How to Make Homemade Buttermilk
Thinking about making your own buttermilk? Great idea. Homemade buttermilk is cheap and easy to make. It is also yet another super healthy probiotic, which can assist digestion. Perfect to add to many recipes!
Did you know that buttermilk is also a product of fermentation? For the sake of correctness, originally buttermilk was the leftovers from butter making. Hence the name buttermilk! This original buttermilk contained very little fat. This was due to fact that the fat had gone into the butter. This original type of buttermilk also did not undergo culturing or fermenting. Nowadays however, buttermilk comes from whole milk and is not a bi-product of butter.
Health Benefits of Cooking With Buttermilk
Buttermilk can be the make or break in a number of recipes, such as pancakes, ranch dressing, biscuits, bread, fried chicken etc. Buttermilk typically gives creaminess and tang to dishes. From a culinary perspective, buttermilk can be preferably to regular milk, as it is a thicker consistency and will add smoothness and flavor without diluting your dish.
More Easily Digestible Grains
However besides flavor and consistency – buttermilk can also transform things like grains into a more digestible state for the body! In olden times, many quick bread recipes called for the soaking of flour in buttermilk overnight. This not only gave the breads a light-as-refined-white texture, but also made them more digestible.
How to Use Buttermilk to Make Your Flour Healthier
If you want to utilise buttermilk to make your grain based recipes more digestible all you need to do is follow suit to what the ladies did in days gone by.
- Combine the flour and buttermilk in the called for quantities.
- Leave to stand overnight or for 6 – 8 hours. In this time the microbes in the buttermilk will work on the flour.
Note: Do not use this method with self-raising flour. The moisture will render the raising agent inactive.
Better General Digestion of Food
Beside having the ability to precondition flour and grains into more digestible forms, combining buttermilk with any food will enhance digestion. This is due to the probiotic properties of fermented and cultured foods.
Note: The probiotic elements of buttermilk will only be retained in recipes where the buttermilk has not been cooked, such as salad dressings, sauces, dips and cold soups.
Why Make Your Own Buttermilk
You might be wondering ‘well why should I waste time making buttermilk when I can get it at any store?’ Good question as in this time and place, with the universe speeding up every day, all time is valuable!
Store Bought Buttermilk is Not Cultured
As you can see, plain unassuming buttermilk is yet another probiotic health food. Unfortunately most store bought brands of buttermilk do NOT contain live cultures. They may state on the bottles ‘cultured milk’, but if they have been pasteurized then all probiotics will have been killed.
Sometimes if you are lucky, one might be able to find unpasteurized buttermilk in health shops and at farmers markets. However this is not a given, and it will it a bit more expensive than that of a generic brand. Thankfully making your own buttermilk at home is easy and cheap to do.
Making Your Own Buttermilk
So now that we have established the value of homemade buttermilk – let’s get going on how to make some! The first thing to decide on is your starter. There are three basic methods you can choose from with regards to the starter. However, note that the difference between these is only with regards to the starter culture. The basic buttermilk process remains the same.
Using a Purchased Starter
A popular way to start making your own buttermilk is by using a purchased starter. These starters are quick and easy to use. They also guarantee good results. Before you make a purchase however, there are two types of starters from which to choose.
If you are planning to make buttermilk on an ongoing basis – look for a starter which is of the ‘heirloom’ or ‘re-usable’ variety. These starters will culture your buttermilk, and create a strong line of microbes which will be able to activate successive batches of milk for all eternity. Well, maybe not quite so long – but at least for a decent length of time to come.
The downside to this kind of culture is that if you are not going to be making buttermilk regularly then you will have to keep the culture alive on the side by feeding it weekly.
Direct-set or ‘Single Use’ Starters
Direct set starters are well suited if you are planning to make buttermilk on a less frequent basis. Most of them come in easy to freeze sachets. When you want to make a batch of buttermilk, simply pull one out and Bob’s your uncle. No culture feeding and maintenance between batches.
Just do not buy this type of starter if you are planning to make successive batches of buttermilk.
How to Prep Purchased Buttermilk Starters
If you have purchased a direct-set culture then you will not have to prep it. Merely combine the buttermilk starter sachet with the amount of milk specified in the product’s directions.
However if you have purchased an heirloom buttermilk starter, then the you will need to activate the starter before using it to make buttermilk.
Activating an Heirloom Buttermilk Starter:
The instructions for activating the starter will most probably be outlined on the box. However here is a basic set to give you an idea. If these differ from what is on your product – follow those.
