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Do Not Cry Over Soured Milk: Cook with it

I cannot waste food, even soured milk, which many sane people pour down the drain. Sour milk is a valuable (well, maybe that’s a slight stretch) ingredient.

It comes to mind this week because my half & half and whole milk both soured before I could use them.

No matter. Make batter. I already knew sour milk is featured in many cake, waffle and pancake recipes.

I wanted to know more, so I did some sour-milk research (love the job that allows me to write those words) and found a variety of bizarre suggestions for soured milk or cream.  Although I cannot vouch for any of these, I was intrigued:

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• Pour sour milk around plants as a deer deterrent.

• Pour sour milk at the base of rosebushes to help them grow.

• If you have a septic tank, pour the soured milk down the toilet. The enzymes in the soured milk will help clean your septic tank.

• Pour soured milk over tarnished silver in a shallow pan and let it sit overnight. In the morning, silver will be clean. (Dare I say, rinse well.)

All very interesting, but I wanted to cook with sour milk, which I knew was not that weird, but actually common. In fact, many recipes actually tell how to create sour milk when they ask cooks to pour a little vinegar or lemon juice in milk, which immediately curdles it. IMHO, the vinegar and lemon juice taste comes through stronger than the desired effect of Real McCoy sour milk.

The thing is, most artificially soured-milk recipes require just a tablespoon or two of the soured liquid, when what I have in my refrigerator is a few cups of the stuff with a warning label: Sour milk – don’t drink.

I dug out one old Corn Bread recipe I’ve had forever that calls for sour milk. Not to be a yeah-butter (or skeet-shooter, as such chronic negative-talkers are called in my house), but since it’s in the high 90s outside and we’re still running our air conditioners, this isn’t exactly prime corn-bread-baking weather.

I found a recipe for Sour Milk Double Ginger Cookies, adapted from a spice cookie recipe, which appealed to me because I’m so sick of summer and completely ready for fall. I wrote the recipe here first and made the dough second. Then I deleted it. The 1 cup of sour milk left the dough a soupy mess. I managed to fix it with more flour, but the overwhelming flavor was flour (no surprise), so I won’t recommend it.

As a nice consolation prize I give you Southern Chocolate Cake, given to me by reader Rosemary Johnson way back when I worked for some newspaper – name escapes me – after I’d put out the call for another reader’s request for a chocolate cake recipe. (If you know Rosemary, would you let her know she can read my food stories here on Food for Thought: A News Cafe? Thank you.)

I adapted Johnson’s Southern Chocolate Cake slightly by using butter instead of margarine. It’s a great, simple cake prepared in a 9-by-13-inch pan (sure, use two cake pans if you want a more formal look).

Yes, I know, this recipe also means we’ll heat up the house when we turn on the oven for baking.

Maybe readers in cooler climates (like new reader Anne Long of Michigan) can bake these while we wait for our north state temperatures to cool down.

And maybe the rest of us can use the soured milk to clean our silverware or septic tanks.

Sour Milk Corn Bread

2 eggs
2 cups soured milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 sifted flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup melted shortening

In a medium bowl lightly beat the eggs. Set aside. In another bowl mix the soured milk with the baking soda. Add the salt and sugar to the eggs and stir. To the egg mixture add the soured milk mixture, flour and cornmeal. Blend just enough to combine. Stir in the melted shortening. Stir gently. Do not overbeat.

Pour batter into a greased-and-floured pan. (For thicker cornbread, bake in a pan that’s between 9 and 10 inches. For more cornbread, but less thick, bake in a 13-by-9-inch pan.)

Bake for about 25 to 35 minutes at 375 degrees.

Southern Chocolate Cake

1 cube butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon soda
3/4 cup sour milk
1 cup boiling water

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add the soda to the milk and mix the liquid with the dry ingredients. (If you don’t have sour milk or buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon to the fresh milk with the soda.)

Last, add the boiling water, mixing by hand. Pour in a greased-and-floured 9-by-13-inch pan at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two.

Fudge Frosting

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
1 cube butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla

Put everything in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Cool completely before you beat the frosting and spread on the cake.

Note: This is a best-of column that first appeared on anewscafe.com on Sept. 16, 2008, a time when this site had just a few thousand unique visitors a month. Now, anewscafe.com is visited by tens of thousands more readers, people for whom this story is new. 

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