As a toddler, you don’t think too much about what curds and whey are, or why Little Miss Muffet was eating them on a tuffet, alone and in the woods. But as grown-up cheese lovers, it’s time we find out exactly what she was eating.
Curds and whey are produced during the cheesemaking process. Cheese is essentially made by heating milk, adding an acid or rennet to gel together the solids into “curds,” and separating the curds from the remaining liquid (“whey”). Don’t feel too bad for the leftover whey, though—whey protein has become popular among body builders and can even be made into alcohol, used for animal feed, or used to bathe in.
Back to Little Miss Muffet—was she just eating unfinished cheese? Not really. She was actually eating the 16th-century version of cottage cheese. Today, makers of cottage cheese leave out the whey by washing or pressing the curds; back in the day, however, cottage cheese was made by leaving old milk near a fireplace and just waiting for the curds to form. Sometimes it was even made by accident, since shipping milk by horse and carriage took a little longer than UPS and could curdle in transit. According to Miss Muffet, they ate the whey and all.
Not surprisingly, curds and whey are probably pretty gross, and I wouldn’t recommend it myself. But if you feel so obliged, Wikihow has an easy step-by-step guide to make your own.
Photo Credit: John Everett Millais, “Little Miss Muffett”, PD-US