What Is Buttermilk And How To Make Buttermilk

“-give me your cup.
– I don’t drink coffee, thank you.
– Well, now, what do you drink?
– I’m partial to cold buttermilk”

-Kim Darby and John Wayne, in True Grit


Originally buttermilk was the liquid left over after churning butter, hence the name. Bacteria would grow and begin to ferment the lactose found naturally in the liquid (milk), It’s the resulting lactic acid which gives buttermilk its zingy, tart taste.

The reason for using buttermilk in recipes for scones, soda bread, and pancakes is because the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the alkali in the bicarbonate of soda to produce carbonic acid bubbles which cause the bread or scones to rise.

Buttermilk also good used in salad dressings (see recipe below) and as part of a marinade (in both cases obviously combined with some oil) for chicken.


Two methods for making buttermilk:

Method one:

  • 1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup/250 ml full-fat (whole) milk
  1. add the milk to the lemon juice (not the other way around) and leave for five minutes

Method two:

Mix equal quantities of Greek yoghurt with whole milk (again add the milk to the acidic yoghurt), leave for five minutes.


Whichever method you use, add the milk to the acid, and go easy on the acid

For best results, add the milk to the acidic ingredient, rather than the other way around, and allow 5-10 minutes for the ingredients to react with each other. The exact measurements are not critical, so if you only have a teaspoon of lemon juice rather than a tablespoon, for example, you’ll still get buttermilk. Don’t overdo the acid, or you’ll get a sour-tasting result.


Keeping buttermilk

Also, you can refrigerate the buttermilk to use later.


Buttermilk dressing

You can make a very good buttermilk salad dressing with four tablespoons of buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons of golden caster sugar, some smoked salt and Indonesian long black pepper.

Alternatively if you mix buttermilk with mayonnaise, garlic, onion, chives… and dill, parsley, salt and pepper…you get Ranch dressing.


Substitute for buttermilk

In the unlikely event that you can’t make buttermilk, you can substitute for kefir.


Uses of buttermilk – you can use buttermilk for:

  • doughnuts
  • pancakes
  • biscuits
  • salad dressings
  • as a marinade for chicken


More about buttermilk

For more posts about buttermilk on Saucy Dressings, follow this link.

For a specialist book about buttermilk, read Buttermilk by Angie Mosier.


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