There’s no use crying over spoiled milk — because you can still totally use it. We usually toss out milk that’s gone sour ASAP, but it turns out we may have been missing out on a few interesting uses for dairy that’s past its prime.
According to Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council’s leading expert on food waste, cooking with sour milk is delicious.
“It’s a substitute for buttermilk,” she tells NPR. “You can [use it] in pancake or biscuit batter. And you can’t taste the sour! I’ve pushed it, and let the milk get really old. The pancakes turned out fluffy, and really good.”
But first, a very important warning: Don’t consume milk if it’s curdled because of age. This can make you very sick. We’re talking about milk that has a sour taste but hasn’t curdled yet and is safe to consume.
Typically, milk goes sour about three days after the expiration date. If unopened, it can last up to two weeks past the expiration date. Sour milk has many uses you may find helpful, and you’ll no longer feel the need to rush to consume it all before it expires.
The first thing I think of when I find soured milk is making cheese. After all, the main ingredient in cheese is milk that’s gone bad. You can make cottage cheese by cooking sour milk in a double boiler over simmering water until it begins to whey (when the watery part of milk separates from the curd, or cheese). Strain it through a towel to remove excess milk, and add in some cream and salt and pepper to taste.
You can also make regular cheese by lining a colander with cheesecloth and pouring in curdled milk. Gather it into a bundle, and hang it in the fridge over a bowl. Once it stops dripping, the cheese is done. Enjoy with crackers and wine!
Bake with it
Sour milk is a common ingredient in many pancake, cake and waffle recipes. Once it’s cooked, you can’t tell that sour milk was used, and it’s an easy (and delicious) way to use it instead of having it go to waste. Check out this recipe for lemon Bundt cake or this one for Coca-Cola cake. Note that you can also make your own sour milk by adding vinegar or lemon juice to fresh milk.
Though sour milk can be delicious in baked goods, desserts (think custards and cheesecakes), eggs and casseroles, there are many other uses for it that don’t involve food:
- Beauty. Sour milk is a common ingredient in facial masks. It’s great for the skin — making it smoother and giving it a more even, consistent color. Place sour milk all over the face, let sit, then rinse off with milk (strange, I know), followed by a final rinsing of water.
- Pets. Use sour milk for pet food — make dog or cat biscuits, or feed it to hens once it’s curdled (you can sit it outside in the sun to speed up this process).
- Home and garden. Pour it around plants to keep deer away, and put it at the base of rosebushes to help them grow. You can even pour sour milk over silver and let sit overnight to make it shine.
As you can see, there are many uses for milk that has spoiled. So next time, think twice before pouring it down the drain!
A version of this article was originally published in October 2012.