Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday's Tips, Tricks and Tid-Bits ~ Buttermilk Substitutes

Buttermilk.  You most likely either love it or you hate it.  I, myself, absolutely abhor the taste of buttermilk on its own but love "buttermilk" recipes (i.e. buttermilk biscuits, buttermilk pancakes, etc).  I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I'm not sure I've ever actually tasted plain buttermilk, but the thought of thick milk kind of makes me sick.

But what exactly is buttermilk?  The lactic acids in buttermilk are what gives it that sour taste, while the thick texture of buttermilk comes from the slightly curdled proteins.  Buttermilk is in between milk and cream as far as the thickness of the liquid is concerned, and it is also lower in fat than both regular milk and cream.

A quick history lesson in buttermilk from way back when: If you wanted to make buttermilk back in the olden days, you would first take the milk you milked from Bessie the cow and let it stand in an open container at room temperature for a few days.  Over these few days the richer cream would separate and form a thick, gunky (is that a word?) layer on the surface of the milk.  During this time the milk would have fermented a little bit from the lactic acid-forming bacteria in the milk.

Yuck, right?  Well, sort of.  But the good part about this gunky layer is that it allowed this bacteria to form, which in turn lowers the pH of the milk making it harder for unhealthy microorganisms to begin cropping up.  And this, my friends, made the butter easier to churn.

Once the butter is churned, the liquid that is the byproduct is buttermilk.  Ta da!

These days we have the technology available to make this whole process seamless.  Instead of letting the milk ferment naturally, lactic acid is simply added straight to the milk to produce the same sour/curdled effect.  Dairies also tend to add tiny specs of yellow colored butter to make it seem more old fashioned.

Ok, that's all great, but what about a substitute for buttermilk?  So many recipes call for it, and I never seem to have any in the house.  And when I do I'm frantically trying to whip up every "buttermilk" recipe available for fear that it will go bad before I can use it all.  Fortunately there are several substitutes for it though.

Remember Tuesday's post from last week that talked about how baking soda will react and produce a rising effect once combined with an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk?  If not, check it out here.  Well the important part to remember is that it's the acid in buttermilk that you need.  And luckily, there are several other ways to get that acidic component in regular milk.  Below are some substitutions....

Lemon Juice
In a one cup measuring cup, add one tablespoon of lemon juice.  Then top off the cup with skim, regular, or whole milk.  Allow this mixture to sit for 6-10 minutes, and you will have milk that is both acidic and curdled.

Use the same method as the above one listed for lemon juice.

Cream of Tartar
Mix one cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar.  To keep the cream of tartar from getting lumpy, take 2 tablespoons of the one cup of milk and mix it together with the cream of tartar.  Then add this mixture to the rest of the milk.

Also, I can't close without wishing everyone a happy Valentine's day!  Stay tuned from some fun VDay recipes later this week!


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