I only use buttermilk for two things: Buttermilk pancakes and Buttermilk biscuits. I never seem to finish it all and I end up wasting it. So, I decided, instead of throwing it away, I would use my science background to keep the culture going as long as possible.
I grow cultures all the time in lab and when I need to store them, I freeze them.
I decided to see how long a buttermilk culture would survive in the freezer. Normally for cells to survive you have to keep them extremely cold, -80 degrees or in liquid nitrogen. A household freezer is at -20 deg. C. At this temperature cells will slowly start to die but they will survive long enough for what I need.
Step 1: Getting Started
1Qt Mason jar with lid
Ice cube tray
To start you have to buy some buttermilk, but if you do this right, it could be the last time you ever buy it.
*Make sure it says cultured buttermilk on the carton*
Lets talk about regular milk for a second.
I use whole milk for my buttermilk. The more fat content in the milk, the thicker the buttermilk will be. 2% would probably be fine too, but I wouldn't bother with skim, it should still work though.
The culturing part is quite simple. Start with your mason jar. Wash and rinse it well and then add about an inch of water to it and put it in the microwave for about 5 minutes. This will sterilize the jar. You can also put the jar in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
When the microwave is done, remove the jar.
****USE OVEN MITTS, THE JAR WILL BE EXTREMELY HOT AND THE WATER WILL BE BOILING.****
Pour out the water and set down the jar. Now you could wait for the jar to cool, but instead I pour my cold milk into it.
Step 2: Making Cultured Buttermilk
The next step is to incubate your buttermilk culture. The bacteria in the buttermilk, Lactococcus lactis, has an optimal growth temperature of about 30 degrees C (86F) but will grow just fine at room temperature (~25 deg C).
Loosen the lid on the jar just slightly to allow any gasses to escape. Put your jar out of the way in a warm spot and out of direct sunlight. In 12-24 hours you should notice the milk thickening up, almost becoming solid. Tighten the lid and give it a good shake to mix. You'll notice the milk coating the jar now.
At this point it should be done. Open it up, smell it, taste it. If your happy with it, you're done.
If its not as thick as you like, let it go for another 12 hours. If you need buttermilk faster, you can always increase the starting amount of buttermilk.
Store the buttermilk in the refrigerator. It will keep for 2 weeks.
Step 3: Storing Your Cultures
The first thing you want to do with your new buttermilk is to freeze it while the cultures are fresh. Wash an ice cube tray well. Pour the buttermilk into the ice cube tray and freeze.
Once frozen, store the cubes in Ziploc bags in the freezer. Make sure you put the date on the bag. When you need buttermilk, just give your self a couple days to make it.
1 ice cube = 2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
So use 2 buttermilk cubes for your next quart of buttermilk.
Now over time the culture will die in the freezer. I have successfully made buttermilk from 2 and 3 month old buttermilk cubes. I used the normal 2 cubes in 1 quart of milk and it worked great.
What this means is, you have to make buttermilk at least once every 3 months to maintain the culture. Every time you make a new culture, immediately freeze new cubes.
You will never buy buttermilk again.
Step 4: Buttermilk Pancakes
Now that you have all this buttermilk, here are a couple of recipes to try. These are two of my favorites.
The first is the clone version of pancakes from International House of Pancakes. It can be found around the internet. These pancakes are superb!
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup cooking oil
pinch of salt
1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a pan with a nonstick surface or apply a little nonstick spray.
2. In a blender or with a mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients until smooth.
3. Pour the batter by spoonfuls into the hot pan, forming 5-inch circles.
4. When the edges appear to harden, flip the pancakes. They should be golden brown.
5. Cook pancakes on the other side for same amount of time, until golden brown. Makes 8 to 10 pancakes
Step 5: Buttermilk Biscuits
These biscuits are AMAZING!
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 T butter (1oz)
4 T shortening (2oz)
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use your fingertips, to rub the butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. Once mixed add the buttermilk and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
Turn dough onto a well floured surface, sprinkle flour on the top and gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky. Add flour as needed. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough until its 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Continue the process with the remaining dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. With two fingers push an indentation in the center of each biscuit.
Bake about 15-20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top.
Serve hot with butter and jam.
Makes about 6-12 biscuits depending on your cutter size