Would powdered buttermilk work in this? They only sell quart containers here, but I keep powdered buttermilk on hand... - Food52

Would powdered buttermilk work in this? They only sell quart containers here, but I keep powdered buttermilk on hand for baking recipes.

  • Posted by: Sam1148
  • January 25, 2012
Creamy Homemade Ricotta
Recipe question for: Creamy Homemade Ricotta


Anthony S. January 27, 2012
It's interesting that you brought up Kate's Real Buttermilk. Kate's is, as far as I know, the only REAL fluid cultured buttermilk sold in the U.S. The only other REAL cultured buttermilk available to consumers in this country is SACO's powdered Cultured Buttermilk Blend. Surprisingly, none of the other fluid buttermilks sold in supermarket dairy cases contain a single drop of buttermilk. Not a drop. Check the ingredient line. They are all made from cultured skim milk, not buttermilk.

This may not sound like a much of a distinction, and if you like the thick, tangy taste of a glass of buttermilk, it isn’t. This is because it is the culturing process, not the base ingredient, which gives fluid “buttermilk” its characteristic texture and taste. For salad dressings and this Homemade Ricotta recipe, cultured skim milk “buttermilk” should work equally well. It is with cooking and baking that there is a distinct difference between what we now call “buttermilk” and the old-fashioned real buttermilk that was the by-product of butter-making.

To make a long story short, real uncultured buttermilk, as it comes from the butter churn these days, looks a lot like skim milk, and it takes a lot of milk to get a small amount of real buttermilk. One gallon of milk will yield about 7 ¼ pints of skim milk and ¾ pint of heavy cream, which can be churned into 1/3 pound of butter (1 ½ sticks) and a half pint of real buttermilk. In other words, a gallon of milk can produce 14 ½ glasses of skim milk to only 1 glass of real buttermilk. The reason I bring this up is because when America’s dairy industry was being modernized in the 1940’s & ‘50’s, dairies found it easier to culture skim milk than to culture buttermilk, and when dairy product standards were written several decades later, the term “buttermilk” was grandfathered in as the name for cultured skim milk.

The reason that buttermilk was a cultured product in the first place was that in the old days, way back when in the days of batch-churned butter, a dairyman would add a culture to the cream before churning in order to produce a purer butter that would last longer (not go rancid) without refrigeration. This produced both a unique-tasting cultured butter and cultured buttermilk that would thicken and acidify over time.

Our pioneer ancestors prized this by-product of the butter churn for its properties in baking, and buttermilk became a uniquely American ingredient in many, many recipes. The first and foremost reason was a free emulsifier, a protein that can attach a fat and water molecule, that is only contained in real churned buttermilk. This emulsifier is what keeps the butterfat in cow’s milk liquid as cream, and during the churning process it is stripped away, allowing the fat to solidify as butter. This now free emulsifier is part of the buttermilk that is drained from the churn.

When used for cooking and baking, the emulsifiers in real churned buttermilk attach to both the liquid and the shortening in the recipe, evenly dispersing the fat in very fine particles throughout the batter. This results in a lighter, more uniform texture and fine crumb. In addition, the acidity from the culturing process combines with other leavening ingredients in the recipe to create baked goods with superior volume. But ultimately it is the emulsifying properties of real churned buttermilk that is the reason it has been so esteemed among cooks and bakers for generations.

Oh yes, and to answer the question that started me off on this long-winded explanation… Although I haven’t seen the recipe, I would say that if the clabbered texture of the buttermilk is an important component of the finished product, then the fluid “buttermilk” might work better than the powder. However we have many customers who regularily use our product in recipes such as buttermilk salad dressings and dips who think it works quite well.

Anthony Sanna
SACO Foods
susan G. January 26, 2012
A) In the comments on the recipe, there are points about buttermilk vs yogurt vs lemon juice.

B) Using buttermilk: I have access to a wonderful brand, Kate's, which is a side business to their primary product, butter. I find that it keeps a long, long time without a problem. I have found that I use it more often now that it's here. Start using it in cornbread (fantastic!) and pancakes (of course); salad dressings (creamy type) ... Actually, you will have a large quantity of whey after making the ricotta,and the uses have a lot in common. Check recipes and comments from AntoniaJames for whey uses.
LLStone January 26, 2012
When I'm out of buttermilk, I use a substitute of 1 C milk mixed with 1 T vinegar or lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for 5-10 minutes, then use like buttermilk.
Sam1148 January 25, 2012
With football season. Chicken wings are getting hard to find and expensive.
I love fried chicken in all forms, the long soak in buttermilk is great (you do it overnight with herbs and salt).
Still for wings A quick double fry with dry rub for seasoning, and a wondra flour crust is good 'bar/football' food.

Speaking of wings...check out this video. Amazing "How to eat a chicken wing". Specifically the little double bone part of the wing. How did I live this long with knowing this?
sdebrango January 25, 2012
Thats brilliant, I can't believe it, hate wrestling with those bones and who knew they came right out like that!! Now I want to make chicken wings and try it. Thats so cool!! Thanks for sharing it.
Sam1148 January 25, 2012
Yes...but you have to really well cooked wings for the bones to pull out like. Still it's a eureka moment in finger food.
sdebrango January 25, 2012
I wish you lived down the street we could share a quart. Well maybe I will make 2 batches of ricotta and make a lasagna and freeze it for superbowl. Don't fry much either although fried chicken is a good idea,
Sam1148 January 25, 2012
Yeah, I thought about getting a Qt of buttermilk, I have this product on hand. I understand it has a higher acid balance than cultured buttermilk. I'm just shy about wasting a quart of milk and the cream if it fails.

Use the leftover buttermilk to soak some chicken with herbs to make fried chicken. Maybe even using wings.
Soak with herbs seasonings...dip in flour..egg wash, back in flour. Let it rest a bit than deep fry.

I rarely fry things so that option isn't quite right for me for leftover buttermilk.
sdebrango January 25, 2012
I am making it tomorrow. Luckily I have buttermilk, I could be totally wrong and hopefully someone will correct me but I don't think it would be the same. I also keep dried buttermilk around for baking and I heard it's really just for that. If I am wrong someone let me know. I had to buy a quart and now have to find something else to make with the rest.
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