Buttermilk: It’s About the Culture

Last week I talked about making butter. Now, it’s time for buttermilk!

But first, as promised, I wanted to explain why butter can be different colors, depending on the time of year. If my family milk cow is eating plenty of grass (spring and summer), the butter I make from her cream will be very yellow. When Sienna is eating mostly hay, because it’s wintertime, her butter will be almost white. The amount of carotene, the vegetable form of vitamin A, in her diet is what determines the color of the butter. Grass has more carotene than hay or grain. Some annatto is often added to store-bought butter to give it the yellow-hue people are used to seeing in their butter. Back to buttermilk…

I keep my buttermilk in a lidded-glass container like this until use.

Traditional buttermilk is what’s leftover after you make butter. I usually put it on my garden. In short, it doesn’t taste good. All the butterfat has been drained from the cream, and it’s only the whey left behind. Not even my pets seem to like this kind of buttermilk. However, I’m sure that’s not the kind of buttermilk you know and use.

Cultured buttermilk is something entirely different. I make this every two weeks or so. This is the creamy, tangy, sour stuff that makes a great ingredient for pancakes, waffles, biscuits, cakes, basically anything high in carbs.

I keep buttermilk on hand, because once you use a culture to make the first batch, you can continue to use the old batch to make a new batch. (Same with yogurt.) Plus, it’s handy to always have buttermilk in my fridge. Not only do I use it to make baked goods, but I also use it to make ranch dressing and sour cream. You can also make buttermilk syrup with it if you have a sweet tooth. Some people will drink buttermilk plain. I don’t prefer it this way, but it is healthy. Like yogurt, buttermilk has probiotics in it.

This is the culture I use to make buttermilk.

Buttermilk is quite easy to make. I will include the recipe I use below. And, once you have it, you can mix it with cream to make sour cream. I have never tried the below recipe with pasteurized milk or buttermilk from the store. So, it may or not work with that, but it works very well with raw milk. I get all my cultures from a great website: New England Cheesemaking Supply Co.

Buttermilk Recipe

  • 4 cups whole or skim milk
  • ⅔ cup cultured buttermilk or 1 packet buttermilk culture

To Make:

  1. Bring milk to 85° F in a saucepan on the stove. (This won’t take long.)
  2. Pour warmed milk into a glass or ceramic container. Add the buttermilk or dried buttermilk culture. Using a wire whisk or metal spoon, stir until throughly combined.
  3. Put lid on container, and let sit at room temperature for 12 hours.
  4. Transfer container to refrigerator. Will keep for about two weeks.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the recipie. I used to order those packets online and take them with me to the mission field and make my own buttermilk since they didn’t sell it in the stores. I’d like to know where you order the packets? It’s been a few years since I’ve done that.

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  2. I make my buttermilk from my butter milk so I waste nothing. I keep a jar going in the fridge. Use some and then fill it up every so often. I despise buttermilk from the store and even the buttermilk I made from those packets isn’t very good. It took months of keeping it going to get a great buttermilk. Mine is like milk soda now and I love it! If I get too much buttermilk, I just make Amish melting cheese with it. 🙂

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