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Buttermilk is a kind of tart-tasting dairy drink, basically a by-product of the process of making butter from the milk cream. Usually, the tartness in taste is due to the presence of lactic acid. The texture of buttermilk is thicker than the regular plain milk but it’s not heavy like cream. Also it contains less fat than plain milk. Some kind of fermented dairy drinks are also referred as buttermilk and it is commonly used in warm weather regions where regular plain milk gets sour easily. ‘Chaach’, ‘mattha’ or’chasse’ are some of the names for Indian butter milk normally known as ‘traditional buttermilk’. Various buttermilk recipes are quite popular in cuisines worldwide and it is not only served as a beverage but also added as a dairy ingredient to make buttermilk dishes. Lassi, kadhi, buttermilk waffle and buttermilk oat rolls are some of the well-liked buttermilk dishes across the globe.

History of Buttermilk

Households of ancient farmers were the place of origin of buttermilk. In olden times, it was believed that no edible product should be wasted or thrown away. Hence, while churning the butter from the cream, buttermilk was left as a residual and ladies of the house used this liquid as a refreshing drink. The tangy flavor of buttermilk gives a soothing and cooling effect to the body in warm weather, and due to this reason it became an essential drink in summers in almost all traditional households. American and Indian farmers used to make buttermilk in their houses.

Culinary Uses of Buttermilk

Buttermilk has varied uses in kitchen and cookery. It makes an excellent addition to the various baked goods such as biscuits, pies and pancakes. Waffles and scones are also added to the list of buttermilk recipes. ‘Lassi’ is a very popularly served beverage that is primarily made up of buttermilk. It makes a refreshing cold beverage for summer season.

Even in various salad dressings and soup recipes, buttermilk can easily be incorporated and its tangy and sour flavor makes the buttermilk recipes well-liked in all cuisines. It is considered as a well-accepted dairy product due to its rich flavor and less-calorie contents. Sweet fruits, such as cherries and peach, taste very good if added to sour buttermilk dishes. Chicken and other poultry meats are well-cooked on being marinated in buttermilk and various other savory dishes substitute yogurt and sour cream with buttermilk in order to make a less-calorie dish. Various meats and vegetables are also dipped in a buttermilk batter instead of milk batter before deep-frying.

Popular Buttermilk Recipes

• Lassi – This is one of the most popular buttermilk recipes that is popularly known as ‘chaach’. Buttermilk is seasoned with cumin and black salt to make a refreshing drink. Sweet version of ‘lassi’ is also quite popular.
• Kadhi – In Indian cuisine, kadhi is a kind of savory dish that is flavored with buttermilk. Usually, little sourness is required in ‘kadhi’ and buttermilk is an excellent ingredient for that.
• Cream fraiche – Homemade cream fraiche is usually made with buttermilk. It is the most popular dish among the buttermilk dishes. It can be easily used as thick cream dressing for fruit salads.
• Buttermilk waffle – It is a nice breakfast dish. For reducing the calorie content, milk is substituted with buttermilk in the waffle recipe.

Cuisines Commonly Making Buttermilk Recipes

Indian cuisine is famous for various buttermilk recipes that are popular around the world. Cold beverages, savory dishes and even soups are flavored with buttermilk in Indian cuisine. Middle Eastern as well as South American cuisines are not far behind in making buttermilk dishes. Most of the buttermilk dishes that are admired in American cuisine are baked. Most popular are buttermilk biscuits. Buttermilk pancakes and scones are also well-accepted in western cuisine. Middle Eastern buttermilk recipes are usually used to make savory dishes such as poultry and meat dishes. Certain kinds of buttermilk soups are also served in Middle Eastern cuisine. All these above mentioned cuisines use buttermilk due to the reason that in warm conditions buttermilk stays fresh for longer period of time as compared to the sweet plain milk.

The people of Netherlands and the Scandinavians consume buttermilk, a body cooler, in generous amounts though the regions are cool.

Preferred Methods of Making Buttermilk Dishes

• Baked – A number of buttermilk recipes involve baking. Buttermilk biscuits are the most popularly baked foodstuffs.
• Boiled – Buttermilk is boiled to make various soups and savory dishes.
• Marinated – Buttermilk is often used to marinate chicken and other poultry meats.
• Blended – Buttermilk is blended in food processor to make ‘lassi’ or other beverages.

Nutritive Value of Buttermilk

In olden times buttermilk was only considered as a left out liquid that can be used as a refreshing drink but nowadays it’s not merely a leftover drink. It is full of nutrients and getting popularity as a well-liked dairy product. Multiple vitamins are present in buttermilk dishes. Vitamin A, C and most of the vitamin B are found in abundance in buttermilk. It contains carbohydrates but very few dietary fibres are present in this appetizing drink. Daily intake of buttermilk is recommended to gain a good amount of sodium and proteins.

As a dairy drink, buttermilk is an obvious and excellent source of calcium. Zinc, magnesium and folate are also significantly present in buttermilk recipes. For health reasons, buttermilk is now available in skimmed form as well.

Buying and Storing Buttermilk

Usually, homemade buttermilk is the best product but due to commercialization, packaged buttermilk is available at all dairy shops. It is better to buy skimmed buttermilk as it contains less fat content. Always check the “sell by” date on the packet before buying. While purchasing seasoned ‘lassi’ or ‘chaach’, make sure that it is freshly prepared.

Like other dairy products, buttermilk and buttermilk dishes are highly perishable hence they should be stored in refrigerator. Buttermilk dishes tend to become sour if not consumed within 2-3 days. ‘Chaach’ can be easily frozen in freezer for up to one week.

Types of Buttermilk

• Traditional buttermilk – This is the type of buttermilk that is made in households. Butter is churned out of milk cream and the residual liquid is known as traditional buttermilk.
• Cultured buttermilk – It is basically artificial buttermilk, made by adding lactic acid to sweet milk. Lactic acid produces acidic content in the milk and makes it sour to taste like buttermilk. This kind of buttermilk is used in buttermilk recipes like the traditional buttermilk.

Buttermilk Trivia

• Citric acid is added to the cultured buttermilk to enhance the flavor.
• Buttermilk is not a good substitute of milk in dishes that involve leavening.