Bakers use a wide array of ingredients to help them get the right flavor and texture for the baked goods and pastries they make. One of these ingredients is buttermilk, a milk by-product used for making fluffier pancakes, scones and biscuits.1
What Is Buttermilk?
Buttermilk has been around for hundreds of years, with the old-fashioned type being a product of churning butter. In the original process of producing buttermilk, the leftover liquid from churning is left to set for a specific time period to let the cream separate, allowing bacteria to ferment the milk and produce lactic acid.2 Today, the product of this process is what’s called old-fashioned buttermilk, as opposed to cultured and faux buttermilk.
In India, buttermilk is called “chaas,” which is a popular drink used as a digestive and disease aid. Through the years, it’s been used for its astringent properties and its effect on swelling, irritation and gastrointestinal conditions.3 It’s also worth noting that buttermilk is rich in a variety of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium and protein, all of which are essential for body processes.4
Cooks and bakers note that buttermilk may be used to make better pastries and baked goods. It’s well-known for improving the rise and crumbliness of these foods.5 However, because some people would rather use shortcuts, faux buttermilk became a thing, which refers to mixing milk with an acidic substance to achieve its distinct tanginess.6 While the flavor might be similar in a way, faux buttermilk might lack some of the components of cultured buttermilk because it is not fermented.
Here’s How You Can Make Buttermilk at Home
While cultured buttermilk can usually be found in your local grocery stores and farmers markets, you can make your own. Not only will you learn something new, but you’ll also be able to control the quality of all the ingredients you’re going to be using. But how exactly do you make buttermilk? Here’s a guide from The Prairie Homestead to help you out:7
- 4 cups raw grass fed milk
- 1 packet buttermilk starter culture or 1/8 teaspoon mesophilic starter culture
- In a Mason jar, gently stir the starter culture into the milk. Cover the jar with a clean towel and a rubber band.
- Avoid capping it tightly with a lid, as the culture needs room to breathe.
- Allow the milk to culture at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. You’ll know the buttermilk is ready when it develops a tangy smell and a thick consistency.
- Store your buttermilk in the refrigerator or use accordingly.
How to Make Buttermilk From Yogurt
While buttermilk is usually made from milk, another way it can be produced is by using yogurt or thick Indian curd. Making buttermilk from yogurt is pretty straightforward, only requiring varying levels of water, depending on your preferred consistency and thickness. Here is a recipe from Epicurious you can follow to make your own buttermilk from yogurt:8
Buttermilk From Thick Indian Curd
Cook time: 12 to 24 hours
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup thick Indian curd
- 1/2 to 1/4 cup filtered water
- To make thick buttermilk, combine 3/4 cup of Indian curd and combine it with 1/4 cup of water.
- For thin buttermilk, combine 1/2 cup of Indian curd with 1/2 cup water.
- Adjust the consistency of the buttermilk by watering the Indian curd down.
How to Make Buttermilk With Almond Milk
Looking for alternatives to dairy products may be one of the most challenging things when you’re vegan. But this doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy products with buttermilk. In fact, you can still enjoy baked goods and other dishes that use buttermilk by using healthy alternatives. To help you with this, here is a guide on how you can make buttermilk from almond milk:9
Buttermilk With Almond Milk
- Pour almond milk in a measuring cup until it reaches the 1-cup mark.
- Mix in the acidic base. Gently stir with a fork or whisk.
- Let the mixture set for five to 10 minutes or until the almond milk thickens.
- Use the mixture as you would use buttermilk in recipes.
Improve Your Pastries With Buttermilk
If you’ve had buttermilk pancakes, you’re familiar with the difference in fluffiness compared to your normal batch. But aside from the distinct texture and taste it lends traditional recipes, buttermilk also provides numerous nutritional components that can benefit you. However, note that not all buttermilks available in the market are made with the same quality. When choosing, make sure that you look for the organic and grass fed type. Better yet, go for the buttermilk available in farmers markets so you’re assured of the quality.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Buttermilk
Q: What can I make with buttermilk?
A: Buttermilk is typically used in making pancakes, biscuits, scones and ranch dressing. You can also use it as a tenderizer to give meats that melt-in-your-mouth characteristic.10
Q: Can you freeze buttermilk?
A: You may freeze buttermilk to prolong its shelf life, but it is not recommended. When buttermilk is frozen, the parts may separate, which will require you to mix it upon thawing. However, even after mixing it, the texture might not be the same.11
Q: Does buttermilk go bad?
A: Yes. Buttermilk can last for several days, but you should always check whether the smell and texture are still right. This will help you avoid accidentally getting food poisoning.12
Q: How long does buttermilk last?
A: Buttermilk manufacturers note that it should be consumed within five to seven days, while others say that buttermilk may be used for up to three weeks if refrigerated correctly. However, the flavor changes as time passes, with 3-week-old buttermilk being tart but missing the buttery taste.13
Q: Is buttermilk good for you?
A: As a dairy product, buttermilk is filled with numerous vitamins and minerals that you may benefit from, including calcium, phosphorus and potassium. In addition, buttermilk is loaded with healthy bacteria, which may help improve your gut microbiome.14
Q: How can you tell if buttermilk has gone bad?
A: Because of its distinct sour taste, it might be hard to determine when your buttermilk has gone bad. However, you can find out through the difference in consistency and smell. Spoiled buttermilk usually develops a grainy texture and an off-smell.15
Q: Can I substitute buttermilk with ordinary milk?
A: If for some reason you can’t get buttermilk, you can substitute buttermilk with either yogurt or ordinary milk mixed with an acidic substance. The acidic base mixed in with the milk will help you achieve the similar tanginess of buttermilk.16
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