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VOL. 40 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 12, 2016

Buttermilk more than refreshing drink

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Buttermilk brings to mind good old-fashioned home cooking. My Granny used it in just about everything, and was never out of it.

In pioneer days, nothing went to waste on the homestead, including the liquid leftover after churning butter. Combined with natural airborne bacteria, this liquid thickened and soured, resulting in buttermilk, which made an excellent addition to baked goods.

It was even touted as having healing properties.

Dairy farmers and country folk celebrated buttermilk as a tonic. Folklore claimed one big glass of the creamy, tangy drink would fortify and fuel you through a day’s work, cure hangovers and, when heated with garlic, cure a variety of ailments and provide immunization against poison oak and ivy.

Pioneer women used buttermilk as soap, believing the flecks of butter brought a smooth and creamy complexion. I’m sure it was smooth indeed.

Buttermilk education

Biscuits are probably No. 1 on everyone’s list, but buttermilk has many different uses.

-- Most people think buttermilk is a buttery, high-fat milk, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Contrary to its name, there is no butter in buttermilk. Today’s buttermilk is made by adding a bacterial culture to pasteurized sweet whole milk, skim milk or non-fat milk, and is usually labeled cultured buttermilk.

-- Buttermilk is high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium and riboflavin, as well as a good source of phosphorus.

-- Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly digested. It is also lower in fat than regular milk, since the fat has been removed to make butter.

-- For those watching their caloric or fat intake, try putting a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk on baked potatoes or in mashed potatoes instead of sour cream or butter.

-- You can also make mock sour cream using buttermilk powder.

-- Buttermilk will last up to two weeks due to its high acidity level, although it is best used within a week for drinking purposes (it will be fine for baking even after the expiration date).

-- The acidic properties of buttermilk make an effective and flavorful marinade, particularly with poultry.

-- It is used as an acidic ingredient in baked goods to combat dingy grayish discoloring often caused by the chemical reaction of blueberries, walnuts and other foods that give off a blue cast.

-- It also promotes browning of baked goods and improves texture. Many prefer dipping meat, poultry and fish in buttermilk rather than milk before coating for frying and baking.

Substitutions:

Yogurt can be substituted for buttermilk, volume for volume, one cup of yogurt per one cup of buttermilk.

Likewise, buttermilk can usually be substituted for yogurt or sour milk. You can also buy buttermilk powder, (dehydrated buttermilk).

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup yogurt

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk plus 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice (let stand for 10 minutes before using in recipe)

1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup milk plus 1-3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar

Buttermilk has evolved with the times, making a mark in salad dressings, soups – even ice cream. Below are a few delicious recipes to try.

One with chocolate, of course, and a new twist on cornbread!

Kay Bona is an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact her at kay@dailydata.com.

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