How to Make 5 Dairy Staples Each with 2 Ingredients

I like to keep my grocery shopping simple and buy as few items as possible. And because I don’t buy food packaged in plastic, I can’t buy many items. (Today’s news on the health risks of plastic food packaging comes to you from the New York Times) However, where I live, I can buy organic, pastured milk, half-and-half and whipping cream in returnable glass bottles.

But what if you need a tub of sour cream or crème fraîche? I’ve seen those only in plastic. With a couple of ingredients you can make these and other staples yourself.

2014-04-13 16.26.16
Cultured buttermilk

1. Buttermilk

  • Combine 1/2 cup buttermilk with 4 cups whole milk
  • Let sit covered on the counter for 24 hours until thickened
  • Transfer to the refrigerator

I’ve started my list with buttermilk because, although you may not drink buttermilk (I pour it on my homemade granola), you will need it to make other recipes in this list.

Like needing money to make money, you need buttermilk to make more buttermilk. So you will either have to buy a small carton of cultured buttermilk, order a starter from a store such as Cultures for Health or, if you know someone who has a culture going, ask for a couple of tablespoons and follow the 1:8 ratio above.

I bought a carton of buttermilk at Whole Foods about nine months ago and I’ve been backslopping it (an actual term) every two to three weeks to keep it going (I’ve named my culture Betty). Here is a detailed cultured buttermilk post.

creme fraiche
DIY crème fraîche

2. Crème fraîche

  • Combine 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk with 1 cup heavy cream
  • Let sit for 24 hours in a warm spot; it will have the consistency of sour cream
  • Transfer to the refrigerator to thicken
sour cream
Two-ingredient sour cream

3. Sour cream

  • Combine 1 tbsp cultured buttermilk with 1 cup half & half
  • Let sit for 24 hours in warm spot
  • Transfer to the refrigerator
chilled ricotta
Homemade ricotta

4. Ricotta

  • Combine 2 cups cultured buttermilk with 1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk.
  • Heat mixture slowly until it reaches between 190 to 200 degrees—the temperature it hits just before it boils. It will curdle at this point. Turn off the heat.
  • Wait 20 minutes for the curds to sink to the bottom of the pot.
  • Over a bowl, place a sieve lined with a thin towel. Transfer the curdled milk to the sieve.
  • Let the ricotta strain for about half an hour, depending on how wet you want it. Transfer it to a glass container and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Read my full post on DIY ricotta here.

7 Yogurt finished edited
A spoonful of probiotic goodness

5. Yogurt

You’ll need 1/2 cup of yogurt with live cultures and 4 cups whole milk.

  • Pour milk into a heavy pot.
  • Slowly heat milk to 180 degrees over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scalding it.
  • Wait for milk to cool to 110 degrees.
  • Stir yogurt into milk.
  • Put in a warm place overnight.
  • Strain if desired.

I broke my thermometer and don’t plan on replacing it. You don’t actually need one. When milk reaches 180 degrees, it will begin bubble around the edges. At 110 degrees, the milk will be warm, not hot.

Read my detailed yogurt post here.

That’s it! I would say the first three recipes (buttermilk, crème fraîche and sour cream) require less work to make than buy. All five taste fantastic. Store-bought simply cannot compare.

Happy culturing!

54 Replies to “How to Make 5 Dairy Staples Each with 2 Ingredients”

  1. These recipes are all so easy!!! Thanks.

    1. They are incredibly easy. Thank you for checking them out 🙂

    2. I love your site and I am new to all of this but enjoying the changes! Lots of these ideas are fun to me, not a chore. I do have a question about DIY dairy products- you don’t mention “expiry dates” and I am accustomed to reading these on the products I would have bought in the past. For how long can each of these 5 home-made dairy products be stored in the fridge?

  2. This is great! We will do all of these. My husband buys quarts of buttermilk for recipes requiring a cup or 2 and it drives me crazy to see the rest go unused. I will be starting our culture today as we’re doing buttermilk fried rabbit for dinner. Hooray!

    1. Thank you 🙂 These recipes are a great way to use up surplus dairy. When we buy heavy cream for a recipe, inevitably we have some left over, so I just toss in a bit of buttermilk and viola—creme fraiche.

      Yum, buttermilk fried rabbit. That sounds delicious!

  3. So nice to have all these instructions in one place. I have made creme fraiche, but not sour cream or ricotta. I would like to try them.

    1. Thank you. I think you’ll like these. You already know how good homemade creme fraiche tastes 🙂

  4. I made homemade creme fraiche for our mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving–we have buttermilk that comes in glass, and added that into the heavy cream. Works perfectly!

