Making Buttermilk from Culture

When I make cheddar cheese, I use cultured buttermilk that I have to make ahead of time. It has to sit overnight to culture, so I have to plan ahead if I am out of buttermilk and need to make cheese again.  This is how I make it.

The directions call for one quart of milk heated to 86 degrees. Well, I decided to cool the milk to 86 degrees instead of heating it. Saves time and energy if I don’t first chill it then heat it back up.  So….when I came in from milking, I filtered some milk into a quart jar and checked the temperature.

It was almost 100 degrees.


So I put the jar into a bucket of cold tap water and stirred it around until it lowered to 86 degrees. 

Then the directions say to put in the culture, stir it around and let it sit for two minutes to rehydrate. Stir well again and let sit at 72 degrees for 12 to 24 hours. This is no problem because Frank keeps our house at about 72 degrees all summer!

As we were reading over this, Frank asked, “What is the culture and why can’t you use the milk you get when you make butter? What is the difference?” Well….I didn’t know, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, traditional buttermilk is the milk that comes off of butter when you make it. Cultured buttermilk is fermented or ‘cultured’ to allow specific bacteria to increase the acidity of the milk, thus the tart flavor. The same is true for yogurt. Commercially made buttermilk has been pasteurized and homogenized then inoculated with a culture. So, the milk from the butter making process would probably not have the same result when making cheese as the cultured buttermilk does. But we may have to do an experiment one day and find out what it will do. So…if you left the traditional buttermilk (milk from butter) sitting out all night would it also thicken and cause the milk to ripen in the cheese making process? Interesting question.

Okay. Back to making buttermilk. It will keep in the frig for 2-3 weeks, which isn’t long. I put a piece of tape on the lid with the date so I can keep track of myself. I use this buttermilk in cheddar and cottage cheese recipes. If I am not making much cheese, I wait until I am ready to make another batch before I culture the buttermilk. Otherwise, It goes bad.

The milk will thicken. It’s hard to show in a picture, but it’s almost a thin yogurt consistency. If you poke your finger in it, it will coat your finger with a thin layer of buttermilk. That means it is ready. 

And since the frig is overrun with milk again…’s time to make cheese!

Until next time – Fern

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