As a Chef one of the biggest misconception of all foods buttermilk most people basically think its buttery, high-fat milk. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You might be surprised to learn there is no butter, in buttermilk, and it is lower in fat than sweet milk. Old-fashioned homemade buttermilk is the slightly sour, residual liquid which remains after butter is churned, i.e. milk from the butter or buttermilk. It was usually flecked with tiny spots of sweet, creamy butter that did not quite make it to the top to be skimmed. The flavor of buttermilk is reminiscent of and most people prefer it well-chilled. You will find it to be slightly thicker in texture than regular milk but not as heavy as cream. It takes 1 gallon of milk to yield 1/2 pint of true buttermilk.

Nowadays, most commercial buttermilk is made by adding a lactic acid bacteria culture to pasteurized sweet whole milk or, more commonly skim milk or non-fat milk, and it may or may not have added butter flecks. After the addition of the culture, the milk is left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours at a low temperature (optimum 69 degrees F.). It is usually labeled cultured buttermilk and may be salted or unsalted. Most commercial varieties are salted, so check the label if you are on a sodium-restricted diet.

History of Buttermilk:
European legend claims a glass of buttermilk will cure a hangover, and when heated with a clove of garlic, it was sure to cure any variety of ailments.

American legend, drinking buttermilk will immunize one against poison oak and ivy.
Many pioneer women used buttermilk as a facial wash, believing the flecks of butter resulted in a smooth and creamy complexion.

Cooking with buttermilk:
Buttermilk is excellent in baked goods, and also as a soup and salad dressing base. It lends a rich, hearty flavor with fewer calories than milk or cream. The tangy flavor of buttermilk goes well with sweet fruits such as peaches, cherries, and pears, particularly as crème fraiche.

The acidic properties of buttermilk make it an effective and flavorful marinade, particularly with poultry. It is used as an acidic ingredient in baked goods to combat dingy grayish discoloring often caused by the chemical reaction of blueberries, walnuts, and other foods that give off a blue cast. It also promotes browning of baked goods and improves texture.

Because of Buttermilk Flavor profile most chefs prefer dipping meat, poultry and fish in buttermilk rather than regular milk before coating for frying and baking.

Unless you feel adventurous and are not concerned about failure, use leavened recipes specifically designed with buttermilk as an ingredient rather than substituting buttermilk for milk.

In savory recipes, this is not such a concern as usually no leavening is involved, but be aware that a slight tangy flavor will be imparted to the food, much like that of sour cream or yogurt.

Health & wellness facts:   Buttermilk
Buttermilk is lower in fat than regular milk, because the fat has been removed to make butter. It is also high in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, and riboflavin as well as a good source of phosphorus.

Those with digestive problems are often advised to drink buttermilk rather than milk, as it is more quickly digested. Buttermilk has more lactic acid than skim milk.

One cup of buttermilk has 99 calories and 2.2 grams of fat, whereas whole milk has 157 calories and 8.9 grams of fat. Do check the labels as some brands of buttermilk are higher in fat than others.

For those watching their caloric and/or fat intake, try putting a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk on your baked potato or in mashed potatoes as a substitution for sour cream or butter. You will get both the buttery flavor and the slight tang of sour cream with a fraction of the calories. You can also make mock sour cream using buttermilk powder

Fat and Cholesterol:
A serving of buttermilk contains 1 g of saturated fat, which is eight percent of the recommended daily intake, or daily value, for saturated fat. A 1-cup serving of buttermilk also contains 10 mg of cholesterol, which is four percent of the daily value of cholesterol.

A cup of buttermilk contains 260 mg of sodium, which is 10 percent of a person’s recommended daily intake.

A serving of buttermilk contains 10 g of carbohydrates, four percent of the daily value. Buttermilk contains no fiber.

A cup of buttermilk has 8 g of protein; this is 15 percent of the recommended daily intake for protein.

Buttermilk contains multiple vitamins: A (two percent of the daily value), C (four percent), B-6 (four percent), B-12 (10 percent), thiamine (six percent) and riboflavin (12 percent).