    1. :O

      I have to try that. YUM! I haven’t seen buttermilk in glass here. That’s great. I had to buy a small carton to get mine started 🙁

      1. Yes, we are lucky! Buttermilk pancakes, creme fraiche, the possibilities are endless 🙂

        PS-the new site layout looks nice!

      2. That’s what I tell people about buttermilk. If they don’t like to drink it, they can use it in so many delicious recipes.

        Glad you like the new layout. I thought I would try something new. Thanks 🙂

  5. This is so useful – thanks. I had to look up what half and half is as I don’t think I’ve seen it in the UK or Australia, and it seems like I could make it with a mixture of heavy cream and full fat milk.

    1. That should work and it sounds delicious. Let me know how it goes. By the way, I finally bought some dried fruit and nuts for your overnight oatmeal.

      1. I will do. Hope you like the oatmeal 🙂

  6. J’adore creme fraiche! Oops, sorry–got carried away! Love creme fraiche and make it myself all the time. Thx for the other ez peasy recipes and the reminder that simple is, er, simpler! 🙂

    1. MDR (lol). J’adore toutes les choses francais, comme Justin Trudeau :p.

      I love simple! I could call my blog self-sufficiency for the lazy.

  7. Can I share this post on my page this week? I had no idea I could grow my own buttermilk!!

    1. Sure! Spread the word. Thank you 🙂

  8. Wow! You make it seem simple and straight forward😄

    1. Thanks! They are pretty easy to make.

  9. And I was just looking at that (glass) container of buttermilk I used to make creme fraiche and saying “what else can I make besides buttermilk pancakes (of course!)?” Thanks for the handy tips!!! And Happy New Year!!!

    1. You’re welcome. Buttermilk is so versatile. I used to buy heavy cream or half and half for recipes, not use it all and it would just spoil in the fridge. Now I just toss in some buttermilk, let it sit and voila. I love it in pancakes and waffles too, btw. Happy 2105 to you too 🙂

  10. Oh I am so happy to see you have dairy ferment recipes- I’m pinning them all! I am “maybe” getting a milk cow this year and keep reading all the crazy dairy ferments in the Art of Fermentation book, but you have gorgeous pictures here. I did my time with goats and can’t wait to Mooove up in the world to a milk cow who I can make golden raw butter from! Do you have access to raw milk where you are?

    1. Thank you! If you’re interested and have time, I’m doing a webinar this Saturday morning on those dairy ferments. They’re so easy though, you can just follow the directions in that post. The Art of Fermentation is my bible. I refer to it constantly. That’s so exciting, possibly getting a cow. I know a goat lady (goat dairy lady?) who makes kefir right after she milks the goats, when the milk is still warm. No heating required before adding the kefir grains. Yes, I can get raw milk here. Can I make raw butter out of it? It’s whole milk, not cream. I would like to try making buttermilk out of raw milk. I haven’t done that yet. Have you? So many ferments, so little time…

      1. How cool is that! I may try to join in on that for extra inspiration! When I was milking I did keep a buttermilk culture for cheese making and using in pancakes, it was so awesome, and I still have some in the fridge—buttermilk keeps FOREVER, Although I never had luck reigniting the culture after a whole winter, it was fairly easy to make again with raw milk. have you heard of the Dr. Fankhauser site? It’s where I learned a whole bunch of culturing/cheesemaking techniques from scratch. here’s the link:
        Yes warm milk right into the cultures, so brilliant- a luxury only for those who milk! I would sometimes bring my mug of coffee out and make a latte as I milk, right into the cup!

      2. Oooh, I make buttermilk sourdough waffles a few mornings a week. They’re delicious and they use up my discarded sourdough starter. I hope you can make it to the webinar. I’d like to hear more about your buttermilk. Thank you for the link. The site looks great. Rennet is holding me back from making harder cheeses and I just read up a little on it.

        I would love to add cream directly to my tea from the cow. That’s just awesome!

  11. I need your help, Zero-Waste Chef! I followed your sour cream recipe, but it came out rather stringy like glue. Can you tell me what happened? It smells fine and tasted fine, though not very sour.

    1. Oh no! I haven’t had that happen. Did you use cultured buttermilk? Mine has had some clumps of fat in it that I just stir to make the sour cream smooth, but I haven’t seen strings. If it’s very runny, it will thicken up after you refrigerate it. Do you want to send me a pic?

