One of my fondest childhood memories is my Grandmother Murray sitting on the back porch, churning butter and humming softly. My paternal grandparents were Mississippi dairy farmers and survived the Great Depression by selling their dairy products. Fresh milk, butter and cream were sold to neighbors leaving buttermilk for family use. By definition, buttermilk is the white, sour, liquid by product left in the churn from butter making. The buttermilk you find on grocery store shelves today is nutrient-rich milk that has cultures added to it, which thicken it and provide the tart taste. It is as Southern as cornbread and as essential as a well-greased iron skillet. Any cook can recite the blessings of buttermilk, but here are just a few of my favorites:
Buttermilk is considered a ‘fermented’ or ‘cultured’ dairy food just like Keifer or yogurt. It contains live, active probiotics which keeps the balance of bad bacteria in check in the digestive tract. Buttermilk is low in fat and calories and contains vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus.
Buttermilk is an excellent brine to help tenderize meats and a delicious base for homemade salad dressings. In quick breads, buttermilk’s acidic flavor provides a tangy and sweet addition for fewer calories than whole milk or cream. The rich flavor of buttermilk pairs well with blueberries. Try our Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins or Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream and you will agree.
The smell and luscious taste of Buttermilk Bundt Cake and buttermilk pie connect me to my past. When I cook with buttermilk, the memories of my sweet grandmother are as strong as the aroma from my oven. So go ahead and crumble that cornbread in a glass of cold buttermilk- it’s a Southern thing.
Mary Martin Nordness, MA, RDN, LD, CHES
Director of Food and Nutrition Outreach