Unraveling the Delicious Mysteries of Buttermilk
By Janet Tharpe


Unraveling the Delicious Mysteries of Buttermilk
Mollie With Hew Italian Cream Cake


Have you ever thought of buttermilk as being mysterious? Does its mere mention make you shake in your oven mitts, the James Bond theme song playing in your head?

Oh wait, maybe it's just me.

For years, this humble ingredient has had me stumped. What do you do with it? Is it for baking or am I supposed to put it in savory dishes?

The answer, it turns out, is a simple "Yes!"

Home cook Mary Lundschen is shedding light on buttermilk and all its many uses in her Just A Pinch discussion group, "Cooking with Buttermilk."

"It is amazing what this ingredient can do for a recipe and how many recipes call for it!" says Mary, whose group members are constantly sharing new dishes that highlight the ingredient.

Buttermilk, I've learned, is simply the liquid left over from the butter making process. And, like butter, it is a delicious addition to both savory and sweet recipes.

Like many, I have fried chicken to thank for my first positive buttermilk experience. It was Virginia Dean's Southern Fried Chicken that got us pulling our way up onto the buttermilk bandwagon. Her recipe will make you look like you're kin to the Colonel!

"Folks young and old enjoy good fried chicken...especially home cooked. My husband says I'm the champion fried chicken cooker. Don't know about that, but everyone who has ever tried mine really loves it, and wants to know how I get it so crispy."

Her secret? Combine a buttermilk soak with a shower of self-rising flour! The richness of the buttermilk adds a truly unique flavor to the chicken and permeates the meat to help seal in the juices. The result is crunchiness to the max.

With buttermilk fried chicken under our apron belts, the Crew and I decided to give old-fashioned buttermilk scones a try. Only we mixed it up a bit and tried our hand at Sarah Byrne's savory take on the traditionally sweet dish.

"[Cheddar-Bacon Buttermilk Scones] are a great breakfast alternative to a sweet scone," says Sarah. "They are a great grab 'n go breakfast when running late for school or work."

The recipe was borne of Sarah's love of all things buttermilk. She began with a recipe that called for cream and baking powder, and swapped those standard ingredients out for her buttery milk substitute. Simple as that!

The more we cooked, the more recipes I wanted to try. The Crew and I even experimented making our own buttermilk by combining milk and simple white vinegar! Start with a tablespoon of vinegar and add just enough milk to come up to the 1 cup line of your measuring cup. Voila, homemade buttermilk! (Insert "Rocky" theme song here.)

But before you go blending your own buttermilk, make sure you truly understand the power you hold in your hands. When used correctly, buttermilk will make you the lightest, moistest, tastiest darn cake you've ever had. It's true. For proof I point you in the delicious direction of Mollie Hubenak's Nanny's Italian Cream Cake.

"My grandmother has made this cake since I was a little girl," says Mollie. "For our birthdays she would always make us the cake of our choice. This was ALWAYS my choice. I surprised her one year and made her one, and she was so excited! Mine was as good as hers, if not better. Shhh!!"

In fact, one of the reasons I love this cake so much is that everyone can create a true dessert masterpiece. Pure Mexican vanilla is combined with coconut and pecans to flavor the tremendously tasty cake. The richness of the buttermilk creates a moist, supple texture that springs back just slightly with that first jab of your fork. Top it off with vanilla-infused pecan cream cheese icing and, well, you'll be the hit of any party!

So there you have it, I've made a new friend in the kitchen. Buttermilk is now a regular performer in my cooking and, dare I say, my new secret weapon. What ingredient mystery shall I tackle next?!




41 Comments

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joanna economakos 2bor0
Jan 15, 2013
You are right, buttermilk is a delightful substitute. Whenever I make a chocolate cake I substitute buttermilk for the milk and what a nice texture this brings. Then put coffee instead of the other liquid in your frosting.
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Heidi Hoerman heidicookssupper
Jan 15, 2013
If I get a quart of buttermilk and use a bit in cooking the rest never goes bad because hubby likes to drink it right out of the container. Recently, though, I've started using buttermilk powder and it's wonderfully convenient to have around.
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kattie dubbs squawd
Jan 15, 2013
looks like both things i was going to cover are already covered above lol
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Eva Wasson kalesoup
Jan 15, 2013
I had a Banana Nut Bread recipe that I have lost. I hope you or someone can help. My recipe was mad in a Blender and it called for Buttermilk in one of it's ingredients. I am lost without my favorite recipe , seems I've no luck with others. Thank you ;hope you or someone can help !
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Colleen Sowa colleenlucky7
Jan 15, 2013
Congratulations to all mentioned in this article! xo
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Jewel Hall 0124
Jan 15, 2013
Congratulations !! I LOVE Buttermilk w/ Keebler crackers. What can I say? I used to milk the cow, let the milk clabber in the churn, then churn it into buttermilk. I would skim the butter off the top and work out the whey so the butter would get solid. People used to have butter molds, when butter was allowed to firm in it, you turned it out and it had a nice design on top. But, please keep the milk cow out of wild onions and bitter weeds. The butter and milk will pick up the taste. I was a back in the sticks country girl....But how precious are the memories !
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kattie dubbs squawd
Jan 15, 2013
i am with you Jewel. i use to milk the cow before going to school and after i got home from school . and i wish i had a dollor for every churn of milk i churned . but i would go bk in a new york min . things were so safe and somple then
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Jewel Hall 0124
Jan 15, 2013
Ms Kattie, I believe we would really enjoy each other's company ! Since we don't live too far apart maybe we could get together when the weather improves and have some great buttermilk. I would LOVE to find some fresh grown buttermilk. It is remarkable !! Infact, I think I might be able to find some. CHEERS !! We can survive Kattie !!
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Carolyn Dyson hauns1
Jan 15, 2013
If you find fresh grown buttermilk please let me know. I use buttermilk in a lot of things especially pancakes, banana bread and so on. happy hunting Carolyn
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kattie dubbs squawd
Jan 15, 2013
lol sorry Carolyn but i live in the city . [ small town ] and don't have farmer friends i wish i did . i like u have to buy my buttermilk at the store . i do add alittle water to it to thin it down a bit and also use powdered buttermilk . hugs
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Cheryl Maxwell kybug
Jan 15, 2013
I always have to buy buttermilk for German Chocolate Cake on Thanksgiving & Christmas, I use some of what is left in the macaroni & cheese. Really makes it rich!
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kattie dubbs squawd
Jan 15, 2013
Cheryl there are lots of ways to use buttermilk . my mom use to make a buttermilk gravy . had not thought of it in years and years . but all this talk about buttermilk jared my memory i guess . lol . ck out recipes useing buttermilk think u will be plesently surprised .kattie
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Jewel Hall 0124
Jan 15, 2013
I have a friend who knows where to buy home grown buttermilk on the honor system. They leave the gallons of buttermilk in the outside frig and you get a gallon and leave your money in a box. Isn't that an amazing thought? I think they screen their customers. I'll check on it and get back to you all.
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kattie dubbs squawd
Jan 16, 2013
sounds good to me
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Melanie B MelBelle
Jan 16, 2013
Janet, beings that you are a Southern girl, I guess I am a bit shocked that buttermilk stumped you. It is truly a Southern staple.