  12. We eat plenty of sour cream at my house, but the organic store sour cream is expensive and also, naturally, has the non-recyclable plastic cover beneath the lid. I tried this sour cream recipe of yours (thank you for posting, by the way), but it didn’t work out. I have zero experience with buttermilk, so I’m not sure if the “cultured buttermilk” is just the regular stuff you can buy at the store. Once I have the proper ingredients, I will try it again. What kind of “warm spot” do you recommend? Our house is very old and not properly insulated, so it is quite cold; at what temperature should it sit at? Please help 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hi Nadine. I’m sorry to hear your sour cream didn’t turn out. I bought buttermilk to get mine started last year and I think it was Organic Valley brand. The first ingredient should be cultured milk. Yours may have contained buttermilk flavoring rather than cultures. The cultures transform the milk to buttermilk. If you house is cold, you could set the buttermilk on top of the fridge. That’s usually a pretty warm spot. I used to put mine in the oven (it has a pilot light) and it’s pretty warm in there (must be 80 degrees or so) but now I just leave it out on the kitchen counter and that does the trick. I hope this helps 🙂

      1. Thanks for the tips! Second try today.

      2. It did! Are there tricks to make it thicker?

      3. Yay! It should thicken up if you refrigerate it for a while.

  13. This is absolutely amazing! In moving towards a zero waste lifestyle, I was totally stumped when I opened my fridge and saw sour cream, one of our weekly staples, in its plastic container with no idea how to replace it. It was one of the foods I didn’t know how to prepare or shop for without waste. You’re a lifesaver. This whole website is incredible 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Amanda! Sour cream is a dilemma. I made more on Saturday night and tasted it yesterday. So good! And it’s incredibly easy to make. Enjoy 🙂

  14. […] am not just talking cleaning products, but also frequently used food items, like granola bars, sour cream, butter, and even chocolate syrup.  DIY food also ensures you know exactly what is going into your […]

  15. Late to the game, but I had to ask…. how long does the sour cream last in the fridge?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I have some in there now that I made almost three weeks ago. I think it’s near the end–I need to polish it off today or tomorrow. So I would say a few weeks.

  16. Any recipe for the lactose intolerant? We buy creme fraiche in plastic containers, but it’s near lactose-free. Also we buy Oatly’s cream made from oats.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi there. I’m sorry I don’t have anything at the moment. When I ferment milk for creme fraiche, the bacteria eat the lactose but I don’t know how much lactose remains in it. I have recipes for almond milk and rice milk on here. You can make cheese from nuts (cashew cheese is one) also but I haven’t tried that yet either. I’m going to have to. It sounds really good.

  17. Please help! My first batch of yoghurt turned out fantastic, but the second batch yesterday is too sour – to a degree where it hurts your tongue, if you know what I mean. It doesn’t smell bad, it’s just very weird aftertaste.
    What can I do? Can I still make something from it, or will I kill my family with it? And more importantly – can I still use part of it to kick off a new batch of yoghurt (which I’ll try to let sit a shorter period of time..).

    I really really don’t want to throw it away!

  18. Hi. I’ve been making my own yoghurt for a while now, and just tried your creme fraiche recipe. It worked fine. I don’t use much buttermilk, so I froze the remainder in tablespoon portions and in future will just thaw them out as I need them. (In theory, the bacteria just go dormant in the freezer. I haven’t personally tested that yet, but the results of a Google search suggest freezing buttermilk should be just fine.)

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Lee Louise,
      I’m glad you like the creme fraiche. Yes, that should work. I freeze fruit scraps for fermenting scrap vinegar and it works well. Ginger bug for ginger beer also works. That’s a great idea to freeze the extra buttermilk. You need so little.
      ~ Anne Marie

      1. Due to a malfunctioning freezer, I found myself with roughly half a litre of previously-frozen buttermilk to use up. Some went into a frittata, some into a rather lovely plum-cinnamon ice cream, and the tail end made a batch of creme fraiche, so I can now confirm that that does work. Luckily a second jar of buttermilk cubes survived intact in the still-cold bottom of the freezer, so I still have my starter.

  19. […] had to plan ahead more. Gone were the days of running to the store for a plastic tub of sour cream (today we make it but do need 24 hours for it to culture). With our closest farmer’s market running only once a week, we had to get more organized. If we […]

  20. I just made my first batch and am a little worried! It has more of a sour taste, almost like spoiled milk. Is there anything I can do to salvage it (add salt, etc.)? And, is there any chance the half & half could have spoiled while it sat out?

    1. Hi Carrie,
      Did you make sour cream? It could be that the buttermilk wasn’t cultured buttermilk, but rather flavored buttermilk and didn’t ferment. If the half and half went south, that might explain why.
      ~ Anne Marie

  21. Have you ever worked with raw milk in any of these recipes before? I’m wondering if the raw milk could be a substitute for half and half (which I can’t find zero waste) as it’s pretty much half cream and half milk. Interested to hear if anyone has any thoughts!

  22. Hi! I use only raw milk at home. Do I need to alter the culturing recipes at all? Thanks!

  23. Uggh! I just saw that Mary had posted the same question! Sorry! Would love to hear thoughts.

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