How long will homemade ranch keep?
May 10, 2016 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I have recently begun making homemade ranch (and I will NEVER go back to that store bought crap! My eyes have been opened!). I was wondering how long it will stay good in the fridge?

My current recipe uses mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, and dried spices (dill, chives, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper).

Do I go with the earliest expiration date? Buttermilk doesn't seem to have a date longer than a week and a half, and I prefer to make a larger batch of ranch once than smaller batches a bunch of times.

Is there something in the recipe that will help the dairy products keep longer?

One thing I am concerned about is not being able to tell if the ranch has gone bad by smell because the ranch itself can be overpowering.
posted by LizBoBiz to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Freeze a couple of ice-cubes of the stuff and see how it holds up to thawing. Milk freezes and thaws just fine so presumably buttermilk will. I'm not sure about mayo.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:17 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd say a week.
posted by Kalmya at 8:21 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

scrittore's plan sounds fine but ive only ever (in the US) seen buttermilk for sale by the quart. seriously, though, i usually end up throwing away 3/4ths of the package (i know i can make my own subsitutes) but why dont they sell half pints of buttermilk?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mix it in a super clean container that you can also use for storing it, using super clean utensils, and touch it as little as possible while making and storing it. Maybe make it in a mason jar so you can pour it out without needing to use a spoon? Every time you touch the mixture (for instance stirring with a different spoon, or transferring to a new container), you introduce more bacteria, and shorten the shelf life.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:25 AM on May 10, 2016

This will vary depending on usage patterns and storage environment utilized. However, it is easy for you to determine on your own. Buy double the amount of buttermilk needed for a recipe and make the recipe as you normally would. Open up your extra buttermilk and pour it into a big bowl and stir it up, now put it back inside it's container. Now every time you use your ranch dressing, open and pour out (or drink) a bit of the buttermilk. Keep both containers in the same environment at all times (when using the dressing, the buttermilk should be out too). When the buttermilk is spoiled, your dressing is likely to be spoiled as well.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:28 AM on May 10, 2016

In my experience opened buttermilk remains good for about 2 weeks after the sell by date printed on the carton.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 8:43 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A week. Nobody's kitchen is a truly sterile environment, and you're not applying any processes that will sterilize after the fact.

If amounts are an issue, just make your own buttermilk.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:54 AM on May 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Buttermilk freezes. Can't say if frozen and defrosted Ranch is worth it, you probably would just have to mix well to re-emulsify?


Make the range minus the mayo and freeze in smaller portions. Add mayo to defrosted portions.

posted by jbenben at 9:11 AM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: In re the buttermilk: use buttermilk powder. It's changed my life and I'm only half kidding. I rarely buy the real stuff anymore because 1) it's hard to find a lot of the time at my supermarket; and 2) it drives me crazy to use 2/3 cup and toss the rest. I highly recommend the powdered stuff.
posted by holborne at 10:01 AM on May 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Here's what I would do. Mix up a batch, keep it in a nice clean container as suggested, and taste-test a spoonful every day. At some point — it could be a week, 10 days, two weeks, or longer — it won't taste quite as good as the day before. It won't be terrible, and it won't kill you. But that day is your "best if used by" date. This is the methodology used in the food industry. It will still be OK, but not "best", for some period beyond that, and you could find out, if you wanted to, how long the "OK" period is. But if you want to enjoy it at its best, use it by that first turning point and size your batches accordingly.
posted by beagle at 10:02 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Couple things:

Freezing might work, but we do use the ranch pretty much every day and also are very bad about getting things out of the freezer with enough time to thaw before use.

Yeah buttermilk only comes in quart size and I never use all the buttermilk before it goes bad.

Re: Testing the buttermilk for spoildness
Buttermillk smells and tastes terribly even when it has not gone past the date. Thus, I have never been brave enough to smell one to see if it is expired, I just threw it out if its past the date. Is it as obvious as regular milk?
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:07 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah. Bad buttermilk is.. it's some next-level foulness. I mean, I love fermented, sour things like you wouldn't believe, so if you don't like it I get how you wouldn't necessarily notice. Bad buttermilk develops a kind of cheesy, old foot funk to it. Hard to describe.

For srs though, just make your own. Then you can control amounts really easily, and it only takes a few minutes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 AM on May 10, 2016

I make this all the time and don't worry about it expiring. I go through a batch in roughly two or three weeks and have suffered no ill effects. Just a data point.
posted by Twicketface at 10:25 AM on May 10, 2016

Best answer: Mark Bittman says the secret to ranch dressing is dried buttermilk--meaning you can get it in powder form and use it as a spice, the way you do the other dry ingredients. It's in the aisle with powdered and condensed milk. Then you just keep sour cream and mayonnaise in stock. (Sour cream keeps longer if you buy in small portions and don't open until you're ready to use it.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:34 AM on May 10, 2016

Coincidentally, I just made homemade ranch myself last night so I was just reflecting upon the awesomeness of non-storebought ranch. My trick -- instead of buttermilk, I use plain yogurt. For me it's a vastly superior flavor (even tangier than buttermilk, doesn't have that off-dairy smell) and I always have it on hand. I like Greek yogurt but regular plain will do -- if it's too thick, thin it with a little water until you get the consistency you like (I prefer it thicker myself since I use it frequently as a dip/spread). A batch for me lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge.
posted by schnihtzerfoot at 2:26 PM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

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