Traditionally, buttermilk was the thin liquid left over after cream was churned into butter. Today, most buttermilk is cultured buttermilk, made from either skim or low-fat milk that is heated then fermented with cultures until it thickens. Buttermilk has rich flavour yet is typically lower in fat than regular milk and is an excellent source of calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Buttermilk doesn't have an expiration date but is marked with a voluntary dating system.
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Things you need
- Clear, clean drinking glass
- Freezer container(s), if needed
Check the "best if used by" or "use by" date stamped on the buttermilk container before buying. Choose a carton with the latest date you see to make sure the product will last as long as possible once you get it home. According to Web MD, both of these dates refer to the last date the manufacturer recommends the product be used to enjoy peak quality, not to the final "safe date" for product use.
Immediately refrigerate buttermilk. Make sure the carton is never left out at room temperature for longer than a few minutes; mishandling can cause bacterial growth and illness both before and after the date stamped on the package.
Use buttermilk after the "use by" or "best if used by" date marked on the carton only if it has been properly refrigerated. Pour some into a clear drinking glass to see if the buttermilk still coats the sides of the glass, remains smooth and has no off odours. According to Real Simple magazine, dairy products are good for several days past the use-by date. Chef's Best suggests using buttermilk for up to a week past the sell-by date.
Freeze buttermilk safely for up to two months, recommends Chef's Best, if the use-by date is approaching and you know you won't use it soon. Use defrosted buttermilk for baking and cooking. Divide buttermilk into typically-used quantities before freezing, for convenience. If you use it only for making biscuits or pancakes, freeze in amounts called for in your recipes, so when you cook or bake you can thaw only what you need.
Tips and warnings
- Buttermilk has a longer shelf life than most dairy products because of its high acidity.
- Buttermik's acidity and enzymes help tenderise meat, so buttermilk makes a good marinade.
- If in doubt about the quality of buttermilk or other food product, toss it out. Your own peace of mind, and you family's health and safety, are worth more than the pennies you save by eating questionable food.
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