Dairy, Eggs

butter

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Opened, about 3 weeks; unopened, 2 months; freezer, up to 9 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep reserves in the freezer. Butter can be kept at room temperature if it will be used up within several days, but only if kept out of the light. If used only occasionally, store in the refrigerator in its original packaging and in the cooler parts of the refrigerator (the top and middle shelves near the back). Butter readily absorbs strong odors and flavors from its surroundings; additional wrapping or storing in a closed container (bag or butter dish) can help prevent this.

Clarified butter or “ghee” keeps three times longer than other butters because the milk solids (which cause butter rancidity) have been removed. Clarified butter is good for cooking but not for use as a spread. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

FREEZING: For the best results, freeze fresh butter in its original carton within a zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: The translucent dark yellow patches on the surface of butter are simply spots that have been exposed to air and dried out. Eat them or scrape off.

Save butter wrappers to grease pans or separate homemade burger patties. Store each wrapper, folded onto itself, in the freezer in an airtight container, and use as needed.

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cheese, hard

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: 1 to 10 months, depending on the cheese

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy small amounts of cheese. Cheese is best stored loosely wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper to allow it to breathe, which likely means rewrapping it once you get it home to get it out of plastic wrapping. Wrapping it tightly in plastic traps moisture, thus encouraging growth of bacteria and mold. Store in the refrigerator drawer, if possible, to reduce the chance that the cheese will absorb other flavors. For best taste, allow to warm to room temperature before serving (unless it’s extremely warm out).

FREEZING: Grate or cube before freezing, then seal into a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and use soon there-after; the texture may be compromised, so plan to use for cooking and baking rather than straight eating.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If hard cheese develops a blue-green mold on the exterior, remove ½ in/12 mm below the mold; the remainder will be fine.

Use rinds of hard cheeses to flavor soups and stews.

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cheese, soft

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the cheese

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy small amounts of cheese. Cheese is best stored loosely wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper to allow it to breathe, which likely means rewrapping it once you get it home to get it out of plastic wrapping. Wrapping it tightly in plastic traps moisture, thus encouraging growth of bacteria and mold. Store in the refrigerator drawer, if possible, to reduce the chance of the cheese absorbing other flavors. Strong-smelling cheeses should be wrapped and placed in an airtight container to avoid having their flavor absorbed into other foods. For best taste, allow to warm to room temperature before serving (unless it’s extremely warm out).

FREEZING: Cheese can be frozen but may become crumbly and lose flavor, and is therefore best used in cooking when thawed. Cube before freezing for ease of use. Very soft cheeses such as Brie will not freeze all that well.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Soft cheeses with blue or green molds (that are not intentional as in blue cheese) should be discarded.

Take care with unpasteurized cheeses, which carry food safety risks and are not recommended for populations at higher risk for food-borne illness.

Rinds of soft cheeses can often be eaten.

Whip small amounts of leftover soft cheeses together with some olive oil to create a delicious whipped cheese dip.

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cottage cheese

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, up to 10 days; opened, 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Closed container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Not recommended, although dishes that include cottage cheese as an ingredient may be frozen.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Substitute for ricotta cheese in lasagna.

Cottage cheese can be used in place of cream cheese or ricotta cheese in dips, casseroles, pancakes, and desserts. Process in a blender if you prefer a smoother texture.

Add cottage cheese to custards, pasta sauces, egg dishes, cheesecakes, and all sorts of recipes where cheese or milk would normally be used.

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egg substitutes

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, unopened, 10 days; opened, 3 days; frozen, 12 months; thawed, 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a cold part of the refrigerator, sealed in the original container. If the original container is not airtight once opened, transfer to an airtight container to extend life.

FREEZING: Freeze in the original unopened package. Freeze portions in zip-top bags with the air removed. Once thawed, do not refreeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Egg substitutes can be used just as you’d use traditional eggs, so if you’re nearing the expiration of your egg substitute, bake up some cookies or make a seasonal frittata.

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eggs

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 3 to 5 weeks after sell-by date; freezer, 12 months; hard-boiled, 1 week.

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep in a cold part of the refrigerator in their original carton (not in the door, even if there’s a space for them—it is too warm).

FREEZING: Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. Lightly beaten eggs can be frozen in an airtight container, with 1-in/2.5-cm headspace, or sealed in a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible. Yolks can be frozen alone if mixed with 1 tsp salt per 1 pt/480 ml, and whites can be frozen without salt.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Cracked eggs should be placed into a clean, airtight container and used within 2 days. If you’re not sure when it cracked, it’s best to discard the egg. As eggs age, the whites will thin and the yolks will flatten, but the nutritional value will not diminish. Older egg whites are actually better for whipping up into a voluminous meringue than fresh egg whites.

Egg grades (such as A and AA) are a reflection of how well the yolk and white hold together and the appearance of the shells, not size or flavor.

Frittatas make quick work of extra eggs (and anything else in your fridge).

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milk

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes (if in shelf-stable carton, refrigerate after opening)

AT FRESHEST: Pasteurized, 1 week beyond sell-by date; freezer, 3 months; shelf-stable carton, unopened, 6 months; opened, 7 to 10 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep milk in a cold part of the refrigerator (not the door), closed in its original container. It keeps its flavor better in opaque, sealable containers. Milk that comes in a shelf-stable carton has gone through ultrahigh-temperature pasteurization and can be stored in the pantry until opened, then refrigerated.

FREEZING: Milk can be frozen, but it will separate if left frozen for long periods. Low-fat and nonfat milk separate less than whole milk. Thawed milk is best for cooking or baking purposes. Freeze in airtight containers, leaving 1-in/2.5-cm headspace. You can also freeze it in ice-cube trays, then seal the frozen cubes in a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator. Do not freeze again once thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Sour milk can still be used in all sorts of recipes, such as baked goods, pancakes, homemade cottage cheese, cream fillings, etc.

Milk will smell or taste bad before it would make you sick, making a sniff test a good method for evaluation.

Do not return unused milk to the original container. Store it in its own airtight container instead.

A nomadic Asian people used to ferment milk into an alcoholic drink called koumiss, described by Marco Polo as having “the qualities and flavor of white wine.”

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milk substitutes

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes. If in shelf-stable carton, refrigerate only once opened.

AT FRESHEST: Shelf-stable carton, unopened, up to 12 months; refrigerated packaging, unopened, 7 to 10 days; all packaging, once opened, 5 to 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: In the pantry, store in a cool, dry spot. Once in the refrigerator, store sealed in the original carton in the middle of the refrigerator, where the temperatures are not too warm or too cold.

FREEZING: Freeze for cooking or baking purposes. Freeze in airtight containers, leaving 1-in/2.5-cm headspace. You can also freeze in ice-cube trays, then seal the frozen cubes into a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator. Do not freeze again once thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Milk substitutes are great in place of milk in most recipes, so if you’re nearing or just past the expiration date, make a smoothie or pancakes or pudding.

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yogurt

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 to 3 weeks; opened, 10 days or more

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Covered in original container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Freeze to use for cooking or baking purposes. Freeze in airtight containers, leaving 1-in/2.5-cm headspace. Thaw in the refrigerator. Do not freeze again once thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Substitute yogurt for milk, cream, sour cream, or buttermilk in baking; just add ½ tsp baking soda per 1 cup/240 ml of yogurt added.

Drain fresh yogurt overnight in cheesecloth to make “yogurt cheese,” which is thicker than regular yogurt and can be used as a spread, etc. Then use the liquid whey in smoothies.

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