Traditionally, buttermilk was the low-fat portion of milk or cream remaining after it had been churned to make butter. These days, buttermilk is made from nonfat or low-fat milk “cultured” with lactic acid bacteria. Cultured buttermilk is low in fat and calories but maintains its characteristic tangy flavor and creamy texture.
- The culture in cultured buttermilk is Streptococcus lactis, which acidifies and thickens the buttermilk. Leuconostoc citrovorum cultures may also enhance buttermilk’s butter (diacetyl) flavor.
Buttermilk Storage and Handling
- Store buttermilk in a refrigerator set at 38°–40°F in the container in which it was sold.
- The “sell by” date stamped on buttermilk containers tells you how long the retail store can keep the product for sale on the shelf.
- Buttermilk may separate as it sits, so shake well before using.
Cooking with Buttermilk
- In baked goods, buttermilk’s natural acidity creates a rich, tangy flavor and tender crumb that bakers often prefer over commercial baking powder.
- Buttermilk’s acid, as a component of marinades, tenderizes meat and poultry.
- Buttermilk adds low-fat creaminess and flavor to soups, salad dressings and sauces and can be used as a substitute for yogurt or mayonnaise in some recipes.
- Don’t forget the buttermilk in Southern favorites like biscuits, buttermilk pie and classic cornbread.
- Because of its low-fat and high-protein content, buttermilk may curdle at preparation as possible, heat gradually and stir gently.
Real-World Tip Get a Buttermilk Boost
When making dressings and sauces with buttermilk (such as ranch, blue cheese and slaw dressings), “reinforce them” with a small amount of powdered buttermilk. You’ll get extra-tangy buttermilk flavor with a thicker, creamier texture.