Essentially, buttermilk refers to the liquid left behind after milk has been churned into butter. Since much of the fat from the milk becomes butter, the remaining buttermilk is generally low in fat but still tastes deliciously rich and creamy. It also has a slightly sour taste, which lends buttermilk to be worked into both sweet and savoury recipes. In baking buttermilk helps create a light, moist texture.
While buttermilk is readily available at most supermarkets, it is possible to make buttermilk, or buttermilk alternatives, at home.
Perhaps the easiest way to create a buttermilk substitute is to stir two tablespoons of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk and place it in the fridge. After about 10 minutes the mixture will have curdled slightly, and is ready to use.
If you have a bit more time you can make buttermilk easily at home with pouring cream and elbow grease. Simply beat cream in a bowl until the mixture thickens and then splits into butter and buttermilk. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl through a fine sieve lined with muslin. Gather the butter in the muslin and squeeze to release all the moisture. Press the solid butter into a container for later use. Refrigerate the buttermilk in a glass bottle or jug until ready for use.
This versatile ingredient is welcome in so many dishes! Add buttermilk to cakes, pancakes and muffins for a fluffy, moist texture. Marinate chicken pieces in buttermilk for a tender, tasty meat. Buttermilk also goes great in salad dressings, where its creamy texture and slightly sour flavour really stand out.
Check out these recipes for inspiration on how to cook with buttermilk:
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