt strainer)Conclusion:I personally like herbal teas that contained rose hips and knew of their soothingproperties. In addition I already knew about the medicinal uses of whey & honey duringthe middle ages. A discussion with Mistress Helewyse de Birkestad and my cheesemaking brought about her showing me a recipe from Scappi that made the start of thisjourney possible.Knowledge about the uses of whey being used as a drink for the sick and documentingthe practice are often two very different things. Knowing a thing and proving it with aperiod source can often prove a challenge. General principles as to why whey was beinggiven to the sick seemed to be common knowledge among healers, and herbalist of theday. Upon further reading it became apparent that this was a common practice14 Scappi, B., Opera : (dell arte del cucinare). Reprint. First published: Opera di M. Bartolomeo Scappi. Venice, 1570. 1981, Bologna:Arnaldo Forni. , 436 leaves [ca. 888 p.],  p. of plates. Available online from Google books., Translated by Louise Smithson,(Helewyse de Birkestad) February 2011, http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/scacooksitalian/message/289
referenced by such great Physicians as Hippocrates. As well as many sources that talkedabout the properties of whey being used for the sick and combining it with other elementsto produce a drink. This has been quite the learning experience.I hope you enjoy the drink.Fig. 2 whey