It's disheartening when you're adding ingredients of your favorite recipe and suddenly, there it is. BUTTERMILK. Great. Except you don't have any. You don't even bother checking your fridge for a little orange cardboard box with the sunny face on it because although you've spotted it a few times in the market, sighing under your breath about how Grandma must've used it in her deliciously sweet muffins and flaky biscuits, you know that you definitely don't have any. At lease not right now.
And what is buttermilk, anyway? It's liquid, that's for sure. Is it melted butter mixed with milk? No, that can't be it... you've seen it sold in those little paper packages. Could it be extra creamy milk? Like condensed milk? No, then it'd just be condensed milk.
So, what in the world is buttermilk?
Basically it's exactly what you'll want to add to your recipes for the fluffiest pancakes and most cloud-like blueberry muffins. Buttermilk is, quite simply, fermented milk. Not only is it thicker than milk which is one of the first things you'll notice upon opening the container, but buttermilk is also even lumpy (due to the fermentation.) It has a slightly acidic smell, not quite acrid but more like a tangy vinegar-mixed-with-yogurt kind of scent. Don't let the pale liquid fool you, it's one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen.
If you're curious regarding buttermilk's origins, it's actually quite simple: imagine taking whipping cream and add it to your blender (I prefer a Vitamix) on high and you'll eventually have sweet, fresh whipped cream, right? Well, now continue with the process and you'll eventually have butter. Keep going and the butter becomes even more light and fluffy. When the butter cannot be whipped up any further, the liquid at the very bottom is the leftover cream - and is also your buttermilk.
Bet you're heading out right now to get some to try out, no? Well, keep on reading and I'll save you the trip by giving you a buttermilk recipe you can make right in your kitchen, easy breezy - no grocery store trip necessary. Although I will add in the interest of total transparency that the buttermilk recipe I will be offering to you here is more geared toward cooking or baking your delicious creations versus actually chugging. The preferred drink would be best enjoyed fresh and from homemade butter, or from those cute little store-bought orange paper containers!
What can Buttermilk be used for?
Buttermilk actually has many uses, but the more popular include the aforementioned pancakes (hot cakes if you're from the deep South.) Waffles, biscuits, quick breads and other baked goods can benefit from a bit of buttermilk in the recipe.
Since buttermilk contains a variety of acids, adding it to your favorite baked treats will add a balanced tanginess. It also activates baking soda which helps bread doughs rise. Buttermilk also helps to create the most delicate texture for your crumbs. Although typically used in the process of baking, buttermilk can also be used in marinades, as well as salad dressings and some sauces. Blending buttermilk with potatoes can enhance the silky bite of your favorite smashed or mashed root veggies.
One can also enjoy drinking a nice, refreshing glass of buttermilk. While a popular beverage decades ago, buttermilk still reigns supreme so far as having multiple uses and being a treat. Buttermilk is even said to possibly come with some very helpful benefits apart from just being your baking staple.
Buttermilk may also come with health benefits.
Buttermilk is rich in proteins, vitamins and several minerals but low in calories and fats. While buttermilk is rich in B complex vitamins and vitamin D which may be excellent for your health and immunity, it is said that buttermilk may also come with other healthy benefits such as helping with weight control.
There are some who believe that there's a potential for buttermilk to lower blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides. Thus, it is thought that buttermilk may help to maintain cardiovascular health for those who drink it. Regular consumption of buttermilk is said to possibly reduce blood pressure, and thus helps people with hypertension and heart diseases.
Do you have a tummy pain after all those mashed potatoes? Well, a glass of buttermilk topped with either black pepper or coriander is said to assist, particularly following oily or spicy foods. When you consume buttermilk, you may enjoy some skin benefits as well thanks to the probiotics contained in the buttermilk. Because buttermilk can contain riboflavin which helps in the process of converting food to energy, buttermilk may be one of the best choices when it comes to staying fit. It's also said that buttermilk may possibly help in the secretion of certain hormones as well as improve liver function with regard to body detoxification.
Hand over that buttermilk!
You already know how you can create buttermilk from fresh whipping cream, but did you know that you can make buttermilk in your kitchen right now? You probably already have the ingredients on hand!
Fresh, homemade buttermilk can easily be made at home. Simply churn your full-fat cream using a classic hand or electric butter churn. In time, you will notice how the butter collects on the very top. The residue left after removing your fresh butter is your buttermilk.
If you prefer to use your Vitamix or blender, you can find an easy process to create fresh butter here.
No Churn Method:
For each measured cup of whole fat or 2% milk, you will add one tablespoon of acid and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Your acid can be selected from the following: lemon juice, lime juice or white distilled vinegar. *Vegan milk options are also acceptable and will work. The acid will cause the milk to curdle which may cause you to see a thickening, or even a tiny lump or two in your buttermilk. You can scale this recipe to your preferences.
There are times when we just don't have the acids or the milk on hand. I've been there, too! So, here are some handy substitutions for buttermilk that will work perfectly every time.
1. Cream of tartar will be your rescue here. Use 1 3/4 teaspoons of cream of tartar + 1 cup of milk for a recipe if you are baking. Add your cream of tarter in with your dry ingredients, and then the milk part with the wet for the smoothest blending result. This suggestion comes because sometimes, cream of tartar will clump if not mixed into your recipe using this method.
2. Plain yogurt thinned with water works especially well when making sauces, dressings and dips. Marinades also benefit from this trick: simply take some plain, unsweetened yogurt and thin it with cold water until it is the consistency of slightly thickened milk. (Think: condensed milk.)
If your yogurt happens to be sweetened, you can reduce or omit your sweetener in your dressing or dip. I've actually used this trick making slaw and sweet kale salad with poppy seed dressing. Simply consider how sweet you wish for your dressing or dip to be, then add your sweetener as needed once it's made. You can always go sweeter if needed.
Let me know, did you create something delicious with your buttermilk?
Disclaimer: The information included within this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. The reader should consult their healthcare professional regarding appropriateness of this written material for their individual use.