Sunday, September 2, 2007

Make your own cultured buttermilk

Tired of buying buttermilk in the store? Tired of finding the last bit gone bad?

Did you know you can make your own buttermilk at home? I mean real cultured buttermilk, not vinegar and milk to use in place of buttermilk.

This is as easy as making yogurt. It's the same principal!

You do need some fairly fresh buttermilk. The "Cultured" kind from the store. You need some milk - fresh, canned (evaporated) or powdered.

First step, if you're not using fresh milk, is to prepare the milk.
If it's evaporated from the can, you need to reconstitute it. Open the can, pour the milk into a clean container, add a can of water to the milk and stir.

If it's powdered milk, follow the package for making a quart (unless you want more or less buttermilk, then just mix the amount you need.

For one quart of buttermilk, place 3 1/2 cups milk (any of the above) in a clean container if you want to microwave the milk to warm it. If you want to heat it on the stove, put the milk in a pan. Heat the milk to between 95 - 105 degrees. Don't make the milk too hot or the buttermilk "start" will die, just like yeast or yogurt will.

In my opinion, glass is the best container to make buttermilk in. You can get it really clean - scalded, you can see whether or not it IS clean and you can see how much milk you have left. But you can use plastic, even recycle the original jug that the buttermilk came in. Just get it VERY clean. Wouldn't hurt to scald it. You want bacteria in the container dead, but not the good bacterial in the buttermilk. Don't use a metal container - metal and live cultures just don't seem to mix. The culture will die. Personally, I use a glass Mason jar, wide-mouth if I can lay my hands on one, with the normal Mason lid and ring that fits the jar.

After you have warmed the milk up, take 1/2 cup buttermilk (cold is ok) and add it to the warmed milk. Stir it up good. If it's not already in the container you want to let it incubate in, put your mixture into that container now. Then put the lid on it and let it sit for 8-24 hours. (If you don't have quite enough for 1/2 cup or a little more than 1/2 cup start, don't worry. It will just take a little longer or shorter time for the milk to thicken into buttermilk.)

I put my milk in a quart jar, put my temp probe for the microwave in, lodging it partway down, trying to have it not touching either the sides or the bottom; and set the microwave to 100 degrees. When it dings, I take the milk out of the microwave and then and add the start to the milk. I put the lid and ring on the jar and and shake it. Then I leave in on my counter and go to bed. (Ok, I'm doing this at night, so if you've just gotten up, you don't have to go back to bed for this to work. lol Unless you just want to and then blame me for it.)

When I get up my buttermilk is ready. It will be thickened and smell "buttermilkly". I can cook with it or freeze part of it for later use. My house is around 78 in the summer and 66-68 in the winter and this works well for me. The cooler the house, the long it will take to thicken. If you wanted, you could also insulate the jar by wrapping a towel around it and or sticking it on a heating pad on low, in an oven with a pilot light, or any other way you can think of. If you have a quart yogurt maker, just make this in that. It will turn out just fine, but will be done MUCH sooner. If the temperature outside is between about 70-80 degrees, you can even set the jar in the sun for about 4 hours.

You don't need to make a full quart, you can make a pint, or a gallon if you need it for a huge batch of biscuits.
For a pint, you'd add 1/4 cup buttermilk to 1 3/4 cups of milk. For a gallon, you'd need 2 cups to 14 cups milk.

That's all there is to it. You can continue this cycle for as long as you want to. The only thing that will mess it up is if you get some bad bacteria growing instead of the good. This buttermilk should have a rather mild, buttermilk smell to it. If it smells bad, it IS bad, don't use it.
If you keep everything clean and use a good start - one that hasn't sat in the fridge until it's almost expired, it will work just fine.

Note in behalf of the food police.
It has been said that milk shouldn't be left out for any reason. All I can say is that this is the way I've been doing it for years and the only time I ever had it go bad was when I used a VERY old start or was it very old milk? Either case, it was because I didn't use fresh ingredients and I could smell it was "soured" and not buttermilkly when I opened the container. So I tossed it.

