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Thread: Buttermilk vs Sour Milk: Fine Cooking facts

  1. #1

    Buttermilk vs Sour Milk: Fine Cooking facts

    There have been several recipes lately that call for buttermilk & a lot of talk of subbing sour milk made by adding vinegar or lemon juice to plain milk. I kept thinking I had read something about this & went searching for it. In the Feb/March issue of Fine Cooking (food science column), they stated when this will & will not work. The explaination was very good & quite long. I don't have a scanner & the curent site did not have this info for me to cut & paste, so here is my shortened version of what they said.

    In a pinch you can sub soured milk for buttermilk in a recipe where the buttermilk's primary function is a chemical one: an example is cake batter where it reacts as an acid that reacts w/ baking soda & creates carbon dioxide gas that helps the cake rise. But in recipes for buttermilk biscuits or pancakes, or salad dressings where the buttermilk's unique lactic acid flavor & consistency is key--only the real thing will do.

    I have to agree w/ the cooks there at the magazine that think that milk soured w/ vinegar or lemon juice tastes exactly like vinegar or lemon juice.

    Hope this helps some of you decide when you should or should not sub the real thing.
    "I can read and write if that's what you mean. I'm not thick or anything just don't ask me where the commas go."
    Incendiary by Chris Cleave

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Thanks, Rosen. I've used both, and also the powdered kind. They're fine for baked goods, but I like the real thing for fried chicken and salad dressings. My grandma used to buy the real thing from the farm, so I know what it's supposed to taste like. The cultured buttermilk at the supermarket comes close to farm buttermilk, and it's naturally low fat. It comes in quart containers so you don't have a lot of waste. It is so good to marinate chicken and pork in.

    I wouldn't buy a whole quart of buttermilk to get a cup worth for a cake. I am not that much of a food snob. For the chicken recipe, I'd get the buttermilk. I think the soured milk would curdle in the oven, and you'd wonder why everyone was raving over the recipe when it tasted so bad to you. The powdered stuff can be pretty good, but be careful it can go rancid.
    If loving me is wrong, you don't want to be right.

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Kenmore NY, near Buffalo
    Thanks for doing the research. It's funny, i used to only buy buttermilk for specific recipes, but once I started a weekend pancake/waffle habit, I kept it for that-- and then started using it for so many things! I've never tasted farm fresh buttermilk though, that must have been incredible.
    When I HAVE to sub, I often use yogurt mixed with oj or lemon-- more tangy than milk, but not the same.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Charleston, SC
    Thank you for posting that guidance. I was wondering recently when it was ok to use the milk/vinegar substitute. Now I know.

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