Saturday, September 24, 2011


Buttermilk is a fascinating ingredient.  Just the name pulls memories of my Dad and Grandma Ford, all the Southern things I learned form them.  Biscuits, pancakes, salad dressings, all made richer and better with Buttermilk.
From cooking at the monastery I learned a few Lituanian recipes, one of which was what I came to call "Pickle Soup" but what was actually a luscious Buttermilk and Beet soup.  Refreshing on a hot summer day.

So, with all this I wanted to buy some buttermilk recently and make some things, and it was $4.59 a quart!!  Geez!  I think they must be getting it from Golden Cows!
The solution is, of course, to make it myself!
There are lots of "recipes" that say add vinegar or lemon juice to milk to make "buttermilk" but that's just soured milk,  It works in recipes where you need an acidic ingredient to help the leaveners, but it's NOT BUTTERMILK!

Buttermilk is a cultured item, like yogurt or sour cream. In the US it's usually commercially made with skim milk--they have to do something with the stuff they get butter from after all.  Traditionally, I think that's where it originated, so its a good start.

I made some once with yogurt as the culture and it turned out pretty good.  The easiest way (though not the cheapest) is to get some commercially made buttermilk and use that for the culture on your new batch.  You can keep using the last little quarter cup to keep regenerating a quart of buttermilk practically forever--if you use it often enough, so it might be worth buying that first quart.  Just make sure it hasn't been Ultra-Pasteurized, and has Live Cultures otherwise you'll get warm milk as a result.

Homemade Cultured Buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (storebought or leftover from your previously made batch)
  • 1 quarts skim,1%,  2%, or whole milk ( or from your own cows)
Also needed:
  • 1 clean, dry  half gallon glass canning jar, the kind with the sealing lid.
 Combine the buttermilk and plain milk in the jar and tighten the lid.  Shake it thoroughly for a full minute. If you warm them to about 80deg F  the process will start sooner.

Place in a warm room temperature, dark place--the inside of an unheated oven (no pilot light), or a kitchen cabinet is good--no hotter than about 85deg F.  Let it sit there for 12 to 24 hours, until thickened.  Refrigerate it when thick and use it within two weeks--saving the last 1/4 c for your next batch.
If you have big baking plans coming up, double r triple the recipe to have enough on hand a day or two before you need it.  

If you want to use yogurt, just combine the warm milk with a csmall, 6-8 oz container of live culture plain yogurt and follow the same instructions.  
If you're in an experimental mood, try live cultured sour cream, too.