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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.