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Dec 8, 2008 08:31 AM

How to make Buttermilk

I saw a recipe that requires buttermilk, about 2/3 cup of it. Im wondering on how to make one. For what I know, you have to combine vinegar with milk, but what's the ratio of vinegar to milk? Can I use evaporated milk?

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  1. 1 cup milk + 1 tbsp acid like lemon juice or vinegar. It would work with evaporated milk, with thickening, but whether that would work depends on the recipe.

    12 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      What do you mean with "thickening"? Is it always 1cup of milk to 1 tablespoon of vinegar? How would I know I did the right thing?

      1. re: Dark Wanderer

        1 cup milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar. You can also use skim milk if you prefer. I believe the reference to 'thickening' was related to the possible use of evaporated milk (thicker). I would go with just regular milk. This is a nice thing to know, because many recipes that call for buttermilk call for 1 cup or less, and I hate to spend the $ for a whole quart.

        1. re: bnemes3343

          Another option for the occasional user is dry buttermilk powder. In baked goods you can add the powder directly to the dry ingredients (several tablespoons), and water to the wet. It does, though, tend to clump if not tightly sealed.

          1. re: paulj

            For the occasional buttermilk user, but real and freeze what you don't use.
            I have 4 half cup buttermilk pucks in my freezer right now.


            1. re: Davwud

              Very interesting. I have always ended up throwing out 3 of the 4 cups in a quart. Any idea how long the frozen will keep?

              1. re: bnemes3343

                Nope. Never worried about it.
                It's usually used within a few months.


                1. re: Davwud

                  i've frozen buttermilk successfully for a year. maybe. . . maybe more like fourteen fifteen months ;-)

                  buttermilk is also good in smoothies, and you can make your own real buttermilk dressing which blows that shelf-stable ranch dressing crap in the grocery store out of the water, if you are looking for ways to use buttermilk up. folks used to drink buttermilk by the glass, in "the old days"-- depending on your culture-- maybe people could revive this?

                  i am seconding the 1 cup milk (whole milk works best ime) plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice method for DIY buttermilk. wait 30 seconds for the milk to sour. add a little more time, with light agitation, if using lowfat milk. if the op just needs 2/3 cup buttermilk, that's a scant 2/3 cup milk and 2 tsp acid. if the op were inclined, sub some sour cream, yogurt, whey, whatever for the b-milk, easy-peasy.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I chug at least a cup of buttermilk on my way out to work every morning. It's delish!

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      My Dad would take a glass of buttermilk and crumble up cornbread into it and eat with a spoon.

                      1. re: jkplady

                        What your Dad use to make sounds very much like pone. Sounds delish! I'll have to give that a try sometime.

            2. re: Dark Wanderer

              Let it sit a few minutes and it gets thick like buttermilk. It's proportionally 1 cup to a tbsp but I don't measure exactly. I am pretty accurate with guessing, so I wouldn't just haphazardly add any amount. If you're baking especially, the extra acid or lack of acid could make a big difference. If it's for cooking, it's not as important.

          2. Is there a reason you aren't gonna just use real buttermilk??


            1. A little food science to support some of the other replies...
              your recipe probably has baking soda in it. BS needs an acid to react/fizz/provide leavening.
              Buttermilk is very slightly acidic.
              If you do not have BM you can 'clabber' your milk by adding approx 1TBSP vinegar or lemon juice to milk - just enough to cause a'll see it
              This works best with whole milk - it will thicken slightly (the proteins are contracting). However if you add acid to skim or 2% you'll likely get curdled milk - which will cause your dish to be 'dry' or rubbery - coagulated (contracted proteins are rubbery). It is added with the milk (as opposed to the eggs) because the milk has the highest amount of 'liquid' to distribute the acid evenly.....
              The critical factor here is the way to carry the acid, not the thickness of the milk, so evap milk is not applicable here....
              Am I being hopelessly precise here?

              4 Replies
              1. re: julibelle

                Why can't you use 2% or lower fat milks? Adding acid to milk curdles it which is how the "buttermilk" here is made. It doesn't matter if the milk is full fat or not. You want the curdling.

                1. re: chowser

                  but with skim milk, for reasons unknown to me, it just curdles like it's spoiled -- little globby chunks.

                  I do use 2%, and it works fine -- just gets thick like buttermilk. (I cannot stand buttermlk, so I use clabbered in recipes, although I'm intrigued by the idea of freezing it.)

                2. re: julibelle

                  Another option is to use regular milk, drop the baking soda, and add (or increase) baking powder. A ratio of 1 tsp of baking powder to 1 cup of flour is pretty standard in baking. This will give you the same leavening effect as buttermilk and baking soda. Yes, you will be missing the acidic flavor component that buttermilk provides. But I wonder how much of the buttermilk acidic flavor remains after reacting with baking soda.

