Thursday, September 20, 2012
When A Good Culture Goes Bad
By Jody Worsham
All rights reserved to pay for Culinary Insurance
Recently I was following an actual recipe that called for sour cream. I was in luck. I had some in the refrigerator. I know because two months ago when I was cleaning out the refrigerator, I saw some. Now at the insistence of my friends, my insurance company, and the hospital staff at “Good Lord, She’s Cooking Again”, I have learned to consult expiration dates on anything currently in my refrigerator that I, the family, or any seemingly healthy wild animal might consume.
But here’s the thing. When does Sour Cream go bad? I mean the very name is a contradiction …Sour…Cream. The carton bore no expiration date, only a Sell by Date. Is there an assumption that if the sour cream is not bought by a certain date then it will what? Go sour? Or will it remain freshly sour indefinitely? Do they assume that if you buy it say after six months of being on the shelf, then you will use it before the thing sits in your refrigerator for the next six months? Well, they don’t know me. Still…how do you know if it is safe to use?
Well, I e-mail my friends and they reply, quickly. One suggested that if the dog refuses to eat or bury it, it is probably bad. Another thought that fuzzy green/black stuff growing on the top would be a good indication to toss it. Still another loudly admonished me “IT’S SOUR. IT’S SUPPOSED TO SMELL BAD.” My southern friends hold to the belief that if you are going to cook with it, there is no statute of limitations on sour cream. A more intellectual friend gave me a long discourse on milk cultures, bacteria, the making of cheese, sour cream, and the very cultured Elsie the Cow at the opera. I don’t think my Sour Cream is cultured. I caught it watching WW Wrestling while sitting on my counter.
Still, I didn’t want my insurance premiums going up again, so I decided to substitute something else for the sour cream. I went to the freezer. I figured the electricity hadn’t been off that long during our last storm to cause any real damage…or growths. I found a box of Creamed Spinach. Ok, that’s cream and if the electricity had been off a little longer than I had thought, that might make it sour cream. I continued reading the label, you know, just in case there was this limitation on thawed creamed spinach. As I read on I discovered that it was made with artificial cream with a long list of totally unpronounceable additives and other assorted chemicals.
I continued following my recipe substituting the artificial and chemically preserved creamed spinach for the questionable sour cream. You can’t go wrong with USDA approved preservatives and fake, possibly sour, cream.
After all, we are still eating those left over Twinkies from my 1962 graduation party, but don’t tell Blue Cross.