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Mar 8, 2010 06:07 AM

How long does heavy cream stay fresh?

Hi, I have some heavy whipping cream in my fridge, two cartons. Both have been opened. Both are expired (one a month ago, the other 2.5 months ago). But they smell fine! And I tasted the oldest one; it seems fine.

Can I still use these? Should I be concerned about lysteria? I would be using a quarter cup in a pot of soup...

Please advise.


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  1. generally speaking - if it smells and tastes ok, it is. also if you are boiling it in soup, that will remove another layer of worry

    1. Heavy whipping cream lasts AAAAAGES. Skim milk, you may have noticed, goes off much more quickly than milk with fat in it, and as you go up -- 1%, 2%, whole, half-and-half, light cream, heavy cream -- they'll last longer and longer. If it tastes fine, go for it.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LauraGrace

        Also, you can freeze what you have already opened - heavier freezes better than thinner.

        1. re: greygarious

          I'm one of those people who will use dairy even if it's REALLY sour -- to make biscuits, natch -- so I've never done this, but are you telling me it doesn't separate or get weird?

      2. I'm always surprised at how long it lasts, so I'm sure it's fine--the taste/sniff tests are pretty reliable. In soup, no problem, IME, even if it seems a little sour.

        1. I agree --it's fine. But just a note: "spoilage" bacteria are not the same as pathogenic bacteria like lysteria. Things sitting in your fridge don't spontaneously start growing salmonella or lysteria; the only way your cream would have lysteria is if it were contaminated from the beginning (or somehow cross-contaminated from something else once opened), and the length of time it had been sitting in your fridge would be irrelevant.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            What you say makes perfect sense, but can you elaborate on the safety issues, if any, related to spoilage bacteria?

            What exactly is happening when milk sours, and is it still safe to drink?

            1. re: jeremyn

              What happens when milk spoils is that bacteria eat the lactose and excrete lactic acid, which makes it sour and eventually causes the milk proteins to coagulate. It isn't necessarily unsafe to drink, but it's hard to know exactly what bacteria are in there and what the bacterial load is. The world is full of bacteria; your body is full of bacteria. Some are beneficial, most of them are harmless, some of them are harmful in large concentrations and/or to people with weakened immune systems. A very few will make you very ill. The problem is that once you determine bacteria, or the conditions that make something susceptible to bacterial growth, are present, unless you culture it there's no way to know for sure which kind(s) of bacteria are present, and in what amounts.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Good to know. It sounds like spoiled milk would typically be safe to drink.

                1. re: jeremyn

                  you can eat cheese and yogurt and sour cream quite safely

                  1. re: thew

                    Yeah, but aren't those specifically inoculated with certain types of bacteria? That's a pretty big difference.

                    1. re: jeremyn

                      Exactly. There's a difference between milk products that have been inoculated with specific bacteria and milk that's been exposed to random environmental bacteria. But the vast majority of common environmental bacteria are relatively harmless -- we've become tolerant of them or we'd be sick all the time!

                      1. re: jeremyn

                        yes - but they are still spoiled milk just the same

                        1. re: thew

                          "Spoiled" is not a technical term -- the usage as applied to milk is colloquial. Literally speaking, "spoiled" means "to lose valuable or useful qualities, usually by decay" so something to which bacteria has been added in order to create valuable or useful qualities by definition cannot be spoiled!

            2. Wow, my heavy cream always expires within 2 weeks, and usually before the expiration date.

              2 Replies
              1. re: AndrewK512

                Most likely your fridge isn't as cold as it should be, or you keep your cream in or near the door. I've had unopened heavy/whipping cream kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator be fine over a month past expiration date.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I keep mine in the lowest, rearmost part of my fridge, and mine lasts long past the pull date, too.