Now and then it happens. Bread gets stale, milk turns sour, produce turns ugly and frozen stuff thaws but can’t be used right away. So, out it goes because who in their right mind is going to drink soured milk, take a risk on frozen meat that’s been thawed out for a while or serve horribly wilted produce or dried up stale bread? We do have our standards, after all.
Surprisingly perhaps, from now on those standards need to include a load of ideas for how to put food items once considered inedible to good—possibly even delicious—use.
Wait. Hear me out. Sour milk may be gross, but it is not harmful. Think about sour cream, cheese and buttermilk, sour dough starter and so on. All of those items rely on “souring” of fresh milk in some way. While you will not want to drink soured milk, use it as you would buttermilk in biscuits, pancakes, cornbread, muffins and so on. There are some recipes that call for sour milk, instructing cooks to add vinegar to sweet milk to make it sour quickly. HINT: Sour ingredients are always balanced with baking soda. If you use sour milk in a traditional recipe, adjust accordingly. If the recipe does not call for it already, add 1/2 teaspoon for each cup of flour to counter the soured milk. Here’s a great, easy recipe to keep handy for when the milk goes sour:
Sour Milk Cake
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup sour milk (or buttermilk)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cup flour
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- pinch of nutmeg
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a Bundt pan (or angel food pan). Cream butter and sugar together. Add milk and baking soda. Add flour, spices and raisins. Mix well. Pour into pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick when inserted comes out clean.
Breadcrumbs, which all good cooks use frequently, are nothing but hard, dry stale bread that’s been grated or processed into a pile of crumbs. And those croutons you love? Uh-huh. Stale bread that’s been cut into tiny squares and seasoned. There are lots of recipes that call for stale bread as an ingredient with instructions for how to make it stale if all you have is fresh (place it in a warm oven for a few hours). So, the next time you’re tempted to throw out those pieces of stale bread or rolls, don’t. Toss them into a bag you keep in the freezer so you have all you need to make something wonderful. Like this delicious …
Basically Awesome Bread Pudding
- 6 slices day-old bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 -inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.
The clock starts ticking when you pull the cork because wine starts to oxidize as soon as you open it. How long a wine will last depends on what kind: red or white, sweet or dry, made to age or ready for drinking. Wine will not “go bad” in a way that is unsafe. You will know if it has been kept too long because it won’t taste as good. It will have less aroma, taste dull or even sour, but it won’t hurt you. If you don’t drink leftover wine, use it in another way. Cold, it could be a marinade; leave it open at room temperature for a couple of weeks and it will become vinegar to make the wonderful vinaigrette. Here is an all-purpose vinaigrette recipe:
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or any vinegar)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Instructions: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, oregano, and pepper. Shake well.
You’ve know and likely heed the warning that you should not refreeze meat, fish or poultry once it has thawed. So, in the event it does thaw and you cannot use it right away, should you throw it out? No way!
First, understand that reason for the warning: It’s not because refreezing will cause the item to become toxic or in anyway unhealthful. It has to do with quality of taste and the texture once you do prepare it. Repeated freezing can degrade taste and texture. Here’s the remedy should this happen to you: Simply cook the meat, fish or poultry to halt further changes. If it’s ground beef, brown and season the meat. Now you can refreeze it confidently. Same with chicken. Broil, boil or grill the chicken to be used at a later time. You can refrigerate it for a few days, or refreeze. Just try to use it within three months from the freezer to assure the best results.
Carrots, celery and onions that are past their prime are still excellent for cooking. In fact, they might be at their peak for making a mirepoix (browning root vegetables as the first step to making stew or other braised meat). Other wilted items can be added to vegetable soup, then pureed if desired to blend it altogether.
Don’t have the time or all the ingredients to make that soup or stew or think of a way to use that past-prime produce right now? No problem! Freeze it and then keep adding to the frozen stash to be used later.
How to restore wilted lettuce: First check the state of the lettuce. You can only rejuvenate lettuce that has begun to soften after a few days in the refrigerator. (If the lettuce has begun to rot or it’s slimy, you should discard it.)
Fill a large bowl halfway with ice, then fill it with cold water. Separate the lettuce leaves from the head, if necessary. Submerge the lettuce leaves completely in the ice water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes, then drain. Now that you’ve restored it, use it.
Just think of all the food you won’t be wasting in the future, now that you know what to do instead of throwing stuff out!