It’s snowing big fluffy rabbits here today. Went to bed with rain pouring thunderously on our roof so loud we could barely hear one another, but woke to 5 inches of pristine white silence covering our patio. So, out of exhilarated appreciation for the quiet beauty of this day, I’m keeping it white.
Have you ever enjoyed buttermilk, freshly bottled from a local dairy? When I was girl, my grandfather (we called him Big Papa and he was indeed bigger than life in many ways) had a dairy farm on the coast in Washington state. Sweet-faced Jersey cows, each one with a name, would line up in the milking barn twice a day. One of these days I’ll share some stories of what life on that farm was like. It was so much MORE than a dairy farm, but I don’t want to give it all away in a little Spreenkle. I remember though, on the tile counter of the old farm house, sat bottles of milk, their skinny necks filled with the sweet cream that had risen. And I remember too the taste of fresh buttermilk our grandma would make. And occasionally a treat. A milkshake maker, the color green of the day, with its cloth-covered cord and its dented steel container would be pulled from its cupboard and set on the counter. Into it went fresh, chilled whole-buttermilk and orange sherbet. Whirrrr! Pour! Straw! Slurp! Pure deliciousness!
It’s not easy to find a truly wonderful buttermilk in our markets. But we can Make it! And it’ll be wonderful. I’m not talking here about the “trick” of adding vinegar or lemon juice to milk to simulate the real thing when we’ve run out.
Buttermilk is a cultured product, much like yogurt, with active beneficial bacteria grown in it. If we use a store-bought cultured buttermilk as a starter, we can feed it good fresh milk, leave it on the counter for 24 to 36 hours and have a creamy delicious buttermilk for baking or making fruity smoothies with. Here’s how:
Sterilize a mason jar or glass milk bottle (or simply wash it very well with hot soapy water).
Combine ½ cup buttermilk, ¼teaspoon kosher salt, 2 cups of milk (whole milk of course is quite wonderful). Stir well. Pour into glass container, cover, and leave on the counter in a warm room for 24 to 36 hours. When done, the buttermilk will have thickened and will coat the sides of the jar when tipped.
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Proportions are always the same (4 : 1, milk to buttermilk – so make as much or as little as you like at a time. Don’t forget to add the appropriate amount of salt.) It will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks at least. The bacteria in old buttermilk isn’t as active, and can even die in time, so using a fresher starter will result in a new batch in less time.
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Stay tuned for a thoroughly delicious dish (or 2) using freshly made buttermilk. Naturally.