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My Blog

Whole Buttermilk...what is it?

Good morning.  Okay, the start of this day has already dampened the day..snow dusting on the rooftops and ground...and a call about a friend who has had their appendix burst yesterday.  This past month has probably been the worst I have ever known.  Between illnesses and the weather...it is tough to keep a positive attitude.  But I will continue to try. 
Today's blog is about Buttermilk.  Probably sounds like a lame topic, but if you lived for more than 50 years...you will understand the dilemma if you live in Illinois.  Now I am not sure about any of the other Northern states, not actually any of the southern states except for South Carolina. 
You see, years ago, my Grandmother used to make a polish dessert called Kolacz.  It was made with buttermilk and was absolutely delicious.  A number of years back, my cousin decided that she would make it from Gram's recipe.  Now this was not the first time she had made it...but it had been a number of years since she had, and when she made it...it was not right in her mind.  It tasted way different.  She made it again and once again, it didn't taste the same as many years prior.  That started her thinking about what could be wrong or different.  It turned out to be that buttermilk was no longer named buttermilk....but now lowfat buttermilk.  Could this be the problem?  She started searching around different stores and couldn't find anything but LOW fat. She asked me, and of course I began to look to avail.  We assumed that it was no longer being made...but why?  Now, one summer I was down in South Carolina and was shopping at the Piggly Wiggly and lo and behold...there it was...BUTTERMILK.  Not LOW fat but real buttermilk.  I began a search then to see whether it was the same at other stores.  I went to the Food Lion and there was BUTTERMILK...the same at the IGA.  Evidently, BUTTERMILK was still available in that state....but why not in Illinois?  Now, I had noticed as the years have passed that some foods don't taste as good as they did when I was younger...I just assumed it was my aging taste buds...but it seems that the change of products has much to do with it.  The southern recipes call for a lot of buttermilk.  Nothing better that buttermilk biscuits or buttermilk battered fried chicken.  I started to compare some of the other recipes that I had...a lot of things are hard to find.  Society has changed the way that we cook these days.  All this talk of low or no fat has changed the way that food is prepared.  I don't ever remember my Grandma using any oils...she used lard or shortening.  Cream was always in demand as was buttermilk. 
I know that in one of my best banana bread recipes it calls for making milk into buttermilk by adding lemon or vinegar.  I must say that is one of the best banana breads I have ever had...but I wonder now how it might taste if I use real buttermilk? 
I would love to be able to test this out...only in Illinois...I cannot find any.  So I attempted to try and find out what the difference is between what we had and what we have now...but not with great results.  I have found places that carry buttermilk, but they are all a great distance away.  It is not the type of thing that you would ship here. 
So this is what I discovered about buttermilk...Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream . This type of buttermilk is known as traditional buttermilk.  I was astonished at the different names of buttermilk...
They are as follows:
  • traditional buttermilk
  • cultured buttermilk
  • acidified buttermilk
  • & powdered buttermilk
  • So what is the difference?  Traditional is what Grandma used to use...
    Originally, buttermilk referred to the liquid left over from churning butter from cultured or fermented cream. Traditionally, before cream could be skimmed from whole milk, the milk was left to sit for a period of time to allow the cream and milk to separate. During this time, naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk fermented it.  Now not only is this an interesting bit of info...it was much more healthier for you as it contains probiotic microbes and is sometimes referred to as "Grandma's probiotic".  KNEW there was a difference!  And to top that..it soothes the skin and the stomach, it is beneficial to your gut and helps protect your immunity.  Then there is the calorie factor...I thought for sure that it would be substantially higher, but believe it or not....One cup of whole milk contains 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat whereas one cup of buttermilk contains 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat.  Now when I considered the previous benefits of buttermilk...the above info was enough to convince me on the health benefits...but then there is more...Buttermilk contains vitamins, potassium, calcium, and traces of phosphorus.
    Cultured buttermilk...which is what is labeled as the commonly found buttermilk in the store is milk that has been homogenized and also pasteurized.  Then it has been injected with chemicals to simulate the naturally forming probiotics. 
    Acidified buttermilk is what I have done to the milk that I add either the lemon juice or the vinegar to make my banana bread, and powdered buttermilk is what is used in cake and pancake mixes.
    Well, if you ask me, I think that we have been conned into believing what is on the shelf is still the original buttermilk that Grandma used to use...and it is definitely not...but who questions that?  I just attributed the changes to my aging taste buds...never thinking that a pure product had been changed.  It really makes me think more and more about how we need to become more conscious of what is on our grocery shelves.  LOW FAT...does not necessarily mean better for us...contrary to what the medical industries make us believe.  They say that it is the Western countries where traditional buttermilk is seldom found....and yet it is everywhere in Pakistan and other countries.  The Amish more than likely have the real buttermilk. My next trip out to Shipshewana will be an investigative tour.  I am in search for the REAL thing!

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