Oh, dear bottle of buttermilk, why are you so big? And why are your contents always needed in such small amounts? These are questions I’ve been asking myself for years now, especially after I read a recipe for muffins, say, and discover I need a quarter cup of the stuff to make them extra moist.
I traipse to the grocery story, scan the dairy fridges and compare three brands: Kroger, Southern Belle and Prairie Farms. I don’t actually care which brand is best, all I’m interested in is the best-before date, since I know I’m going to need the longest amount of time possible to use up this half gallon.
And let’s just think about that for a moment. Because, yes, I said, “half gallon.” If you can’t picture how big that is in buttermilk terms, let me just tell you there are 32 quarter cups in a half gallon. That, dear readers, is a lot of muffins.
But, over the years, I have collected a good bunch of recipes that all use this special ingredient, for which, let me assure you, I have a very strong fondness.
These are beauties because they usually use about a cup and a half of buttermilk and you can make them in less than 10 minutes — they don’t require yeast and so there is no rising time. I usually make a big batch and wrap whatever is left over in wax paper. Then I tuck them in a Ziplock and put them in the freezer. They make a good mid-week breakfast and just need a few minutes in the toaster to thaw and crisp up.
BUTTERMILK ROAST CHICKEN
The golden sheen that is the result of this roast chicken is absolutely gorgeous, somewhat akin to when you brush egg wash on bread or piecrust. This recipe has you marinating a whole chicken (cut off the backbone) overnight in a buttermilk mixture, which includes crushed garlic and chopped rosemary.
I got this recipe from The New York Times cookbook, which I highly recommend, in no small part because it directs you to more of its recipes that also require buttermilk. It also has the courtesy to suggest other recipes that will go with whatever meal you’re making, which I find very helpful.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Admittedly, it wasn’t until last year that I tried soaking my tomato slices in buttermilk instead of egg and just couldn’t believe the difference it made. Unlike the egg, which can be clotty, the buttermilk tenderly hugs the tomato in a clean coat. In addition to the buttermilk, I also tried mixing my cornmeal with panko breadcrumbs (you can find them beside the regular breadcrumbs), which gives them a satisfying crunch.
This is a fun one that is ridiculously easy but always gets attention. You just combine half a cup of buttermilk with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a couple tablespoons of cider vinegar, minced shallot or onion, salt and pepper and you’re done. I usually add a few chives too for color. It’s especially refreshing in the summer and, unlike almost every other type of salad dressing, doesn’t need any oil at all.
I certainly don’t need to delve into this recipe, since over the years I’ve gotten so many tips for how to make the best biscuits I’m convinced biscuit-making runs in Laurel County genes. (I’m happy to say I have finally, finally mastered the technique.)
The point here is biscuits need buttermilk and strawberry shortcake and cobbler need biscuits. With strawberry season just around the corner and cobbler season not far behind, they’re desserts worth considering. If you want to get fancy, you could pair them with buttermilk ice cream, which I’ve only tasted before, never made.
Not all of you will have one of these in your kitchen, but he’s sometimes in mine and at least has the advantage of living a mile away. Mr. Baker is my kind, Southern father-in-law and he absolutely loves drinking clabbered (read: sour or curdled) buttermilk. I’m not sure if it’s an old-timey thing or what, but he’ll drink it right out of the bottle and be happy as a clam. You may want to find yourself one of these people.
So that completes my list. If you need any of the recipes, don’t hesitate to contact me. Happy cooking!