- Select a glass container large enough to hold the amount of milk called for in the purchased starter’s instructions. Glass jars work fine.
- Combine the called for amount of milk and a sachet of starter. Mix well.
- Cover the opening with a piece of cloth, using a piece of string or a rubber band to secure it.
- After 24 hours check to see if the milk has set. If not, leave for up to another 24 hours , checking along the way to see if it has set.
- Once set, cover with a well fitting lid and refrigerate for at least 7 hours
Your starter will now be ready to use to make buttermilk!
Using Cultured Buttermilk
Another way inject the necessary microbes into your buttermilk is to use purchased buttermilk which is fermented and not pasteurized. The best places to look for this would be at health shops, specialty food shops and farmers markets. If you have a friend who makes buttermilk at home -then simply beg a little and use that as a starter.
How to Prep Cultured Buttermilk for Using as a Starter
Once you have found some of this, you can go right ahead and make your first batch of buttermilk. The only thing you need to do is take some of the buttermilk out of the fridge to allow it to reach room temperature. At room temperature the microbes will be more active, and be ready to start culturing a new lot of milk.
Using Raw Milk
Lastly, one can also make buttermilk starter from scratch. What you will need is raw unpasteurized milk. Again, this might be tricky to get hold of, but you only need it to make the starter. Once the starter is active – then you can use ordinary milk once more. Scour the area where you are to see where you can get hold of raw milk. Farmers markets are probably your best bet. Otherwise you can see if there are online organic food outlets who deliver in you area, they might also have.
How to Make Buttermilk Starter from Raw Milk
Step # 1: Pour one cup of raw milk into a pint sized glass jar. Cover with a cloth and rubber band.
Step # 2: Let the jar sit at room temperature for as long as it takes to curdle. This usually takes several days, depending on the temperature.
Step # 3: As soon as the milk has curdled, remove 3/4 of it, leaving 1/4 behind.
Step # 4: Add in 1 cup of raw milk, cover and leave to curdle once more.
Step # 5: Repeat this process of subculturing until the milk reliably curdles overnight. You might have to do this several times.
Once your culture is ready, you can get going with a batch of buttermilk, or simply refrigerate it until you are ready.
How to Make the Buttermilk
Once you have ready to go culture on your hands, it is time to make some buttermilk!
What You Need
- Starter –
Direct set: 1 – 2 sachets
Heirloom: 1/4 cup
Homemade starter: 3/4 cup
Bought live buttermilk: 1/2 cup
- 1 quart pasteurized milk
- Large sealable glass jar with lid
Step # 1: Combine your starter with 1 quart of pasteurized milk . Mix well and screw on the lid.
Step # 2: Let the jar sit in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Ideal temperature is 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit (21 – 25 degrees Celsius).
Step # 3: Check on your buttermilk every couple of hours to see if it is set. The length of time that it will take will depend on the temperature and what kind of starter you used. If you have used an heirloom starter, then it will probably take 12-18 hours. If you have used a direct set starter, then fermentation should take 16-18 hours. If you have made your own starter, it might take up to 24 hours.
Once your buttermilk is ready simply refrigerate and enjoy!
One last thing…
Maintaining Your Starter Culture
If you have used an heirloom starter, bought live buttermilk, or made your own, then remember to reserve 1/4 cup of your completed buttermilk for activating your next batch.
Storing Your Starter
You can store this starter in a separate jar in the refrigerator. The low temperatures will slow down the activity of the microbes.
Feeding Your Starter
Because the probiotic microbes are living organisms, this means that they also require food. If you are not going to be using your starter to make another batch of buttermilk within one week, then it is a good idea to feed your starter. You do so by giving it a little milk to feed on and culture on a weekly basis. 1/8 of a cup should be more than adequate.
Note on Quantities
You do not have to make full quarts of buttermilk if your requirements call for less. If you want to make smaller batches, then stick to a ratio of 1:3 cultured buttermilk to milk to get things going.
And that is that – how to make buttermilk folks. Buttermilk is a really great dairy item to have on hand in your refrigerator for cooking and recipes. Ever made a lovely soup only to regret not having any cream for it? If you have some freshly made buttermilk around – this can be the perfect substitute. Some people also enjoy drinking it straight or adding it into smoothies.
The term buttermilk brings to mind high fat content. But in reality buttermilk is like a cousin to yogurt. As you can see, fermented foods do not have to be exotic in origin and weird and wonderful. Many of our good old staples are in fact fermented superfoods!