Unless you’re a regular baker, you probably don’t have buttermilk on hand very often. It’s one of those tricky ingredients that doesn’t appear in many traditional recipes, but it’s a central ingredient when cooks to enhance their dishes. Thankfully, it’s not necessary to keep a supply of buttermilk in the refrigerator. The recipe for buttermilk is easy and has only a couple of ingredients. There are also many vegan and dairy-free alternatives for those who have specific dietary requirements.
Traditional buttermilk is the liquid that remains after churning butter from cultured or fermented cream. Though this form of buttermilk is still common in many places, it has become rare in Western countries. Instead, Western bakers and chefs prefer to use cultured buttermilk. Unlike traditional buttermilk that uses natural processes, commercially available cultured buttermilk is the result of purposeful inoculation of pasteurized and homogenized milk using specific bacteria cultures. The bacteria produce lactic acid, which breaks down the milk. Homestyle or acidified buttermilk attempts to mimic this reaction by using food-grade acids instead of bacteria.
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