History of Dairy Products: Buttermilk

About the dairy product buttermilk, history and information about its production and nutrition, a recipe included.


Traditionally, buttermilk was the liquid left in the churn or drawn off as the butter formed. Usually, flecks of butter were left in this liquid, and the whole provided a refreshing drink. Nowadays, buttermilk is completely divorced from the business of making butter. There is a type of buttermilk on the market which is labeled "churned" but it is actually cultured and then put back into the churn, with butter added, and churned until it takes on the appearance of old-fashioned churned buttermilk. The truth is, however, that cultured buttermilk is superior even to the real churned variety. It is made from skim milk, to which lactic-acid bacteria and bits of butterfat are added, and contains more protein, calcium, and vitamin B2. Churned buttermilk contains little calcium, because cream is a poor source of this vital mineral. Bulgarian buttermilk, sometimes available, is reputed to have special therapeutic qualities, especially for the digestive system.

It's easy to make your own buttermilk at home. Heat 3 1/2 cups of skim milk until it is warm, but not hot, and add 1/2 cup of commercial buttermilk. Let stand overnight, and in the morning, your buttermilk will be thick and ready for use. For added nutrients, nonfat dry milk can be added to the milk before the buttermilk starter.

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