This method is how the older generation cultured buttermilk. (Buttermilk that is left over from making butter is a different tasting product and can't be cultured using this method - because it's not a "culture".)
Also, letting milk "clabber" at room temp is a part of may recipes for cheeses too.

So the Bottom line is : If leaving milk out bothers you or worries you, don't do it. If the milk smells bad, don't use it. I keep mine covered so I don't get any "critters" in it. We have little "sugar" ants that have a nest in the walls of the house. They've lived in the walls for at least 13 years. I knew the people who were in this house before I rented it and no one has been able to get rid of them. I can get them killed off for a week or two, but then they come right back. Even having the pesticide man come spray, doesn't kill them off. (Yeah, I know, but my contract requires me to allow them to spray, I can't afford to live elsewhere and they use a "nontoxic" spray.) Anyway, keep your cultures covered to protect them. In fact, keeping all foods covered is a good idea, no matter where you store them.)

You need to wash out your container with soap and hot water each time you want to do a new batch of milk. If the container your going to use has been sitting on a shelf for a while, rewash it. It never hurts to scald the container. To do this, boil some water in a kettle or a pan that you can control the water flow when you go to pour the water. When the water boils, remove it from the heat and pour it over you container and the lid. Empty the water out being CAREFUL that you don't burn yourself!!! I use canning tongs to empty the water out. I pour the water on jars/lids that are either in my empty dish drainer or in the sink itself. Careful with the sink. My sink doesn't have a flat bottom, so things want to tip over in it. Anyway, when you've emptied the jars, let them cool some. You don't want to put cold milk from the fridge into a jar that's just had boiling water put in it. It will cause it to crack or possibly even shatter. You don't want to know how I know this. ;o()

Now for some history and trivia.

Do you know the real story of how Dixie cups and Mason Jars got their name?

Now you do know about the Mason/Dixon line right? No? Well here's your homeschool American history/geography lesson for the day.

Here is a very brief overview from Wikipedia:
The Mason–Dixon Line is a demarcation line between four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (then part of Virginia). It was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute between British colonies in Colonial America. Popular speech, especially since the Missouri compromise of 1820 (apparently the first official usage of the term "Mason's and Dixon's Line"), uses the Mason-Dixon line symbolically as a cultural boundary between the Northern United States and the Southern United States (Dixie).

Back to jars and cups.
Well a long time ago, back when they was surveying this here Mason-Dixon line, the foreman had to deal with those two good 'ol boys. They drank a lot of water cause it's hot here in the summer. And they was always a fightin' over who's glass was who's. Finally the foreman had had it up to here with their squabblin' and decided he'd settle it right then and there. He handed a cup to one and a jar to the other and said, "Dixie, this here's your cup. Mason, this here's your jar. 'n' boys, I don't want to hear another word about it!

And so to this very day, we still have Mason jars and Dixie cups. ('n' yup, here in the South, people are still drinkin' outta them jar. Some even come with a handle right on the jar, no lyin'! You can sometimes find them at Dollar General or Wally World.)

And that's the truth.

Here are a couple of links to find out more about Mason, Dixon and the reason for the dividing line. (It only came into play years later as part of the North/South divider)


Christel said...

Hi Mama:)

I love your page. I agree, if I do dairy products for my self I leave it at room temperature. If it works I enjoy it, it it doesn't I bin it and experiment some more.

God bless you

Kathy said...

Thanks for posting this recipe -- I've been wanting to make my own buttermilk for a while, and this looks easy enough! :-)

Btw, for the ants -- check out diatomaceous earth. I've heard about it before, but was reminded of it again after reading this post on a blog I keep up with.

bluewolf said...

Thanks for the recipe.

julie_gillette said...

Thank you for the recipe! I have one question. Can you freeze the "starter" buttermilk to use in future batches? I have enough left for one more batch but I am afraid I won't get to it till it goes bad. Thanks!

julie_gillette said...

Can I freeze my "starter" buttermilk to use later? I have enough left for one more batch but I'm afraid I won't get to it before it goes bad. Thanks! And Thanks for the recipe!

Darlene said...

I've frozen it and had it work, but YMMV. It probably depends on how long you keep it frozen. Like anything else, the long it's in the freezer, the more chances of developing freezer burn.