This is not a fancy post involving lots of science. Well, maybe not lots. But whatever, there is, it is justifiable.
Since moving to Dubai, I have been hard-pressed to find buttermilk here. I have tried using laban (a Middle Eastern yoghurt drink), which I was incorrectly told is a substitute. It comes close, but isn’t buttermilk as we know it the west.
The Chef has warned me to give up my quest to get authentic commercial buttermilk here because the bacteria used is on the restricted list. The UAE has a much more rigid approach to controlling substances and many items (good and bad) that are easily sourced in the West cannot make through customs here. For the same reason, real vanilla extract is not available. But that is another story for another post.
In fact, there are three different kinds of buttermilk:
- Traditional Buttermilk– derived from the process off making butter (in other words, the liquid portion that you see in your mixing bowl when you are making whipped cream and whipped past the optimal consistency and gone into the realm of churning butter. The fat separates from the liquid and floats to the top and dangles on your whisk never again to be incorporated. How do I know? Let’s just say I called it Vanilla Butter. Anyway, the liquid left over from the butter churning process is buttermilk and that is how it got its name. It is sour to taste and lasts longer than regular milk. Traditional butter had little specks of butter and is still used on this side of the world and made in homes in some regions. Methinks laban would fall into this category.
- Commercial Buttermilk– Now this is the stuff that Paula Deen is made of. It is commercially fermented with lactic acid bacteria (Streptococcus lactis) or if you are from Bulgaria, with a more tart Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
- Acidified Buttermilk– This is the subject of today’s lesson. You can make this by adding vinegar, lemon/lime juice, or cream of tartar to whole milk. It produces a thick curdling sour buttermilk most similar to the commercial ones used in the West.