Buttermilk’s Use By Date

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I just read an article saying the French Government is tired of the confusion over  “Sell By” and “Use By dates” on dairy products and wants to do something about it. The French have a plan to stop wasting food!  http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/sustainability/    I so totally agree… we waste tons of food each yearjust by allowing the dates on these products to determine whether they are edible or not.

Our grandmothers had no Use By Dates to go by to tell if products were still good or not…they used their common sense…sight, smell and taste…I regularly use buttermilk, sour cream, cottage cheese past their use by dates with no ill effects. I’m always sure to keep items  the  proper temperature at all times. I do a taste test. You will be surprised to find most times they taste just fine, even a week or more later….and some things, like cottage cheese, if it has not been previously opened, will last weeks after the date.

One Caveat~ When it comes to drinking whole milk, I usually DO go by the Use By Date.  I always buy pasteurized milk… Obviously, if it has begun to separate don’t use it or drink it.

Buttermilk, especially, lasts for months past the use by date….I taste it if it is past the use by date and decide if it is drinkable. I have found even a week or so past the Use by Date, it is still fresh enough to drink.  If not, I still keep it to bake with.  It will separate…simply shake it up and use it.  I have kept buttermilk for 3 months past the date! Old  buttermilk makes the BEST biscuits and pancakes. They are much more flavorful  than when using fresher watery buttermilk.

I remember learning this from my grandmother who deliberately set a pan of old milk out in the sun for a few days to make it sour so she could use it in her chocolate devils’ food cake! My grandparents lived on a farm outside of Kansas City, MO. Grandma milked her cows every morning and evening of her life. I loved the farm and every year our family vacation was to travel from South Georgia to Missouri. We were always there over the 4th of July, the date of our annual Family Reunion.

Grandma had already begun, days in advanced, to prepare for the huge gathering. That’s when I saw her take a large pan of milk and set it outside in the sun. She did this day after day, same pan of milk, covered with a dish cloth.  I asked her what it was for and she explained it was to use in her Devil’s Food Cake.  I was appalled, as a 12 year old, that anyone would cook with something they deliberately spoiled!

That’s when my cooking lesson began. I learned from her that sour milk brings out the richness and flavor of the chocolate and gives the cake a wonderful texture and beautiful red color. And everyone for miles around knew my grandmother made the best Devil’s Food Cake ~~ ever. A lesson I never forgot. Now, I don’t set pans of milk out in the sun, but I do keep buttermilk beyond it’s “use by date.”

The dairy industry has a vested interest in you throwing their products away … SO THEY CAN SELL MORE…..Use your common sense, sight, smell and taste! You make the decision when to throw something away. You decide the Use By Date for yourself! And in doing so, you might even save a little money…. and who doesn’t want to do that?

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