Sunday, March 13, 2011

Did you know? Buttermilk

     I'm not sure if anyone but me will find this post interesting but here goes. I was asked about the fat content of buttermilk. They assumed it was butter and milk combined somehow because of the thick texture, therefore they wanted a lower fat alternative. I thought they were kidding.

    I tend to forget not everyone grew up on a farm, the grandson of two dairy farmers. I have lots of food knowledge I never even think of because of experiences as a child. It did get me thinking, how much do we know about the ingredients we cook with? I'll be writing a series of "Did you know ?" posts in the future to explain what things are, how they work or what you can use to substitute. Now back to the buttermilk.

     As any dairy farmer knows, traditional buttermilk is the leftover liquid from churning butter. It is naturally low fat because the fat has been taken out in actual butter. It has a thicker texture because it has started to ferment, much like yogurt. I used the term traditional because to separate milk from cream, it has to sit; the cream rises to the top to be skimmed off. It is during this sitting time the fermentation takes place.

    With the advent of technology, cream separators, there is no sitting time anymore so buttermilk is infused with bacterial cultures to simulate this. It is then left to sit to ferment.

     To make your own buttermilk, well you can churn some butter. I remember making butter as a kid at Grandma Craig's. We did it for fun once to see how it worked. The other alternative is to introduce an acid, like vinegar or lemon juice to low fat milk. This will simulate the fermentation process.

     In the bottom of a 1 cup measuring cup, add one tablespoon of vinegar. Fill to one cup with low fat milk and let sit for about five minutes. Give it a stir and you have your buttermilk substitute. This only simulates the taste and texture of traditional buttermilk and is only as low fat a the milk you start out with. Strangely enough, this is also the recipe to sour milk if you need it for a recipe like Barb's Rhubarb cake but I digress.

     If there are things you have questions about, let me know and I'll add it to the list of "Did you know?"s.

     Take care, Paul

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