I use a lot of buttermilk. And by ‘a lot’ I mean a ton. Many of my baked goods contain buttermilk. Much of my salad dressing uses buttermilk. And The Evil Genius? He drinks buttermilk. * We go through a lot of the stuff. And I may have mentioned that I live in the middle of nowhere in Amish country before (or a million times before, but who’s counting?) so frequent last minute trips to the store are not convenient.
*Now before any of you out there yawp with a resounding, “EW!” let me just mention that millions of Southerners and displaced Southerners are right now saying, “Mmmmmmmm! A nice tall glass of buttermilk with salt and pepper sounds mighty fine right now.” A reminder: never yuck another person’s yum. Unless we’re talking durian, then all bets are off… (You may want to read about my family vs. Durian.)
There are probably quite a few of you out there saying, “Oh pish,” (Someone other than me says that, right?), “All you have to do is add a little vinegar or lemon juice to milk and you get the same thing. Why buy buttermilk?” See? I just knew someone out there was saying it. Not so fast! It’s not the same thing. To prove my point, I have to make a scientific sidebar.
Scientific Sidebar Alert!
Buttermilk is used in recipes for several important reasons:
- Buttermilk is acidic, so it helps invigorate leavening agents -such as baking powder, baking soda and yeast- when added to baked goods. The acid also helps combat discoloration in baked goods and promotes deep, beautiful browning.
- Buttermilk contains natural emulsifiers; this improves texture and aroma, and extends shelf life after baking.
- Remember how buttermilk is acidic? That makes it a wonderful addition to marinades for chicken and pork. The acid helps tenderize the meat and gives it a tangy flavor.
- You know the ‘cultured’ part of cultured buttermilk? It’s good for you. It contains many active cultures similar to those found in yogurt. Most of the cultures generally found in buttermilk are form the Lactococcus Lactis family and many of their subspecies. Those cultures are what make buttermilk so thick and creamy. And what? Good for you!
Now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about buttermilk let’s get onto the ‘Why make my own?’ thing. Because you can. Seriously. You need more than that? Okay. Also make it because it’s dirt cheap, it’s super simple, it’s really fun and you’ll never run out of buttermilk again.
Hang on one second. Someone out there just said, “I never use a whole thing of buttermilk. What do I do with all that buttermilk?” I’m so glad you asked. How about a few of these ideas:
Bacon and Swiss Rye Muffins These are every bit as good as they sound and as easy as pie. No wait! They’re easier than pie. Pie can be hard.
Buttermilk Cornbread Rounds Based on my Grandma’s Buttermilk Cornbread recipe, these perfectly portioned cornbread rounds fit neatly in the hand and go anywhere cornbread goes, but look cuter doing it! This one’s going a little way back in the FWF archives. When you read it, please forgive the “I’m learning” format!
Buttermilk Pancakes Nothing beats beautiful, light, airy buttermilk pancakes smothered in real maple syrup. Nothing. This one’s also reaching back. Wow. I played around with those fonts and indentations a bit, didn’t I?
Garam Masala Depression Cake from Val. Nothin’ depressing about THAT cake, I’ll tell you. We’re talking about a decadent, Garam Masala flavored chocolate cake with orange buttercream and toasted coconut. Oh my. I only take issue with the number of servings Val specified in it. It looks like a one-person cake to me.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these others…
- Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cookies (Drop scones)
- Extra Crispy Fried Chicken Fingers (The Evil Genius can cook!)
- Cornbread Salad
Are you good and hungry yet? Excellent. Let’s make some buttermilk. I promise it doesn’t take but two shakes.
Homemade Cultured Buttermilk
Scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe!
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk (from the store or home cultured)
- 1 to 2 quarts skim,1%, 2%, or whole milk from the store or raw milk
- 1 clean, dry quart or half gallon jar with a tight fitting two piece lid.
Okay. Ready? If you blink you’ll miss how to do it.
Pour buttermilk (1/4 cup for a quart jar or 1/2 cup for a half gallon jar) into your clean jar. Top off the jar with your plain milk. Tightly screw lid to the jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Place in a warm (but not hot) area out of direct sunlight. Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened. Refrigerate when thick. Use within two weeks. If you re-culture this regularly, you can carry on re-culturing indefinitely. I always feel like I’m stickin’ it to the man when I do homemade stuff like this. Who doesn’t love beating the system?
Now here’s a glimpse of my finished product. Note that mine is super thick. I used raw, whole milk to culture my buttermilk. If you use skim, it may end up a little thinner than what you see here.
Homemade Cultured Buttermilk
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk from the store or home cultured
- 1 to 2 quarts skim 1%, 2%, or whole milk from the store or raw milk
- Also needed:
- 1 clean dry quart or half gallon jar with a tight fitting two piece lid.
Okay. Ready? If you blink you'll miss how to do it.
Pour buttermilk (1/4 cup for a quart jar or 1/2 cup for a half gallon jar) into your clean jar. Top off the jar with your plain milk. Tightly screw lid to the jar and shake vigorously for 1 minute. Place in a warm (but not hot) area out of direct sunlight. Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened. Refrigerate when thick. Use within two weeks.