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Dec 7, 2006 07:17 PM

How can you tell when buttermilk is bad? [moved from Home Cooking board]

It's already sour...

I have some, only two days over the expiration date. It smells the same as before, sour. I want to make some pumpkin bread with it tonight.

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    1. What if it's about 2 weeks past its sellby date, and still smells the same, sour?

      Is it one of those "use it until it's chunky" sort of things, or what? I'm a total buttermilk novice, apparently.

      1. Maybe I'm off base, but since buttermilk by and large is a substitution for what cookbooks used to call ``sour milk,'' i.e., milk that had gone off, and since it is always pretty thoroughly heated when you cook with it, I've always thought that slightly funky buttermilk was okay in biscuits and spoonbread and pancakes and such, although not in something like buttermilk mashed potatoes where it is just stirred into a hot mass and not cooked. The increased acidity actually gives a better rise in biscuits.

        1 Reply
        1. re: condiment

          Real buttermilk is not merely sour milk. Sour milk -- milk that has gone bad -- tastes different and does not have a proper texture; different organisms are responsible for "going bad", as it were.

          Real buttermilk is virtually impossible to get in US supermarkets (though here in eastern New England, some of us are delighted by the news that Kate's Butter of Old Orchard Beach in Maine may soon start distributing real buttermilk in select markets). Real buttermilk was the foundational food of the Irish, including my grandmother and her sister; potatoes sat atop that foundation, as it were.

          What we get in US markets is a cultured milk product that seeks to emulate certain aspects of buttermilk in terms of acidity and viscosity. It's a great product to have in the absence of the real thing. But it too is not merely soured milk.

        2. Your buttermilk sounds fine. I've had some that was still good WEEKS past the expiration date. It's bad when it separates into thin liquid with chunks.

          4 Replies
          1. re: LT from LF

            Yeah, I look for the chunks and thin liquid sign too. Also, taste it - sometimes you can detect bitterness even before the chunks+thin liquid state. If it was bitter, I wouldn't use it.

            1. re: sweetTooth

              Well, yes...of course I'd taste it if I didn't see the telltale separation....

            2. re: LT from LF

              but many recipe calls for "well-shaken" buttermilk. So if I shake it, would the liquid and chunks re-incorporate and fool me? :P

              1. re: OnceUponABite

                It will never again coalesce into something you'd want to drink or cook with. Plus you can see the thin liquid/chunk combo before you shake it.

            3. There was something we called clabber, too. I think that's also soured milk, but it's delicious, at least in my memory.