                  1. re: paulj

                    a lot, paul -- I use lemon juice to 'sour' the milk when I make pancakes with a buttermilk pancake recipe -- there's a definite bite there, and a lovely lemon flavor that people rave over.

                    BP just won't give you the same flavor, nor will it give you the same fluff, airy texture that acidic milk will give you.

                3. you could also add half plain yogurt and half regular milk. Buttermilk is milk with Acidopholus spp. cultures.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Bryn

                    Well im actually using it for baking muffins, im just wondering if I can use evaporated milk since its very economical and easy to find ingredients. What could get wrong by the way if I use it for example?

                    1. re: Dark Wanderer

                      In my experience muffins (and other quick breads) are quite tolerant when it comes to liquids like this. I think the simplest thing to do, using evaporated milk, is to use baking powder in place of baking soda, and don't worry about the acid component. You might not even notice the difference if you substituted water for the milk.

                      I regularly make a pumpkin bread that uses both baking soda and baking powder. It calls for milk, but I don't think it is important. I may throw in some dry milk powder. The baking soda apparently acts with the pumpkin puree and/or the molasses.

                      The basic ratio is 1 tsp bp to 1 c flour. I think the equivalent with baking soda is 1/4 tsp, but I'd have to look that up to be sure.

                      Muffin recipes that do not use buttermilk should be easy to find. I'd suggest comparing them with your buttermilk recipe. That should give you an idea of what kinds of substitutions you can make.

                      You could dilute the evaporated milk to regular milk consistency, but I don't think that is necessary, especially if you like the taste of evaporated milk. The slightly thicker consistency of evaporated milk (or yogurt or buttermilk) doesn't matter much in baked goods like muffins.

                      1. re: Dark Wanderer

                        Evaporated milk is just milk that's had half the water cooked out of it. If you want to use evaporated milk, just use half water and half evap milk with the vinegar. How much more economical is it to use that, vs buying a pint of milk?

                        1. re: chowser

                          Or buttermilk??

                          As I said above, freeze what you don't use.


                          1. re: Davwud

                            Making it is easy enough as is the powdered buttermilk. I'd never get around to defrosting it, plus my freezer is full of trash (carcasses, leftover bread, slightly old veggies, parmeggiano cheese rinds, etc.). No room for real food.;-)

                            1. re: chowser

                              Does buttermilk has this distinct smell? How about its taste?

                              1. re: Dark Wanderer

                                Distinct? It's a little like liquid yogurt, I guess, if I had to describe it. I know people drink it but I don't care for it plain. It's easily distinguishable from milk.

                                1. re: Dark Wanderer

                                  It has a buttery smell and taste from the diacetyl (chemical) produced by the bacteria during fermentation. It may also have a "Green apple" smell from acetyaldehyde (another chemical) being produced.

                                  I think using evaporated milk will make the muffin richer and possible firmer in structure (but not drier).

                      2. i've always wondered this, can buttermilk ever go bad? it seemed my grandma would keep her buttermilk in the refrigerator for what seemed forever, or at least until she had made enough cornbread. anyone know how long buttermilk lasts?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: alreynolds

                          In my experinece, something odd has happen for it to grown mold on the walls of the carton. Usually, buttermilk keeps for a month or longer, though I usually find a way to use up the rest before that much time passes. I've found buttermilk six weeks old in the back of the fridge, and had it taste fine, though I wouldn't recommend keeping it around that long. In my house, it's really a year round staple--for baking, fried chicken, etc. There's just not a good subsitute for baking in a buttermilk based recipe, IMO, though there are other recipe formulas that certainly taste good, just different.

                          1. re: trentyzan

                            I forgot to ask, can I use any kinds of vinegar on this? What kind of vinegar do you prefer on this one? How about apple cider vinegar?

                            1. re: Dark Wanderer

                              I use lemon juice, as it gives a nice lemony flavor to my baked goods.

                              if it's a recipe where I don't want the lemon flavor, I use plain white vinegar, as it doesn't lend off-flavors.

                          2. re: alreynolds

                            It can, but in my experience its very difficult to do so.

                            What most people don't realize is that modern buttermilk is just cultured milk. Buy a plastic quart jug of buttermilk. Use it down to almost the bottom. Add milk. Shake it. Leave it in a warm spot overnight. Bam! More buttermilk.

                            I have had the same quart for 4 months. Usually at 4-6 months I use it down and get a new jug to start over. I've never had any problems with the flavor but it thickens and some people are uncomfortable with chunky buttermilk (although it makes great baked goods).