Dairy and Non-Dairy Recipes - The Frugal Homestead

Sour Milk – Don’t Toss it Out!

When Good Milk Goes Bad

I buy 2 or 3 gallons of raw milk each week from a local farmer. It’s no problem at all for our family of 3 to use 2 gallons of milk a week. I make at least one batch of yogurt a week, plus I usually make a small batch of butter each week too. We all like the raw milk on our cereal and I have replaced the soy milk I used to put in my coffee and tea with whole raw milk. But sometimes we end up with a quart or 2 of milk that goes sour before we use it up. No biggie, I use it in baked goods or pancakes for breakfast.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

But one week I bought 3 gallons of milk with the intention of making a couple batches of fresh cheese. A couple days later I came down with a nasty cold and just didn’t feel like being in the kitchen.

I ended up with a gallon of sour milk. I won’t throw it out because I pay extra for organic, raw, locally produced milk from beautiful Jersey cows. I have given the old milk to my chickens, but then I read that dairy products are not good for their digestive systems. So the sour milk sat in our fridge, taunting me…”How wasteful! What are you going to do with me? Don’t just leave me here to rot, you lazy woman!”

Once my cold was over, I decided it was definitely time to do something with that gallon of sour milk. I rolled up my sleeves and made a quadruple batch of cinnamon raisin muffins, a batch of sour milk biscuits, and a loaf of Boston Brown Bread. Sour milk and whey both produce nice, fluffy results in your home baked goodies.

Brown bread made with sour milk.

That used up half the sour milk. I was tired of baking, quite frankly…and I knew we didn’t need any more nummies hanging around tempting us. So I went online and looked up uses for sour milk.  I found several recipes for making cottage cheese from sour milk! I’ve been wanting to try cottage cheese, since my son loves the stuff and can eat a 16 oz container in no time at all. The cost of a small container of organic cottage cheese is pretty close to $4 so I was delighted to have a thrifty use for the last of the sour milk in the fridge.

Update: I have found more uses for sour milk since I wrote this post, including several more recipes for easy homemade cheeses. You can read instructions for making them in these links:

I’d love to hear about your uses for sour milk. Do you use it, toss it, or feed it to the pigs and chickens?

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. You will not pay any extra for these products and I’ll earn a small commission to help support this blog.

65 Comments on “Sour Milk – Don’t Toss it Out!

  1. I just joined this blog, but am finding it as a great resource for sharing old family recipes. Love this! My Mother is Swedish, and my father is of Italian/Austrian mix who come from Pennsylvania Dutch country, so between them and the grandparents we have such a vibrant selection of recipes, many from the older farmsteading generation.
    Here is a nice simple recipe for Homemade Dutch Cheese (I’ve seen similar recipes called Fromage Blanc or Farmer’s Cheese) that is made using old sour milk. It is quite delicious. I will list as it is written by my Grandmother, but you can definitely half or double the recipe.

    Ingredients are: 2 Gallons Sour Milk, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, 1 1/2 tsps. of baking soda, 2 tsps natural salt (DO NOT USE IODIZED TABLE SALT), 1 cup sour cream. The family used homemade s.c., but store version should work fine (check for salt-free content).

    -First, scald the milk until it separates. For those into checking temperatures it will come to 175.. (You know how the grandparents just knew things then by sight or touch). You then want to strain well to remove whey. Cheese will be soft unless most of the whey is out. My grandmother used to put curds in cheesecloth, tie it off, then tie it to a wooden spoon and let it hang over a pot to let all the whey drain out. Transfer curds to bowl that can be used to double boil. I recommend the top part of an actual double boiler or a glass Pyrex bowl, that you can cook with over boiling water.

    -After placing curds in bowl, add soda and butter and just let sit for 2 hours.

    -Place bowl in top of double boiler and add salt, and stir in sour cream.

    -Cook until curds have dissolved (about 1/2 hour), stirring frequently.

    -Pour into mold or loaf pan. Refrigerate. Better after a few hours or 2nd day as flavors have chance to meld.

