It seems too good to be true to hear the words “butter” and “healthy” used in the same sentence. Yet don’t be fooled by misleading buttermilk. Despite its name and often nostalgic association with homemade comfort foods, buttermilk itself is actually quite healthy.
Traditionally, buttermilk was made from the liquid remaining after fat was churned to make butter. The result was a low fat milk product with a tangy flavor, creamy texture and an unfortunately incriminating namesake. Today, most buttermilk is made by mixing low fat milk with lactic acid bacteria to recreate the traditional taste and consistency.
Both methods create a product that is low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus. One cup of buttermilk contains about 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 280 milligrams of calcium; making it the nutritional equivalent of 1% milk. For many people with lactose intolerance, fermented products such as buttermilk may be easier to digest because the lactose component of the milk is partially broken down.
For those who prefer the creamy texture of whole milk, but want to spare the additional calories and fat, buttermilk can be served cold as a satisfying alternative. It is also used widely in baking. When the acidity of buttermilk is combined with baking soda, it creates carbon dioxide that lifts and expands to make light and fluffy baked goods. In fact, buttermilk and a few other ingredients are all you need to make the delicious and reminiscent home-style biscuits featured below.
If you don’t have buttermilk at home, the Saratoga Farmer’s Market has locally-made buttermilk available every Saturday. The Argyle Cheese Factory produces cultured buttermilk using whole milk from their dairy cows. You can also make your own low-fat buttermilk using Battenkill Valley Creamery’s skim milk. Combining one cup of low fat or skim milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar and allowing it to sit for 5 minutes or more before using.
Home-style Buttermilk Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk*
(or 1 cup low fat milk* with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar)
Preheat oven to 450F.
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Cut the butter into chunks and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives. Combine until the butter is the size of peas. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Do not over mix the dough. Dust countertop with flour. Place dough onto floured surface and very gently knead five times. Lightly pat dough down to a 1” thickness. Use a round cutter to shape into ten rounds. Place biscuits on a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes 10 servings.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories: 160, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Sodium: 220mg, Carbohydrate: 21g Fiber: 1g Protein: 4g.
Ingredients marked with an asterisk (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. For information about food and nutrition contact Diane Whitten at Cornell Cooperative Extension at 885-8995 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.