What is buttermilk?
You might be surprised to know there is no butter in buttermilk, and it has less fat than regular milk. It is liquid that is left after butter has been churned and tastes slightly sour. It’s thicker than regular milk but not as thick as cream. Most people don’t churn their own butter, so buttermilk sold in stores is processed by adding a culture to regular milk and letting it ferment.
How should it be stored?
Always keep it in the refrigerator and leave it out only long enough to use what you need. It can be used for baking even after the expiration date if it is kept cold. When you buy it look for a carton with the latest expiration date so it will last longer in your refrigerator.
Can milk be used as a substitute?
If a recipe calls for buttermilk, and you don’t have any, you won’t get the results you want if you just substitute plain milk. Acids in the buttermilk are what cause the food to rise and give it a special texture. For convenience, a dehydrated version in the form of powder is available. It has a long shelf life when kept in the refrigerator after being opened.
How can you make your own?
Would you like to make your own? It’s easy and that way you know what goes into it.
The easiest way is to make an imitation by putting a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup and add enough milk to make it a full cup. Let it sit on the counter for about five minutes.
If you want the real thing, pour heavy cream into a blender and mix on high speed until butter forms and the buttermilk separates from the butter. Strain it, and make sure none is left in the butter. This is a great way to have unsalted butter to use for recipes that call for it. If you don’t have a blender, the cream can be put into a jar with a tight lid and shaken by hand. The family can take turns!
Is it healthy?
One of its biggest advantages is that it is much lower in fat than regular milk, because the fat has been removed to make butter. One cup has 99 calories, while whole milk has 157! It is also high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus. Drinking it helps to digest food more than regular milk because of its acid content. Calories can be cut by using it in place of sour cream in some recipes.