I totally know your pain. You got that cream on sale and you were stoked that you’d be able to make some decadent treat with it, but now it’s sitting in the fridge, well past its best before date, and starting to separate. “How could I let this happen?” you ask yourself, a single tear rolling down your cheek…
OK fine, not everyone cries over food waste like I do, but it’s still uber sad, you’ve got to admit. But never fear! You don’t have to toss that cream. It has life in it yet!
Turn it into butter—or rather, churn it into butter! Ahem. OK fine, I’ll knock it off…
Did you know that for centuries, we’ve used cream that was past its prime to make butter? In fact, some folks purposely culture (ie. add bacteria to ferment) their butter to make it more tangy, and this kind of butter fetches a premium price!
The cream we’re talking about in today’s recipe may or may not be “culturing material” because some cream is pasteurized. Pasteurized milk and cream doesn’t sour in the way unpasteurized milk and cream does. Basically, when you pasteurize dairy, you’re removing bacteria. But some of the naturally-occurring bacteria is totally harmless and will naturally sour your milk or cream. (This is essentially how humans discovered cheese!) Once you’ve pasteurized dairy, it doesn’t have the good bacteria it needs to naturally and harmlessly ferment, but companies pasteurize it because it lengthens the shelf life of these products.
For this reason, pasteurized milk and cream need to be treated carefully. If your cream still smells fine and is just starting to separate slightly, it’s likely totally safe to make this recipe. And if your cream is raw, rather than pasteurized, it’s OK if it smells a little sour because it’s just naturally cultured. In fact, your butter may taste even better! It’s really just pasteurized cream you need to be careful with. So to reiterate:
Raw cream: safe to use in this recipe even if it smells a bit sour.
Pasteurized cream: only use if it still smells fine, but it’s past its date.
And in any case, if your cream is fully curdled and separating into nasty chunks, or if there is visible mold, just throw that cream out! I know we’re trying to avoid food waste here, but that’s just food poisoning waiting to happen! No chunky or moldy cream, ever! Got it? Good. 🙂
If you want to be extra safe, don’t use this butter raw. Use it to make delicious baked treats or to sauté some fresh veggies as a side dish!
Let’s get to the recipe/procedure, yeah?
How to make homemade butter from expired cream
Yields about 1/3 butter (to keep) and 2/3 whey (to discard)
Expired whipping cream (called heavy cream sometimes)
Electric mixer or food processor
Place the cream into the mixer or food processor and beat vigorously. You will see the cream go through various stages. First, it will likely whip up like whipped cream, and then it’ll become dense and fall a bit. Over time, it will finally begin to separate and you’ll see that the fat solids are clumping together into a butter-like substance and the whey has separated off. This is what you want! At this point, you basically just need to separate the butter and whey and you’ve got homemade butter! Be sure to rinse the whey off of the solids so it doesn’t taste sour. If desired, you can mix in salt to taste (usually I use about 1/4 teaspoon salt to each cup of finished butter). Refrigerate until ready to use, then take the butter out to soften before baking or cooking with it.
It’s really that easy to have amazing, fresh butter to use. What’s your favourite dish to use butter in?
Mary Spain · March 1, 2023 at 9:45 pm
Thank you for this! Especially the part (this might sound weird) that said if it is chunky throw it out. I have been scouring “homemade butter from expired cream” recipes for the past 25 minutes now because I couldn’t find a single one that addressed the cut off point for the cream. I know it seems like something that should be painfully obvious but I have zero cooking experience outside of your basic spegetti, Mac and cheese, tacos, scrambled eggs or “basic american diet staples”. But I am experienced enough to know that most everything I need or want to cook requires butter. And I just happen to be out of it. Not only that but I’m currently snowed in, there is a blizzard outside and my car is only 2wheel drive so basically I have to make due with what I’ve got, and that is hardly anything! So as I made my 10th trip to the fridge to stare inside it as if something might magically poof it’s way into existence, I noticed the pint of heavy whipping cream I picked up on sale a few weeks back. I bought it on a whim when I was starving and stopped at the store to get milk. Next to the milk was the cream and an advertisement above it with some deliciously sweet concoction which used the cream. I didn’t think twice when I put it in my cart never once stopping to consider I had to do something with the cream. No surprise that the cream sat there, untouched. But anyways, as I was standing there staring into my fridge for the 13th time in an hour I was hit with a memory about shaking a baby food jar vigorously with cream in it then seeing a lump of something my mom said was butter. I remember her spreading it on toast and I was amazed that I had just made butter. Then it hit me, just like in the cartoons, Ding ding ding alarm bells went off in my head!! Here sat this unused whipping cream and I know I had a small mason jar with a lid somewhere and just like that, I instantly felt like I had a new purpose. I eagrly went to Google to search recipes or how to videos when 5 minutes later it hit me like a ton of bricks, my cream was expired! Disappointed doesn’t even touch the way I was feeling. So you can imagine my surprise as I was just about to stop scrolling ideas for my broken dreams when I noticed a question about expired whipping cream.. I quickly regained my enthusiasm and went back to scrolling, egar to learn how to make butter. It didn’t take long before I realized I didn’t know if my whipping cream was at the proper “expired” phase or if it surpassed that phase and none of the articles were clarifying it. Until I found yours. Thanks to you I will now be making butter with expired whipping cream which I now have learned does NOT mean making it with chunky expired cream that smells bad. Thankfully my cream is just right. Which means I will be just fine with my unstocked pantry running on fumes because as long as I have butter, flour, sugar, I can make anything! Now that could be the inexperience talking but I’m hopeful!!
Thank you for reading my ADHD reply that is more all over the place than a shoots and ladders game.
Lia · March 1, 2023 at 10:44 pm
Mary, I’m so glad you found this post! Thank you for your kind words and funny story. I’m really happy to hear that you’ll be able to use that cream, and that I was able to be a small part of making that possible. What a lovely feeling! Thanks again for sharing, and happy baking!