Saturday, January 12, 2013

Buttermilk: a love story

I knew a lovely woman whom a mutual friend described as having a voice like buttermilk. The sound was husky, scratchy, and raw. I thought he was comparing those qualities to the flavor of buttermilk, but he later explained that the parallel was "you don't like it at first, but it's addictive, and soon nothing else will do."

He might have added that her earthy voice, like buttermilk, is one of those old fashions due for a revival.

Originally buttermilk was related to butter. The farmer would save up cream until she had enough to churn. She would agitate it until the fats formed a golden buttery mass, and the liquid separated out. It might take days to accumulate enough, and the cream would sour. The butter had a "cultured" flavor, the liquid was downright sour.

The sour, low-fat liquid was buttermilk. The farmer might give it to a very thirsty child,or mix it with slops for the pigs, take advantage of its acidity as a souring or leavening agent. It was not considered a gourmet treat on its own.
As time passed, fewer people made their own butter, and those who did used well refrigerated cream  so the resulting liquid was no longer sour. And then, as people do, they started craving that tangy, refreshing beverage they had scorned as waste food when it was abundant. 

Nowadays the buttermilk you buy, and the buttermilk I make at home are made from whole or reduced fat milk. It is inoculated with beneficial cultures to create the sour taste. The butter making process has been left out. 



1 Quart Milk
1/4 cup cultured buttermilk or 1/4 t buttermilk culture or mesophilic culture

Warm the milk to 30 degrees C (about 90 F)
If using buttermilk, add 1/4 cup milk to the buttermilk, mix them together, then mix the mixture into the milk.
If using culture, sprinkle it over the milk and wait 10 minutes for it to hydrate
Mix the milk thoroughly to incorporate the culture
Cover and let sit at room temperature. The time it takes to thicken will vary with temperature. We keep a cold house in the winter, and it often takes 24 hours or longer. Check. When the milk is thick, tangy and sour, it is buttermilk. Refrigerate until needed.


Buttermilk Pancakes

The acids in buttermilk make it very special for baking. It combines with baking soda to act as a leavener without needing to use baking powder - a flavor I deeply dislike. Its acids act as a tenderizer, so pancakes or other baked goods have a very pleasing mouth feel, as though you'd used extra butter.

Done to a golden brown

1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
2 T melted butter

Mix together dry ingredients.

Mix together butter, buttermilk and egg until well blended

Lightly mix wet and dry ingredients. A few lumps are better than an over mixed batter.

Heat a frying pan or griddle on medium high heat. Grease lightly.

Pour out 1/2 cup batter per pancake. Let them cook until they form bubbles that pop leaving holes in the surface. 

Not ready to flip
Big holes that don't close - ready to flip

Flip. Count to thirty and the other side is done. Check the pan often. Too hot and you will burn your pancakes, too cool and they will stick.

I assume you already know how to serve and eat pancakes.

Buttermilk Cucumber Soup

2 Cups buttermilk
2 Cups peeled and seeded cucumbers, finely shredded
1 Clove garlic, finely crushed and chopped and minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 t olive oil
Borage flowers to garnish

Mix it all but the last two ingredients together. Chill. Serve garnished with borage flowers and drizzled with a tiny bit of good olive oil.

Buttermilk Fruit Smoothie

1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cup Frozen Strawberries or Blueberries
1 Cup cut up frozen peaches
Sugar or honey to taste

Add to blender in listed order. Blend until smooth. Drink

A smoothie of buttermilk, peaches and blueberries rivals anything you can buy, make or even imagine. 

It tastes like something woodland faeries might eat.

Buttermilk Spoonbread

1 cup cornmeal
1 1/2  cups boiling water
2 T butter
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t salt
1 t baking soda

Heat oven to 375. Grease a 2 quart baking pan or better yet, grease a cast iron skillet.

Cut up butter and toss with cornmeal. Stir in baking soda.

Pour boiling water over cornmeal mixture and stir to break up lumps. Cool for 15 minutes

Beat together eggs, buttermilk and salt.

Gradually add wet ingredients to cornmeal mixture, stirring well to break up lumps.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes. You may drizzle milk or cream over the surface to keep it from getting crispy (but why would you? I love a crispy surface). Spoon it out onto the plate; the texture is between a souffle and cornbread. Serve hot.


Buttermilk Mac n Cheese

Substitute buttermilk for regular milk next time you make home made mac n cheese. You will love it. You can use cheap, not very sharp cheddar and it will still be really sharp.

Buttermilk on its own curdles when heated. Use a starch (cornstarch, a flour roux, tapioca) to thicken. Don't freak when the sauce separates - wait, stir, and soon it will come together again.

Buttermilk also does wonders for mashed potatoes. Substitute it for some or all of the milk and some of the butter. It adds a hint of tanginess and a punch of richness without adding extra fat.

You can just drink buttermilk, too. But I don't think anyone does.

shared on : Homestead Barn Hop, Townsend house, backyard farming connectionWildcrafting Wednesday,Gastronomical sovereigntythe self sufficient home acrefrugal-days-sustainable-wayssimple-lives-thursday

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