So one of the food items which inspired this journey into the world of real food is buttermilk. Why buttermilk you ask? Because around Saint Patrick's Day I wanted to make traditional Irish Soda Bread. Said bread requires buttermilk.
Upon arriving at the grocery store, I discovered that buttermilk contained at least 4 things I couldn't identify or pronounce. That didn't include the bacterial cultures that give buttermilk it's characteristic tartness and acidity. Now for purposes of baking, the acid in the buttermilk (lactic acid to be precise), interacts with soda and creates bubbles which provide leavening or lift for bread. It's method which doesn't require the presence of yeast for bread making. Good thing in various parts of the world.
Buttermilk doesn't have a precise definition. Originally buttermilk referred to the liquid left over from churning cream into butter. In more recent times, buttermilk refers to a product created by introducing a bacterial culture into milk in order to sour the milk. Interesting note is that this form of buttermilk was called "artificial buttermilk" back around the turn of the century.
Now I have had a dickens of a time finding buttermilk that didn't set off my Food Rules alarms. Most versions I've found contain more than just cultures and milk. Several variants are low fat, others have seven or more ingredients not including the culture. So I've been using soured milk in my bread making. It's easy, you toss a spoon of vinegar into some whole milk, wait 10 minutes and voila!
So much to my delight last night, I discovered a friend of mine actually had genuine, honest to goodness buttermilk. She's been following my food journey and had decided to experiment with making butter from real cream. When I was over last night, she showed me her butter results and proceeded to ask me, "what do I do with this?", holding up a container of liquid.
My eyes must have lit up like the 4th of July. Score! Real buttermilk! No extra stuff. Totally for the win. After a minor bit of discussion, I threw together a batch of Irish soda bread. Very kindly she let me take a couple rolls home with me.
Now understand, I like the version I've been making. But this was totally a night and day experience. Amazing flavor and tang, plus the benefit of being made pretty darned close to the way my several greats grandma Clara Wilhelmina could have made it.
This bread, warm, with a little butter and a smidge of local honey is so good it just might be illegal. I love getting to eat my history and chemistry lessons.