You would think something as delicious and wonderful as buttermilk would be so widely used that grocers couldn’t keep it on the shelves. Mais, non.
Apparently Americans have some sort of aversion to this most versatile of all the dairy products. This confuses The Curmudgeon, as it is incredibly useful stuff in a wide variety of applications, and is low fat to boot1.
The Curmudgeon was introduced to the liquid gold by his grandfather, who used to drink it undiluted on the rocks every single day. It was a bit much for his six-year-old self, but it was still an intriguing thing, and his devoutly Southern grandma could spin it into all manner of delectable baked goods.
Yes, buttermilk has many uses, but it truly shines in the many baked confections available to the modern chef. And yet, you don’t use it. Why do you hate all that is good and right with the world?
Are you making your pancakes with buttermilk? You better be. What about your biscuits? No? Then you aren’t even making real biscuits! End of the line with you. Cakes? Scones? Nothing? This is a sad thing that must be remedied.
No, you shouldn’t use it with Bisquick mix. Consider this a blessing in disguise. Don’t even throw that stuff away; take it out into the yard, douse it in gasoline, and set it alight. Trust me, it’s for your own good.
Buttermilk adds a subtle tang and a richness that is unmistakable and impossible to duplicate via other methods (save maybe loads and loads of heavy cream and lemon juice; not exactly ideal). It adds a bit of acid to help kick any baking soda into overdrive, rendering baked goods even lighter than they would be otherwise. Why do you forsake that which is so wonderful?
Soak your chicken in the stuff! If it’s good enough for all the wonderful people making our wonderful home food, then it’s good enough for you. Too good for you, really, you sad buttermilk neglector. It’s the only way to make southern-style fried chicken all done up in a cast-iron skillet with Crisco, and really makes pretty much any chicken better. It’s also very useful to “clean” offal cuts such as sweetbreads and the like; to help remove some of the more, shall we say, “piquant” flavors.
Ice cream? Ice cream. Richness and depth of flavor without a lot of fat. One of the best ice creams to use with fresh summer fruits that are just going out of season, like berries, peaches, and what have you, is buttermilk ice cream. Haven’t tried it, you say? Well, we have already established that you are really behind the 8-ball on this one. Come again soon!
Salad dressing? Naturally. At the very least, add it to your homemade ranch — what are we, savages? Cream substitute in purées? Of course. Low-fat béchamel alternative? Why, don’t mind if I do! Chess pie? Well, duh. Everyone who’s anyone uses that.
Let’s get one thing straight, here: adding a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to plain ol’ milk is not a buttermilk substitute. It just isn’t. It lacks the same texture, the same tang, and the same richness. So don’t bother. Seriously, the stuff is cheap, it’s not like you can’t keep it around the house. It lasts quite a long time; certainly far beyond its sell-by date2.
What do you mean, “what do I do with the leftover buttermilk?” You won’t have any leftover buttermilk! It’s the main event, not a one-time use item! Weren’t you paying attention? Bake it, use it in potato salad, sauces, creams, confections, or anything else your little heart desires. Be creative! It’s amazing stuff. It’s neglected by our backwards food culture, sure; but that doesn’t make it any less amazing.
It just makes us stupid.