The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Shelf life of buttermilk

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Conjuay's picture

Shelf life of buttermilk

Forgive the fool his question, but how do you know when buttermilk has turned bad? I intend to eventually buy some powdered BM, but until then I need to know when it has spoiled! I mean, it smells bad at the get-go, and tastes like it has already spoiled even when fresh.


SylviaH's picture

and spoiled don't smell the same...I can definately tell when mine has sourerd.  Also, it gets watery, separates and stinks when spoiled.  I think fresh buttermilk smells wonderful.


pepperhead212's picture

I assume you are referring to the usual cultured buttermilk? There are some places here - Whole Foods and the Amish market - that sell the real thing, but it is milder, with not nearly as much smell, or flavor.  As a result, when I tried that, I didn't like it as much (plus it was higher priced).

I almost never have BM go bad, but then, I love to drink it. If you are one of those that thinks it always smells bad, I guess you'd have to smell good and bad next to each other, to see how bad it could really get!

I culture my own, using the end of milk, which would go bad here if I didn't make it into BM or yogurt. I haven't figured out the perfect pH to culture the BM to - I'm working on that - but using my proofer it takes about 13 hrs. @ 72° to get the right acidity, w/o overshooting it, which causes separation. It is not quite as thick, but commercial BM often has additives for thickening. As with yogurt, you can cure BM for less time, if you don't like the flavor so much, but in that case you probably won't be drinking it, but using it in recipes, and in those you will want that acidity, as the recipes are often designed with the acidity in mind, as with Irish Soda Bread.  And with less acidity, it will go bad faster.


Felila's picture

I've recently started substituting milk and lemon juice for buttermilk. 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a 1-cup measure, then fill the rest with milk, for 1 cup of erstatz buttermilk. Recipes made with this substitute taste OK to me ... but perhaps I'm missing something?

It is convenient to bake things requiring buttermilk without having to make a special trip to the store to buy some. It's not on my usual shopping list.

Conjuay's picture

I have used this as well, but I will buy buttermilk when the mood hits. Then, three weeks later, I'm trying to figure out if it is still usable.

pepperhead212's picture
pepperhead212 will some vinegar and milk together,  but the flavor will be missing, at least in a simple recipe, where the BM is a major flavor.  But, like you said, if you want something that calls for it, and it's not on hand, substitution saves a trip!

fotomat1's picture

I find it works wonderfully...doesn't go bad...and is always available in my fridge. Sacco brand is available in my grocery store.

Stuart Borken's picture
Stuart Borken

I make my own with lactose free whole milk and vinegar.  For my banana bread I use 1 tbsp Bragg unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 1/4 cup milk. Stir and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, it curdles and it's butter milk and works wonderfully in my recipe.  I get large domes and splits down the center of the banana bread/cake.  Just like a picture.

hanseata's picture

I buy 2% buttermilk at the commissary, several packages at a time. It keeps, unopened, in my basement refrigerator (the one that is not constantly opened) for 2 - 3 months, and even longer, and still smells and tastes fresh.


Tam38's picture

Buttermilk lasts for ages. I don't think I've ever had it spoil. It will seperate and get chunky, but a good shake will fix that.

Since its a cultured product now, when you think its getting old use most of it/dump (leaving a few ounces) and fill the container with fresh milk. Leave overnight in a warm (70sF) place. The next morning you'll have fresh, new buttermilk. The old buttermilk culture grows and innoculates the milk. Every 3 months or so I use it all up and buy a new jug to make sure the culture stays true.

Pancakes are great for using buttermilk. 

hanseata's picture

I never thought about that, thanks for the info, Tam!