I remember the first time I tasted buttermilk. I remember it because it has been seared into my memory like the top of the Staff of Ra was seared into that bespectacled dude’s palm in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was over at a friend’s house for the afternoon, and while she was happily manhandling her Barbies, I snuck into her kitchen to get a snack. I opened her fridge (which for a little kid is the equivalent of opening a friend’s medicine cabinet at a party) and scanned until I saw a tall, skinny carton on the top shelf. “Buttermilk,” I thought, picturing rich, fat globules of delicious butter floating in sea of sweet, cold milk, and I looked around quickly before putting my lips directly on the carton and upending it into my mouth. This is where those of you who have tasted buttermilk laugh knowingly to yourselves. It is where the rest of you need to picture what it would be like to chug a bottle of Italian salad dressing.
Buttermilk is filled with chunks and acid and terribleness. It is what is leftover after you take all the good stuff out of milk. It is the kind of thing that farmers or Amish people or doomsday survivors use in recipes because they don’t believe anything that contains protein should go to waste. Or at least that’s what I believed for many years after that incident. However, I made two recipes this week that converted me to the idea that buttermilk may just be okay. Better than ok. It might, in fact, be right up there with chocolate chips as a tool you can use to make any number of baked goods or make any number of baked goods better. Chuck some flour, salt, and maybe an egg or two into a bowl and add buttermilk, and you can make waffles, biscuits, bread, cake, and even pie without much else. And if you need dinner on a Friday night, having buttermilk in the house means you can serve your children homemade buttermilk pancakes instead of ordering pizza, and you’ll feel like a healthy, wise, nutrient-giving domestic goddess and save 20 bucks to boot.
The links below are for the two recipes that gave me a newfound respect for buttermilk. I hope they convince you that it’s something you should have in your fridge on a regular basis. And, should you walk into the kitchen one day to find one of your daughter’s little friends, wide-eyed and horrified, with the carton of buttermilk in her hand and a yellow, curdled mustache on her upper lip, just smile knowingly and offer her a glass of water.
Mom’s Buttermilk Pancakes (from allrecipes.com)
Buttermilk and Cake Mix Banana Bread (from dvo.com)
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.