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Buttermilk - True or False?

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So I recently received some of my grandmother's old recipe cards and some of the dishes call for sour milk, which I have heard is what buttermilk used to be called (or maybe still is by some people)???

Additionally, I've heard you can make your own "sour" or buttermilk at home by adding 1 tsp. of lemon juice, per cup of milk. Again, anyone heard of this one? I think it would be great as I always end up buying buttermilk and throwing some of it away because I never seem to use the whole container.

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  1. Yep, you can approximate buttermilk by adding a little acid (either lemon juice or vinegar) to regular milk. I just add a bit at a time, mixing with a spoon, until it starts to curdle. I wouldn't use it in every recipe (never in buttermilk pancakes, for example), but it works for many.

    1 Reply
    1. re: modthyrth

      "Fake buttermilk" pancakes are better than no buttermilk pancakes.


    2. you can use 1 TBSP. of lemon juice or vinegar-allow to stand for 5 min.or so

      1. great! glad to know this "trick" works. I hear you on the buttermilk pancakes though.

        1. Both my grandmothers used to keep soured milk in the fridge to use in those recipes.
          Sometimes it was really curdy. But they always had buttermilk as well, so....I would think they were interchangeable.

          1. If you keep plain yogurt around, I've also found that I can approximate buttermilk by thinning it a little with water or milk until it is the right consistency.

            I also find, like a lot of cultured milk products, buttermilk generally keeps for quite a while past the expiry date. Pour a little in a cup and give it a sniff.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Ferdzy

              yeah, me too. i have an expired carton of buttermilk i am still using. weird how buttermilk keep for so long. i just rescued it from my husband's hands the other day. he only looks at labels...

              i like to keep a carton in my fridge nonetheless because i bake on the wknds. And it is nice to be able to whip up pancakes on a whim.

              make ice cream with the leftovers!

              1. re: jeniyo

                I throw buttermilk out when it starts kicking at the refrigerator door...

                1. re: jeniyo

                  "weird how buttermilk keep for so long"

                  The lower pH helps keep it from spoiling fast.

              2. Or try dried buttermilk powder. Works great. Just baked a loaf of buttermilk bread using it and it came out better than the loaf w/ fresh. it's at most markets in the baking aisle or next to the nonfat dry milk. adam

                2 Replies
                1. re: adamshoe

                  I think I have some in my pantry, I'll have to look ... but I use fresh buttermilk a lot. fried fish, some chicken etc

                  1. re: adamshoe

                    Agree! Saco dried buttermilk is great, convenient, and, best of all, it is REAL buttermilk (what's left over after butter has been churned), as opposed to "fresh buttermilk" which is actually a cultured milk product.

                  2. In the "olden days" (as my little boy used to say) regular milk that you had delivered to the door by the milkman was usable in recipes when it went sour. However, present day milk doesen't seem to sour anymore....I have tried! It just goes really bad and becomes putrid, only good for throwing into the sink drain. Doesn't coagulate....becomes watery, smells bad and (if you dare) tastes even worse!!!

                    Don't know why or how they process the modern milk these days (could be the ultra pasteurization), but it doesn't just sour as it used to. When I was a teenager sour milk and buttermilk could be used interchangeably, but not anymore! If your grandmother's recipe calls for sour milk, store-bought cultured buttermilk will work just as well.

                    That's another "pet-peeve" of mine........it's just about impossible to get genuine, natural buttermilk. You would have go go to a dairy farmer that makes his own butter, since buttermilk is a natural byproduct left from regular milk after the butter is churned.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Lisbet

                      Homogenized milk, as my mother used to complain, "doesn't sour, it just ROTS!" When I was a lad even the grocery stores carried both homogenized and plain pasteurized milk, the latter being what will sour usefully. We preferred it because the fat never got broken up into miniscule droplets, but stayed in fairly large drops that would float to the surface. We used to fight over who'd get the first glass, since even though Mom would shake the bottle or carton vigorously the first milk out was always extra creamy.

                      1. re: Lisbet

                        I have a carton of buttermilk that I recently bought that was clumpy when I opened it. So the coagulation is totally normal? I wasn't sure whether to use it...

                        (I'm in Germany, by the way, where milk products are sometimes different.)

                      2. Here is a link to a very good information article on Buttermilk


                        1. I've been making my own yogurt recently and usually let it drain a bit (cheesecloth or coffee fiter) to thicken.
                          I use the resulting liquied - whey - as I would buttermilk in baking: cornbread, quick breads, etc...

                          1. I'm lucky(I am sure some of you may not think so) beacuse I love to drink buttermilk, but like milk you can freeze it, just allow for some expansion in the container you put it in.

                            1. I was the recent recipient of my husband's grandmother's cookbooks, and one of her cookbooks (which was quite old, even for her time), has recipes for Sour Cream Biscuits, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Sour Milk Biscuits. All right next to each other... which made me think that old fashioned sour milk is not the same as buttermilk. When I looked it up, here's what I found (on Wikipedia):

                              At least until the 1920s, there was a clear distinction between sour milk (fermented or cultured milk) and buttermilk,[9] where buttermilk was the sour tasting thin liquid leftover from making butter.[10] Today, in North America, either cultured buttermilk, also commonly known as buttermilk but not the same product as the aforementioned buttermilk, or milk soured by the addition of lemon juice or vinegar is often used when sour milk is needed in a recipe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soured_milk

                              1. We use almond mylk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar per cup of mylk in recipes which call for buttermilk.

                                1. I use buttermilk in my red velvet cupcakes, corn bread, and I marinate my pork chops & chicken in buttermilk & hot sauce before frying.

                                  1. Here's my buttermilk substitute.
                                    I make homemade yogurt so I always have it on hand.

                                    2/3 cup milk
                                    1/3 cup plain yogurt
                                    1 tsp vinegar
                                    Mix well and allow to sit for 5 minutes before using.
                                    It's thick and tangy like buttermilk.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Antilope

                                      Thanks for this posting. I was vaguely aware that milk and yogurt could be combined to make a good buttermilk substitute and I've been meaning to look up the exact proportions some day. Today's the day! Like you I almost always have homemade yogurt on hand but almost never have buttermilk when it's needed.

                                    2. I used to make my own butter using heavy cream poured into a glass jar and shaken till the butter fat starts rolling around inside. It can make your arms tired but the butter is very sweet and clean tasting. The left over liquid is buttermilk, it can sour if left out at room temp. for a while, but not like it did in the days before modern processing.

                                      The reason why our milk when it goes bad is horrible is because of the killing of the natural bacteria through pasteurization, they would sour the milk and make it still usable. Today they are gone and the milk goes bad becoming only good for the compost heap.

                                      Finding a source for raw milk can solve some of this for you. If you can't get that then making do is all you have left.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ceojr1963

                                        Please see my note above: plain pasteurized milk will sour just fine; as soon as it's opened it gains access to all the natural bacteria it's gonna need. It's HOMOGENIZED milk that will not sour naturally without going nasty. We always had sour milk around to use in baking, until the dairies stopped selling anything other than homogenized milk.