    This is a delicious cheese, perfect with wine and bread. It is also delicious used in recipes, omelettes, in a vegetable bake or even a lasagna bake. At the time my grandparents made this recipe they would use ‘Dairy Salt.’ Which was [is] a thing. It was a Non-Iodized, pure flaky salt. I have never seen it in modern circumstance in the U.S., but the best substitute is pure Kosher, or Natural, flaky Sea salt. The table salt we know from grocery stores will not allow it to set or age properly.
    This recipe is created with Cow’s milk, but may work with Goat or Sheep’s milk, though never tried by me. It is also made from milk that has gone sour vs. Soured milk (made with lemon juice or vinegar). It may work with the latter, but I have never had. I find best served on a platter drizzled with some delicious Olive oil and black pepper over cheese, but if you frequent this recipe, you can experiment with different herbs, etc. and great your own hand me down recipe.

    1. This looks wonderful, Eric! I have to try it. I am still finding milk marked down at the store, so I have plenty of ingredients. Hope to give it a go soon…thanks so much for sharing. It is great to hear recipes from our grandparents and keep them alive.

      Do you mind if I share the recipe and results in a post?

    2. I do want to make one correction to cheese recipe. In the directions where it states “Cook until curds have dissolved.” that is a misnomer on my part when I copied recipe. Curds will still be roughly intact, but will break down and become creamier with the butter and sour cream. Sorry for any confusion.
      It will look like Farmer’s cheese or Topfen or Quark. This was an Austrian recipe she brought to America with her, not necessarily common to Pennsylvania Dutch, though that may all be relative considered how when we settled in America, our forebears’ recipes sometimes defined a region. Topfen cheese was also a popular recipe for my (Austrian) grandmother, and I think this was a variation on that. Topfen used buttermilk, this used sourmilk.
      I’m sorry I never questioned the specific details, In hindsight I see why this is so important culturally to remember and embrace the traditions, and my grandmother named this recipe in her homemade “cookbook,” which I made sure to keep as it is full of rare and unique (and yes truly weird) food creations. Whether it was Dutch, or she got it from a Dutch friend, or in her travels, I’ll never know. I love the uniqueness and continued relevance of the recipe.

    3. I’m not sure how old your comment is so no idea if you’ll ever see mine. But I made your recipe and it is the best fresh cheese I’ve had so far. I only made a half recipe because I only had 1 gallon of milk. It was just beginning to go off so it didn’t curdle well enough. I added 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup lemon juice once the milk got up to temperature. I’d love to have a name for the recipe. I’ll be making this cheese for years to come.

      1. Hi Stephanie…
        The recipe Eric shared is for Old Fashioned Dutch Cheese. I am so glad that you enjoyed the recipe!

  2. Our fridge broke and two gallons of raw milk went sour so I’m excited to try some cheese recipes. However, I can’t get to them right away. How long is it ok to allow milk to just sit in fridge (now a new good one!) and keep souring before it’s really not usable at all??

    1. That is a good question, Heidi.

      Here is the official word from North Carolina State Extension about what to do with milk that has warmed up to more than 41 F for more than 2 hours…


      If you choose to use milk that is sour, please be advised that I can’t accept any responsibility!

      I have heard different opinions from different people, with some saying that they use the sour milk even after it clots…without cooking it. However, I would not feel safe doing that. I think it depends on whether the raw milk was contaminated with any other bacteria, which is something very difficult to know for sure.

      My general rule of thumb is, if I am going to cook the product with the sour milk for more than 10 minutes with the product at 212 F or higher, I feel pretty safe with the outcome. You could also bring the sour milk to a low boil for 10 minutes to kill the bacteria. I have done this to make no-rennet cheeses and they came out good.

      The only thing I would suggest, if the milk has any kind of strange odor that isn’t a sour milk odor, I would toss it out. I was purchasing raw milk from a local farm that didn’t use very good sanitation practices (as I began to find out) and one batch smelled ‘fishy’…I boiled it and the smell remained, so I fed it to my chickens. I found another farm that kept their equipment and storage containers much cleaner. But these days I have gone back to purchasing pasteurized milk from the grocery store.

