Everything's better with buttermilk: The addition of this 'secret' ingredient will transform ordinary recipes into extraordinary ones

Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Buttermilk is tart and it contains no butter.

I know there are some people who enjoy it by the glassful, comparing its taste to that of plain yogurt, but many others use it mostly as a cooking ingredient, relying on its lactic acid to make foods like cakes and biscuits tender and to improve the texture and flavor of other foods, like chicken.

Chicken, in fact, after being soaked several hours in buttermilk, fries up exceptionally crisp and golden on the outside, while on the inside, its meat will remain succulent and moist.

From creamy pies and fruit smoothies, to cold soups and salad dressings, buttermilk, with its pleasant underlying tang, is often the "secret" ingredient people have trouble identifying.

Years ago, buttermilk was the liquid that remained in the churn after churning butter from cream.

Today, buttermilk purchased as "cultured," with its characteristic sour taste and thick consistency, is the result of bacteria culture (lactic acid) being added to cow's milk.

The attributes of buttermilk are so appreciated by those who have experienced its pleasures, that many favorite foods, like pancakes or biscuits, are considered second rate if they don't contain buttermilk.

We have several buttermilk-inclusive recipes for you to try. Start with the buttermilk pancakes, then try some buttermilk-fried chicken with a few buttermilk biscuits and be sure not to miss the buttermilk sheetcake brownies.

If you don't customarily keep buttermilk on hand, you might want to add it to your weekly shopping list. You'll be reaching for it, a lot.

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