One Ingredient: Buttermilk
Buttermilk is a brilliantly simple, brilliantly Southern culinary workhorse. It tenderizes meat, makes baked goods tangy and tender, adds creaminess to mashed potatoes, and where would biscuits (or fried chicken, or pancakes) be without it? People sometimes ask me what to do with leftover buttermilk, but no one should have “leftover” buttermilk because it is so imminently useful. I even use it to make pimento cheese!
What it Is
Buttermilk is traditionally the by-product of churning cream into butter. The cream was left to “ripen” for a few days before churning, so natural bacteria developed. That made the leftover liquid from the churning process thick, tangy, and a little bit sour. These days, milk and cream are pasteurized, which kills off the natural bacteria, so bacteria (usually lactobacillus acidophilus) is added to milk to create cultured buttermilk. Mass produced buttermilk frequently adds other ingredients and thickeners like carrageenan, so I like to stick with small producers.
Where to Get It
JD Farms Country Milk from Kentucky is available in glass bottles around town (The Curb Market, Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Sprouts) and it’s lovely and thick and tangy. Hatcher Family Dairy from middle Tennessee makes a wonderful buttermilk, available locally at Whole Foods.
Make Your Own (Substitute for) Buttermilk:
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (let stand for a few minutes) - or,
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon white vinegar (let stand for a few minutes) - or,
1 cup milk + ½ teaspoon cream of tartar (let stand for a few minutes) - or,
¼ cup milk + ¾ cup plain yogurt!