  3. Hey Lisa……HELP! 🙂

    I am VERY new to raw milk…..and have accumulated 4 gallons that have been in the refrigerator constantly for several weeks – I would definitely consider them soured at this point…..and I know there are many ways to use soured raw milk….but after searching for hours & hours, I have not found a definite answer as to whether I can use milk that has been soured for weeks (in the fridge) with the recipes…..such as curds & whey. Any advice?



    1. Hi Toni,
      Yes, you should still be able to use the sour milk. Heating it to almost boiling and keeping it there for ten minutes will kill most bacteria and then adding vinegar or lemon juice will separate the curds and whey for cottage cheese, queso fresco, or farmers cheese. The whey can be used in place of buttermilk or milk in baking recipes. You will have a lot of whey if you do this with 4 gallons of milk! So get out your apron and look up your favorite recipes 😉

      Thanks for stopping by…I hope this helps!
      PS: I have recipes for these fresh cheeses on my blog for you to follow if you like. The recipe for cottage cheese is at the bottom of this post, but you can also use the search field on the right side of my blog. Or send me a quick email through the contact me page at the top and I will be happy to point you in the right direction.

    1. Hi Marcus,
      I would not do this because you don’t know what bacteria are in the spoiled milk. Cooking it will kill most bacteria, but that tends to curdle the milk.

      I know some people consume spoiled milk without cooking it, but they have built up a tolerance to bacteria that most people could get sick from. So I don’t recommend this.

      Buttermilk has been cultured with a particular strain of bacteria, unlike spoiled milk. I hope that this helps.

  4. This morning I realized that the organic milk I used last night to make alfredo sauce was sour. Oh well it tasted great and was one of my better batches of sauce. I may try to make biscuits with the rest.

  5. We’ve used sour/clambered milks since forever. I also use it to make a semisoft cheese and herb cheese is the best! once the whey is separated from the curd, I like to use the whey in making soups and stews. They are richer and the addition of the whey protein is a plus. Now, we do not get raw organic milk, can not afford that. But we do get commercial milk that has no growth hormones fed or injected to the cows. So, since it is pasteurized and homogenized, it is therefore a dead product and letting whatever bacteria that floats in the air, not a good idea. So, we use like a table spoon of apple cider vinegar per quart of milk to clamber it with “good bacteria”. Can also use plain yogurt cultures too and make a yogurt cheese. And of course, our favorite, using clambered milk to make multi grain pancakes! I usually sift and soak the whole grains in the clambered milk for a couple of hours before adding rest of ingredients so that the gluten is broken down and have tastier and fluffier pancakes.

  6. Thanks for your encouragement to not be wasteful. I have bought great organic cow and goat milk locally and was surprised and guilty when it went sour… Curdled in my coffee. I left some in fridge for a week maybe and could see through clear container that it separated into solid below and liquid above (whey). Afraid if food poisoning I didn’t taste it but it seemed to have a better use than being dumped out. My question is about the stages of sour milk– at what point is it best for what use? What is too sour ? Too long? In the summer heat things spoil quickly , or as my grandmother said– the milk has turned. She also made clobbered milk. Which is when heated milk turns solid like junket rennet custard or ymer which is a mild Danish dairy for breakfast. I should look all of this up but just wanted to respond to your practical discoveries and
    Minimize wasting protein. I’ve recently made broth from faded vegetables (celery, onions, ) I cut mold off cheeses, but once I removed mold from sour cream and got very nauseated from using the under part . Does cooking kill germs? I also wash the slime stink off meat chicken I left too long in fridge and it is always fine underneath-/ people should do this before deciding to discard as we are so extremely wasteful as a culture based on appearances.

  7. Great article. Next time you have amazing milk you can’t drink while fresh, you might like an easy recipe for culturing yogurt in your oven:


    1) bring to the boil/foam-up point,
    2) cool it to a tolerable finger temperature,
    3) combine some of the hot milk with a few big spoons live yogurt in a separate bowl
    4) combine that yogurt mixture well with the full pot of milk, then
    5) put it all in jars with just the oven light on to heat it for at least 24 hours (can swaddle jars in towels to insulate.)

