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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making Home Made Buttermilk!

I have always loved buttermilk.  My mom used to drink it straight in the summer to keep cool (that's a scientific fact!) and my grandmother made the most delicious buttermilk frosting among other things (also a verifiable fact!  :) ).  It was a staple in our house for baking, dressings, marinating 'oven fried chicken' and even for skin treatments.  I don't know if I ever opened the fridge without seeing a small pitcher there on the upper right shelf.

Only recently did I make the connection that it was a PITCHER instead of a carton. My family never bought buttermilk.  They made it.

Of course, we're talking about cultured buttermilk here, which is what most people think of nowadays when you say the word.  Traditional buttermilk is the very thin, watery liquid left over from the process of making butter (it's also wonderful for baking and a nice little drink on its own!).

Cultured buttermilk, on the other hand, is what you find in stores today: rich, thick, tangy sunshine.  Kind of like drinking liquidy yogurt. Yum.

It's good for you, too. . .contrary to what the name might suggest, it is not buttery.  It's actually very low in fat and can be made from skim milk. Here are some tidbits from the website Livestrong:
Because buttermilk contains healthy bacteria called probiotics, it passes easily through the digestive system. The living microorganisms transfer into your stomach and colon to help you maintain a healthy digestive system. In the gut, probiotics manufacture vital vitamins, protect your colon from carcinogens and other free radicals and boost your immune system. The probiotics in buttermilk protect your body against cardiovascular disease by helping your body manufacture important nutrients necessary for optimum health.

Like milk, buttermilk is loaded with B12, phosphorous and potassium, important sources of energy. It is high in protein, an effective muscle-building ingredient. Buttermilk also is an effective source of calcium, vital for strong teeth and bones. Sufficient calcium intake helps you prevent osteoporosis and assists your body with blood clotting. It helps reduce muscle contractions and is necessary to maintain a regular heartbeat. The calcium in buttermilk is higher than that found in whole milk because calcium does not reside in the fat found in dairy products.

Interesting, huh?  Who knew?  Cardiovascular health?  Boosted immune system? Digestive improvements?  Count me in!

Store bought stuff can get pricey, though. . .Safeway at the moment has Knudsen's brand for about $3.19 for a quart.   That's over $12 a gallon!  While I know that you can get store brands a bit cheaper, or catch it on sale, it's still a whole lot more than regular milk and a sizable financial investment. . .especially if you use it frequently.  So what's a modern pioneer to do?  Make your own!

And boy, how easy it is:  Get a clean quart mason jar, add a half cup of cultured buttermilk (either from the store or a friend's starter), and then add milk until you are about an inch from the top. . .skim, low fat or whole fat works.  Replace the lid and shake to mix very well.  Set in a warm spot (I put it behind my wood stove in the winter), out of the sun.  Leave it alone for 24 hours.  It will become thickened in that time and ready for use.  Refrigerate whatever you don't need immediately and use within two weeks.  You can keep re-culturing milk pretty much forever, too, to keep a constant supply of fresh buttermilk at hand.  Easy!!

Drink a small glass each day to boost your overall health or use in your favorite food and beauty recipes. . .and don't forget to keep it going!


  1. Also important to know that the 'shortcut' buttermilk substitutes (ie: adding a little lemon or vinegar to milk) are NOT the same thing as cultured buttermilk. It's mostly the cultures that grow and multiply that offer the benefits, so though the shortcut versions taste similar, they are worlds apart. :)

  2. While I had good success making buttermilk as you instructed, when I used my homemade buttermilk as a starter, it did not work. What do you think I did wrong?
    I looked at the ingredients for the store-bought buttermilk I initially used. It does have salt. Would that somehow affect my results? (Still, it doesn't make sense that it would work for me to make homemade... but then not later... hmm...)

    1. I haven't had that problem yet. . .but I make it regularly so it might be that my reserved starter is always pretty fresh. If your starter is pretty fresh, then you might try setting it out on the counter for awhile to let it come to room temperature. 'Wake it up' with a tiny bit of sugar and then add to your fresh milk after at least four hours on the counter. If you don't make it regularly, add a little milk (a tablespoon should do) every 2 or 3 days and maybe a smidge of sugar to 'feed' your starter until you are ready to make a fresh batch.

  3. Okay-- so I followed your advice about adding some milk to my older buttermilk and making sure to let it get closer to room temperature to "wake it up" before starting the buttermilk making process... It worked! However, I did a repeat performance of the first time I tried making buttermilk. I made sure it was nice and warm and gave it LOTS of time. Er, too much time. So I now have (once again) very thick buttermilk which I will dilute and share with another buttermilk-lovin' friend. He's from Virginia and loves to make various chicken-fried items with the buttermilk so he and his family will be STOKED.
    Anyway-- just thought I'd let you know and thank you for your support in my "pioneer endeavors."

    1. I know I answered via another method, but I just wanted to say a big 'thank you' for reporting in. . .it will definitely help other folks who have the same issue! :)

    2. Yes, it's definitely easier to not "reinvent the wheel" or repeat someone else's mistake. I like the idea of sparing someone else the same troubles.


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