Today I’d like to talk to you about buttermilk.
That’s what you may be thinking.
Because I use it a lot. And it’s good for you. shh
Biscuits, scones, homemade ranch dressing, waffles, chocolate poundcake, in my smoothies…I use it a LOT.
Since I was already getting fresh milk every week, I decided to try my hand at making my own.
Easiest. Thing. Ever!
And I’m going to tell you how to do it.
Right after we talk about what buttermilk actually is…
I just always assumed buttermilk was what was left over after you made butter. I vaguely remember making butter in a quart jar in Girl Scouts.
We all sat in a big circle and passed the jar around shaking it and singing the Butter Song. Then the leaders poured off all the not-butter stuff.
And I thought that was buttermilk.
And while that making-butter-leftover-stuff might have used to have been called buttermilk, what we call buttermilk now is actually a cultured dairy product just like yogurt.
So to make buttermilk, you simply introduce a specific culture to milk and let it do its thing.
There is an easy way to do this and an easier way to do this. There’s really not a hard way to do this.
Which is good. I like easy ways to do things. Especially good-for-me things.
So let’s talk about the easier way first.
What you need to make buttermilk:
You need milk and you need active culture buttermilk. And that’s all.
Oh, and a quart jar.
And a lid for the quart jar.
But that’s all.
Except maybe a spoon.
And a 1/4 cup measuring spoon.
But that’s all.
Take the lid off the jar.
Put 1/4 cup of active culture buttermilk in the jar.
Now fill the jar to the shoulder with regular milk.
Or shake the jar up.
Then put the lid on the jar.
I suppose if you are going to shake the jar instead of stir, you should probably put the lid on first. Oops.
Culturing your buttermilk
Now let your buttermilk sit in a warm (70-77 degrees F) spot for 12-18 hours. And forget about it.
But just for 12-18 hours.
You seriously don’t want to forget about it for, say, a week or so.
You really don’t.
So it’s a good thing to have it where you will see it, but not fiddle with it.
The cultures like to be left alone when they’re multiplying.
Must be a cultural thing. 🙂
So, after 12-18 hours, if you tip the jar it should be thick and buttermilk-y.
Now put it in the fridge for 6 hours before you use it.
When you want more, take a 1/4 cup of that batch, put it in a jar, add milk to the shoulder, and do the James Bond thing.
Ya know – shaken, not stirred.
Or stir it.
And let it sit for 12-18 hours.
You should be able to do that for a long time if you make a new batch once a week. That keeps the cultures really strong.
And the cultures actually help to preserve the milk. Buttermilk lasts practically forever.
So, if you don’t use enough to make a new batch every week, I would suggest you use the easy way.
This way uses a purchased culture from a cheesemaking place. I like to get my cultures from Cultures for Health. You can find their buttermilk culture on Amazon here.
You use the culture to make what’s called a “mother culture”.
And in an aside, I had teenagers when I first started doing my own cheese and dairy, and the “yo’ mama” jokes and the cutting the cheese jokes were done. to. death.
But I digress.
The Mother Culture
The mother culture can be frozen and pulled out to use when you’re ready to make a new batch.
It just hangs out at freezer camp til you go get it.
I freeze mine in ice-cube trays in 1 Tbsp cubes.
Then I use 1 Tbsp of culture per cup of milk. Ish.
I put 3 cubes in a quart jar and let them melt.
Add milk to the shoulder.
See what I mean? Easy and easier. 🙂
To make a mother culture with pasteurized milk, you just slowly heat the milk to 70-77° F, put it in a jar, add the culture, mix well, put a lid or other cover on it, and let it sit on the counter for 12-24 hours in a warm (70-77° F) place.
If it has thickened after 12 hours, go ahead and put it in the fridge to chill.
If the culture is still not thick after 12 hours, let it sit longer. Up to 24 hours.
Even if it’s not thick at 24 hours, it’s still cultured and will make buttermilk. Put it in the fridge and let it chill for at least 6 hours before you use it.
Using the Mother Culture
After it has chilled for 6 hours, put 3 Tbsp of the mother culture in a quart jar. Add milk to the shoulder (that’s 3ish cups of milk).
Mix, cover, and let sit for 12-18 hours in a warm spot.
Homemade cultured buttermilk.
Chill for 6 hours before using.
I freeze what’s left in 1 Tbsp cubes.
You need 1 Tbsp of the mother culture per cup of milk to make homemade cultured buttermilk.
So you could always just make 1 cup at a time if you wanted to.
When I get down to only 3 cubes left, I use them to make another batch of the mother culture to freeze.
It works like that for a really long time.
If you are using raw milk fresh from the farm, you will need to pasteurize it to make the mother culture.
That helps to keep the buttermilk culture pure and helps it last longer.
Heat the milk slowly to 160° F. Allow to cool to 70-77° F. Put into a jar, add the culture, mix and let sit for 12-24 hours.
Continue with the previous instructions.
See, I told you it was easy!
What is your favorite way to use buttermilk?
Jamie Marie says
Nice post, Thanks for sharing with us on the Homesteader hop!
I always thought it was the leftover liquid from making butter too! This was really interesting and I’m hopeful to try it. Thanks for sharing!
Where do you get the culture to start with
I get active culture buttermilk from the grocery store. It’s usually right next to the milk. Or you can buy buttermilk cultures online. I prefer the Cultures for Health products for my cheeses and ferments. You can also get their products from Amazon.
Lynda Thompson says
This is how my mom made buttermilk when I was a child and I am now 72!!!
Hi Lynda! That’s so cool! Oftentimes the old ways are still the best ways!
Heather T. says
I just made some last week and using it for Irish soda bread. I didn’t follow a recipe just winged it as I’m not new to ferments. Just enough left to make a new batch. It couldn’t be easier.
So glad you gave it a try. It really is so simple!
I had store bought buttermilk, saved the last 1/4c to make my own buttermilk. I used that plus1% milk and followed your directions for a quart jar. I left it for 18hours, but it is not buttery at all. Looks just like regular milk.
Is the problem with store bought buttermilk, the 1% milk or possibly something else. It’s a bit cool in our house so I did wrap the jar in a towel.
You need to use whole milk for making the buttermilk. The process actaully is a very mild curd formation (like with cheese making) that requires the milk fat to work.
As for the store bought buttermilk, as long as it says it has live or active cultures it should work to culture other milk.
Do you think I could reduce the first recipe in half…b So that instead of making a quart every week It would be a little less. That wouldn’t affect the activeness or anything right?
It will absolutely work to reduce the recipe! I’ve done the same thing myself on occasion!
Is this buttermilk suitable for drinking or is it just for cooking?
Hey there Terry!
It’s great for drinking according to my buttermilk drinking friends. 🙂
Stephen Wilson says
Instead of using active culture buttermilk to start the process, can you use a 1/4 cup of active culture plain Greek yoghurt and add that to the milk? The active culture Greek yoghurt contains at least three different cultures.
Using the yogurt will give you more yogurt. It will be quite a bit thicker than buttermilk. But really tasty!
Hope that helps!