    Yields a fully-cultured yogurt that is nice and sour with minimal lactose and exceptionally high levels of probiotics. Keeps for weeks in fridge. Makes ordinary rush-fermented yogurt taste like wallpaper paste. (Don’t use nearly spoiled milk though, this is way for using good milk while preemptively avoiding spoilage!)

    1. Thanks for sharing this recipe, Jonas! Sounds like a great way to use up extra milk. 🙂 I have a yogurt maker, but I wish now that I hadn’t spend the money because there are so many ways to make yogurt without one. Thanks again!

  8. Baked goods! My Ukrainian mother always used turned milk for yeast-raised pancakes; I do the same, and if there still milk left over it goes to my tomato plants as they require lots of calcium ( I also grind up eggshells to add to the soil).

    1. Yes, tomatoes need calcium. Another good source is gypsum board/drywall leftovers. It is also known as “calcium carbonate” and not only is used in making drywall, but also antacids and is mixed with chicken feed for calcium source. Powdered gypsum is steam pressured into boards that then have a paper glued to the outer sides to help hold it together as a board. Just crumble the gypsum off of the paper and use. The glue stays with the paper.

      1. Hi Azri’el,
        Normally I would say ‘Great idea!’ But I have read that some drywall has asbestos in it. I don’t know how that would affect your garden, but it wouldn’t be good to breath the dust. Just an fyi. Best wishes and thanks so much for the input!

  9. Wow! All this information is so cool! I was looking for something about raw soured milk and facials and I found this. I occasionally buy a gallon of raw organic milk and will drink some, and leave a bit to sour in the fridge. I use that a couple of times a month to do a lactic acid facial. It’s one of my favorite ‘weird’ beauty treatments! I was hoping to find out some more info on what goes on in the breakdown process of raw milk. So I’m going to keep looking. Your blog is awesome! So glad I found you! 🙂

    1. Hi Cassandra,
      Thank you! I’m glad you found my blog 🙂 I hadn’t heard about lactic acid facials…so this is really interesting and now I want to know more about it! Thanks for sharing!

  10. I still consider myself fairly new to the organic raw milk consumer family (and proud of it), and found myself in the same situation. Illness recently invaded our family and the milk wasn’t used up before it began to sour (a gallon of it!). We usually skim the cream off the top soon after buying to make butter. I noticed that the sour odor tends to come from the cream first – the 1/4″ of residual cream that we deliberately don’t skim off. So tonight I tried an experiment. I took 2 clean 1/2 gal jugs and lids. With cheesecloth over top, I strained the milk into fresh containers. Sour odor is gone – at least for tonight! Hopefully my family will consume the remainder before I’m forced to use it by some other means. Just thought I’d pass this along. : )

    1. Thanks for the info, Sherry! I do think that the fat smells sour first. I’m not sure how much longer it takes for the skim milk to start to sour. Let me know how your experiment goes. I’m glad that you are all feeling better now!

      1. Yes Lisa! It worked!!! The sour odor was gone and we were able to preserve the taste for 2 more days. That means our milk remained drinkable from 1/31 – 2/11! That’s a good stretch! If I have to do this again, I will change jugs out a couple days earlier instead of waiting until the milk starts to smell sour.

      2. Thanks for the update, Sherry! I think perhaps I will try to skim the cream off the top of the raw milk (when it is available again) to see if I can keep it longer than 1 week, plus a day or two. Good info to know! Thanks again!

  11. I, like so many corresponents on this post, grew up in an almost self-sufficient household, so I never waste food. I generally have used soured milk to make spice cake or pancakes, but in the interest of using up leftover brewed coffee, as well as the sour milk, I baked a chocolate devil’s cake for years until my Keurig pod coffee machine saved me from excess coffee. The recipe actually called for buttermilk but stated that sour milk could be substituted..

  12. Depends on how sour. I usually pasteurize my milk because sheep are a little hairier and tend to lay in turd piles….thus while my milk is probably clean because I’m a little crazy about sanitation in that respect…i still don’t want to get sick from the one stray dingleberry that falls in.

