If you’ve never tried buttermilk, or haven’t had it in a long time, just the name itself can sound a bit off-putting. The word “buttermilk” conjures up images of some heavy, fatty, butter-laden drink, just waiting to harden the arteries. That image couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
Buttermilk originated as the liquid left over after butter was churned from cream. This excess liquid was then left to ferment, giving it a tangy, sour flavor, similar to yogurt. Because tiny flecks of butter were sometimes left behind in the liquid, the buttermilk did become somewhat buttery, as well. With most of the fat removed from the liquid during churning, buttermilk is actually lower in fat than regular milk. It is also rich in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium, riboflavin, and phosphorus.
Today, rather than being left to ferment naturally, most buttermilk is made by adding lactic acid bacteria, more commonly referred to as a culture. This makes buttermilk “probiotic,” a term for a food that contains living microorganisms. These living cultures survive digestion and settle in to live in your intestines. While that may not sound so pleasant, these bacteria are actually beneficial to you body. They perform a number of functions to keep you healthy, including producing vitamins and nutrients, improving digestion, increasing immunity, and protecting you against disease and harmful substances in the environment. For people who have trouble digesting regular milk, buttermilk contains many of the same nutrients, but is easier to digest, because the lactic acid bacteria feed on lactose, a kind of sugar in milk that makes some people sick.
Next time you want to reach for an ice cold glass of milk, try buttermilk instead. You can also use it to add a little extra flavor to some of your favorite recipes that call for milk.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 200° F. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until smooth. Heat a griddle or a large skillet over medium heat (until drops of water burn up quickly on its surface). Brush with oil. Using a 1/4-cup measure, pour batter onto griddle and cook, turning over once, until golden-brown.
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