Adventures with buttermilk: What to do with leftover buttermilk

I’ve mentioned in the last couple posts that buttermilk has some wonderful capabilities and now it’s time to look into what types of things you can do with buttermilk. Once again, this is buttermilk made from raw milk cream that is turned into buttermilk. I cannot guarantee and do not suggest that you try culturing buttermilk from store-bought pasteurized cream.

Please refer to my post on how to make butter to get your buttermilk.

According to “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by Darina Allen: “Buttermilk is the remaining liquid after butter is made. In olden times, this type of buttermilk was considered to be ‘the cure for all ills,’ and a visitor to a farmhouse would invariably be offered a mug of buttermilk. During turf-cutting, haymaking and harvesting, buttermilk was considered to be the best drink to give energy, slake the thirst, and cure a hangover. Young girls washed their faces in buttermilk to improve their complexion, while their mothers and grandmothers used it to make bread.” (pg. 198)

Apparently buttermilk was quite a normal and typical ingredient found in Irish households and was never wasted. Today, most people make buttermilk by adding vinegar or lemon to a cup of milk and calling it good. To me, this cannot be the same amazing buttermilk as we see described above, so what do you do with the buttermilk leftover from butter making?

There are several options. The typical options would be to either: drink it or use it in some sort of cooking. It doesn’t take more than a second to type in buttermilk recipes to a search engine and get thousands of recipes that involve buttermilk. If I make butter close to Sunday we will have buttermilk pancakes apart of our Sunday morning breakfast. Irish soda bread is another recipe that calls for buttermilk as well. When it comes to recipes it seems like the opportunities are endless with buttermilk.

When I make butter what I typically do with buttermilk is leave it on the counter to culture and become cultured buttermilk. Cultured buttermilk has plenty of different options as well. If you are into cheese making, you can use 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk as a substitute for a mesophilic start in your cheese. This was a really neat discovery for me, because now I don’t need to buy mesophilic starts anymore, I just simply take the cultured buttermilk and put two tablespoons into a small container and freeze it in the freezer, or if I have it fresh while I’m making cheese I’ll just add it right then.

Another way to use cultured buttermilk is to sour cream. I read several books and blogs that said sour cream was extremely easy to make, just take your cream and leave it out on the counter to sour. Whenever I did that it never tasted or smelled like sour crem and we would always end up throwing it away. However, when I read in a book it explained that by adding 1 tablespoon of cultured buttermilk into a pint of sour cream would sour the cream, I tried it and it set up and tasted like sour cream. Just take one tablespoon of your cultured buttermilk and add it to a pint of cream. Mix well, and leave on the counter for 12-24 hours (or longer) until becomes a semi-solid state that no longer is straight liquid. You can then cap your jar or container and refrigerate it and use it for cooking.

I’m sure there are a million more uses for buttermilk and I’m still just discovering them as I go along. However, most of the time when I get buttermilk, I culture it. This is because I don’t always have a place to use my buttermilk right away and I don’t wish it to spoil, so I culture it and then refrigerate it until I need it. By culturing the buttermilk you are allowing it choose a set of bacteria and then it doesn’t spoil as fast, whereas if you don’t culture it, it has the opportunity to pick up bacteria from other sources, thus causing it to spoil quickly. I use cultured buttermilk is any recipe that calls for normal buttermilk. I haven’t seen any issues with it yet, in fact, it typically gives whatever I’m cooking with a stronger, more distinct flavor, which I enjoy.

Please share any other ways you have used buttermilk in the comments below. There are so many different ways to utilized buttermilk, so feel free to share!

16 thoughts on “Adventures with buttermilk: What to do with leftover buttermilk”

    1. It all depends on how warm the environment is. Mine typically takes about 2 days for it to culture. You can tell when it does b/c it’ll have the consistency of yogurt instead of a liquid.

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I make my own butter and end up with more buttermilk than we can use in baking – I was wondering if it could be used to make yogurt… any thoughts?

    1. I don’t think buttermilk can then be used as a starter to make yogurt. Buttermilk is a mesophilic start whereas yogurt is a thermophilic start, so they produce different types of bacteria in the same environment. If you want to get yogurt going I just simply go to the grocery store and buy a small container of plain yogurt and use 2 tablespoons of that to get my yogurt started.

    1. I typically leave it uncovered. Another thing I noticed this summer, is my house is considerably cooler and it takes longer for it to “set up” than during the winter (we use a wood stove during the winter so our house gets really hot). So, if it’s taking a long time to “set up” you might need to make sure that the temperature is warm enough 80-90 degrees.

  2. Thank You Very much! for this recipe. I make own butter from raw milk but never know what to do with the buttermilk.

    I have a question regarding making cultured buttermilk.

    Once it’s cultured on the counter, do I need to separate the clatter and add more raw milk to it? or just put the initial cultured product in the fridge?

    I’m a little confused as I keep reading people do the first step (Leave on the counter) but then they add extra milk and shake it.

    – Thanks in Advance –

  3. Thank You very much for these wonderful recipes. I also make my own butter from raw milk and I have to always throw away buttermilk.

    I have a question regarding the cultured buttermilk portion.

    Once it’s cultured from the counter do I need to separate the clatter and add more milk?

    I have been reading other recipes and they call to add extra milk to the initial cultured buttermilk.

    Should I just put the original jar in the fridge and not add milk?

    – Thanks in Advance –

    1. I’m not quite sure. I’ve just taken it directly as it is and mix it into cream or freeze it for making cheese later on. I haven’t had any problems just taking it directly as it is. I wouldn’t leave it in the fridge too long, use it within a couple days or take and freeze it for later cheese making.

  4. What is your ratio fresh cream to cultured buttermilk to make sour cream? I am new (for 3 weeks now) to buying raw milk, making my own butter…. Googled too much buttermilk and came across your site! I would love any other suggestions you have for me!! Thanks Amanda

  5. Does anyone know how I could go about drying the leftover buttermilk? I saw a brief blurb about it elsewhere but it didn’t actually give instructions rather was explaining that it’s done at all (hence store bought.) I can’t find any information as to how to actually do it and was hoping you, or someone you’re associated with, might know!

    1. @ Jess Tobison, I will collect all my buttermilk from making homemade butter and put it into a pot. I will then boil it down till it is about the consistency of a syrup or just a tad thinner with a slight yellowish tint. I will then pour the thick substance onto parchment paper and stick it into my dehydrator for 24 hours. When it is done I break up the peces and place them into my ninja mini processor and process it down into powder. I then use it for any pasta dish, any coffee I drink, cereal I eat, and just about anything that will use dairy in cooking. I also do the same thing with my cheese whey and it is 100% non-isolated whey powder with many, many, health benefits. I am not a prepper or anything like that but I make everything from spices, cured meats, breads, cheeses, dairy products, deli meats, Home made tomato pure or paste, and pastas. I am the man of the house and my wife loves it because when she wants something she will ask me and I will whip it up for her. Enjoy the making process and the feeling it gives me to supply these things to my family in a healthy manner.

  6. I made butter from raw milk a few days ago (for the 1st time) and then put the buttermilk in the fridge until I figured out what to do with it. Is it too late to culture it now?

  7. Do you mean that you simply leave the liquid leftover from butter making on the counter and add NOTHING else to it? Does that culture it?

  8. Hi,
    My buttermilk has been sitting on the counter since last night to culture. But I guess I didn’t process all the fat out because there’s a decent fat line. Is that ok? Will that mess up the buttermilk culturing?

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