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How long does heavy cream stay fresh?

mctoft Mar 8, 2010 06:07 AM

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. thew RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 06:21 AM

    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. l
      LauraGrace RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 10:33 AM

      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
        greygarious RE: LauraGrace Mar 8, 2010 10:51 AM

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

        1. re: greygarious
          LauraGrace RE: greygarious Mar 8, 2010 02:55 PM

          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?

          1. re: LauraGrace
            greygarious RE: LauraGrace Mar 8, 2010 03:21 PM

            See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4744...

      2. nomadchowwoman RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 10:41 AM

        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. Ruth Lafler RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 03:37 PM

          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
            jeremyn RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 8, 2010 04:47 PM

            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
              Ruth Lafler RE: jeremyn Mar 8, 2010 07:22 PM

              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
                jeremyn RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 8, 2010 08:25 PM

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

                1. re: jeremyn
                  thew RE: jeremyn Mar 9, 2010 03:42 AM

                  you can eat cheese and yogurt and sour cream quite safely

                  1. re: thew
                    jeremyn RE: thew Mar 9, 2010 06:38 AM

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

                    1. re: jeremyn
                      Ruth Lafler RE: jeremyn Mar 9, 2010 07:29 AM

                      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
                        thew RE: jeremyn Mar 9, 2010 08:50 AM

                        yes - but they are still spoiled milk just the same

                        1. re: thew
                          Ruth Lafler RE: thew Mar 9, 2010 10:46 AM

                          "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. AndrewK512 RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 05:01 PM

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

              2 Replies
              1. re: AndrewK512
                greygarious RE: AndrewK512 Mar 8, 2010 05:14 PM

                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
                  mcf RE: greygarious Mar 9, 2010 11:57 AM

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

              2. rabaja RE: mctoft Mar 8, 2010 05:33 PM

                I just used several quarts of expired cream for creme brulee yesterday.
                It was dated Feb 18th, and I was dubious but didn't want to waste it. Opened it, gave it the old sniff, taste test and decided it was just fine.
                Custards turned out great, no off taste, no seperation and most of all, no waste!

                1. NYCkaren RE: mctoft Mar 9, 2010 12:02 PM

                  This thread is packed with useful information. Thanks, hounds.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: NYCkaren
                    jeremyn RE: NYCkaren Mar 9, 2010 03:31 PM

                    In threads like this, we often get into a debate that goes far beyond the question that was asked. I'm sometimes afraid that we will scare off the original poster with information overload. Fortunately, I doubt that is the case here because Ruth gave a very nice answer to the OP's question.

                    1. re: jeremyn
                      mctoft RE: jeremyn Jun 1, 2010 07:53 AM

                      I just checked back in to see if anyone responded to my query. Thanks to all of you for your wonderful discussion!! And jeremyn, there is no need to worry about scaring me off, even if you did get off-topic (I don't think you did).

                      Btw, I did use the cream in the soup, but threw the rest out. The soup turned out lovely. Next time I will simply use it until it is gone or smells bad.

                  2. b
                    betterbeheaven RE: mctoft Jun 1, 2010 12:43 PM

                    What if the carton is already opened? Does that change how long it lasts?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: betterbeheaven
                      Ruth Lafler RE: betterbeheaven Jun 1, 2010 03:27 PM

                      All other things being equal, it might. But there are a lot of factors: how much cream is in the container, how securely was it reclosed, how long was it sitting out after it was opened, whether it was exposed to any potential contaminants, where in your fridge you have it stored, etc. A carton of cream that was opened briefly to pour out a small amount, put away in the coldest part of the fridge and not exposed to any contaminants might last longer than a sealed carton that sat on the counter for a while and then was put in on a shelf in the door.

                    2. shaogo RE: mctoft Jun 1, 2010 03:37 PM

                      Even with half-and-half, I push it. With heavy cream, I really push it; sometimes weeks past the expiration date.

                      The smell/taste test works every time for dairy like this.

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