    It lasts a little longer but if its starting to go i make an emergency batch of riccotta. If its REALLY stinky (or sheepy) then to the pigs it goes. Hey, they are growing so they can use it!

    1. Hi Shenanigans,
      I haven’t made yogurt from sour milk. When you heat the sour milk, it has a tendency to curdle without the vinegar, if it is sour enough. I think it is better used for cheese. I like to make yogurt with the fresh milk soon after I pick it up from the farmer. But if you try it, let me know how it works out!

  13. I grew up in the “old days” without electricity, we had our on milk cow she was never just a “cow” .we churned our butter fresh every day in a crock churn with a dash ,there was so many of us the butter was gone by the end of day, we raised and canned almost all our food, slaughtered and preserved our meat Night time mamma poured the fresh whole milk in the churn, covered the top and sat it by the stove to clabber overnight ,in the morning one of us churned while mama made biscuts .the milk in the churn was the buttermilk,it was poured in gallon jars and used for baking and drinking, we loved buttermilk and we thrived on our hard work and good food. We had an icebox and there was nothing as good as a chip of ice. Mamma sometime would let us eat clabber over hot Biscuts with sugar on top. Sooo good!!! we were never sick, our bodies used what we ate,The food was almost always fresh,home grown, in the winter we ate canned (in jars) veggies and soups. I have beat two bouts of cancer and frankly I give my hard working mother credit for bringing us up on good whole food.

    1. Wow Kathy! You are an inspiration 🙂 I love to hear about peoples’ experiences growing up in simpler times. I feel like I had it pretty easy sometimes. Homemade biscuits with homemade butter in the morning sounds wonderful!

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!

  14. I buy milk from a dairy down the road, and every once in awhile don’t use it up fast enough. I just hated pouring it down the drain, and now am so happy that I won’t have to do that. Thank you for the great info. I look forward to making cottage cheese now!

  15. Hi Rose Petal!
    Thanks for all the great information! I often think that I would like to live off grid, but a fridge is something i would miss 🙂 I wonder, do you have a propane powered fridge?

    It is very interesting to me to see how people do things without electricity. Thanks for sharing! I hope you have another calf soon and lots of fresh milk!

    1. I have read this too Shelley. I would like to try it, but I have a problem with possums in my yard and I’m wondering if it would attract them? I know they love my compost!

  16. Oh my! I threw out some raw milk that we didn’t use before it went bad… I wish I had seen this first 🙂 Thanks for sharing this great info! I have one question: is there a point where you shouldn’t use it even in these recipes?

  17. Hi Kim,
    That’s a cool fact I didn’t know! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Supposedly the dairy gives chickens diarrhea. My chickens already have some issues, so I’m not sure if it was bad for them or not.
    Hope that’s not TMI!

    I’m so thrilled to have a source for raw milk now 🙂

    1. I tried this with 2% pasteurized milk (not ultra) with some cream on top. It was only slightly soured. I smelled worse after I heated the milk and added the vinegar than it did before! Now I see that it must have to do with the milk being pasteurized?

      1. Hi Karie,
        I have used pasteurized milk to make quick cheese before and it came out ok, so I’m not sure what happened to your batch. Only once did I have a problem. The first farm that I bought raw milk from didn’ have the cleanest facilities (I switched to another farm as soon as I found them) and the milk smelled a bit fishy…weird. After I made the cheese, it smelled even fishier and I ended up feeding that to my chickens. They didn’t mind the smell. 😉 So I suspect that there was some unusual bacteria in the milk that caused the off smell. It’s possible that your batch had some strange bacteria in it too and that is what caused the bad smell.

        I hope that you were able to use the sour milk up somehow! And I hope you’ll try this again…sometimes things just don’t work out the way we plan. Best wishes!

  18. Hi Nancy,
    I bet your plants love it! It does get tough to use it all up. Now I need to find more ways to use the whey leftover from making cheese! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    1. I had a red haired friend in Germany that used whey to be able to get a tan. She would just spray it on her skin. I do the same now and apply sunscreen after I have been a while in the sun. I am one of the few people that does not tan…I usually burn and then turn pale again. The whey definitely helps my tanning efforts 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.