DIY: Buttermilk

diy buttermilk pancakes

I know . . . this looks just like our usual Special Sunday Breakfast . . . and it is. What is different is that I have again taken up making up my own buttermilk. The pancakes look happier to me, and I thought they held their shape better.

For some reason, buttermilk seems to be in short supply in the grocery stores. When I can find it at all, it is nearly at the expiration date, sold only in quarts or half gallons, and is hideously expensive. All of these factors are unacceptable, so I have gone back to making my own. I had always done this; not sure why I stopped.

We use organic milk, and I’m sure that the commercial buttermilk is made from the cheapest milk possible. It is available only in 2%, and we prefer full fat everything. The commercial kind just wasn’t cutting it any more, so I got a new system going to have just under a pint of FRESH buttermilk available at all times.

The last couple of weeks I have started a new jar of buttermilk when I made the pancakes on Sunday mornings, and that worked out fine. But on Friday night, I made a big load of mashed potatoes, and that took up most of my supply.

Here’s where the new system came in. On Saturday afternoon, I started a new jar of buttermilk, and it was just perfectly fermented for Sunday morning’s repast. Buttermilk is, for the most part, best used at room temperature, so this means that it was already at the perfect temperature, and I didn’t need to take it out of the refrigerator the moment I opened my eyes this morning.

So now I have full-fat, organic, fresh and tasty buttermilk at hand at all times. It is hard not to drink it all down. It seems almost sinfully delicious.

How to do this? It is simplicity itself:

Heat up a jar of milk to about 90 degrees and add about two tablespoons of leftover buttermilk from the last batch. If you are using commercial buttermilk as a starter, use a quarter cup. You will grow better bacteria on your own, and it won’t take as much, or as long, henceforth. I use a 14-ounce, straight-sided, wide-mouthed jar that once held jalapeño ranch dressing from the dairy case. This seems like the perfect shape and size for my needs. Your particular circumstances may vary. I just let it incubate on the counter from mid-afternoon until the next morning. It should be thick and creamy at that point, so if you aren’t going to use it right away, put it into the refrigerator. If it isn’t as thick as you would like, just leave it alone until it is. It may take a full 24 hours for your first batch.

About judilyn

RV'er, foody, caregiver, knowledge seeker
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15 Responses to DIY: Buttermilk

  1. gypsy97 says:

    I’ve never been much of a milk drinker, much less buttermilk, but buttermilk in pancakes and a lot of other baking is superb. I used to buy the buttermilk in powder form and add it to a lot of things I cooked. I wonder if it is still on the grocery shelves.

    I hesitate to buy even a small amount because I would have to use it before it spoils. I have the same problem with milk, and it is almost impossible to find a quart of organic whole milk – they want you to buy a half gallon. I end up making shakes and hot chocolate even when I don’t want it, just to use up the milk before it goes bad. Having milk AND buttermilk in the fridge would almost be too much.


    • judilyn says:

      Happily the organic milk has about a six-week lifespan, and we use about a gallon a week, so – no worries on that score. I make six cups of yogurt about every four days, and put it into my coffee, creamed soups, and cornbread. I just copied down a recipe for pumpkin muffins that I plan to make tomorrow, but that calls for only a quarter cup of milk. I bought some powdered buttermilk for using in the motorhome, but so far it hasn’t been too much trouble to make my own, since all that is required is a few square inches of counter space on a non-moving surface! I bought some powdered sour cream, and some powdered Cheddar cheese, too, but all are still unopened. The “real thing” is just so superior.


  2. Jan says:

    Is it kind of like sourdough where you have a starter and have to keep using and adding to? Or does one make fresh each time want to use?


    • judilyn says:

      Like sourdough. That’s the beauty of it. You never need to buy commercial buttermilk again, and it will taste much sweeter, and be all around much better – like just about everything you make yourself! ;-> I just heat up the jar almost full of milk in the microwave at a low power setting until it is about 90 degrees, and then mix in a couple of tablespoons from the last batch. It works best if both items are at room temperature before mixing them together, but not vital for the smaller amount of “starter” buttermilk to be room temperature.


  3. Jan says:

    How did you get your starter? I hate having to buying a qt. or half gallon and I now use Almondmilk, but will look at work and see if I can’t get a pint of organic milk, I think I have seen it there. Also for the person wondering if can still find powdered I found at Wal-Mart.


    • judilyn says:

      Now I remember why I stopped making it about a year ago . . . same reason you are giving. I wasn’t using enough of it to get through the purchased quart before it went “unpleasant”. I’m not sure commercial buttermilk goes “bad”, really, for a very long time, but it isn’t pleasant enough to drink after about ten days. So I have to either toss some down the drain (which goes against my grain considerably!), or drink it up when I first bring it home. I really like it as a drink; but I don’t eat between meals very often, thus don’t think of it often enough. The homemade is soooo much better. I remember back when I was in grade school, they had half pints of regular milk and buttermilk, but I have yet to find a container smaller than a quart anywhere. I haven’t looked at places like Walmart or Costco, so maybe that might be a source.

      If you are planning to make it with almond milk . . . I have no idea what that might do. Please let me know how it comes out!


  4. No doubt homemade buttermilk is way better than any bought one. I can see the pancakes are happy! 😀


  5. taphian says:

    I remember my grandfather used to do buttermilk and joghurt by himself. I only use it to bake muffins and here it’s very cheap and easy to buy but whenever I have time I will try it out. Have a wonderful day, regards Mitza


    • judilyn says:

      The process for making one’s own buttermilk and yogurt is similar, but not interchangeable that I have ever found. Crème fraîche is another dairy delight that is prepared the same way as buttermilk, only using heavy cream. Now THAT is very dangerous stuff to have around. One is tempted to hide in the closet and spoon it directly down the gullet. ;-> I’ve read about, but never tried, English clotted cream. Perhaps it is much like crème fraîche.


      • taphian says:

        Hi Judie, we always have a lot of sour cream and creme fraiche in our fridge. My son loves to put it on nearly everything. I have to take care about my figure so I just ignore it. We have tried clotted cream in England but I don’t know how to do it. I think it’s more than normal cream than creme fraiche. We had such an ugly grey, wet and cold day today. I’m sure you had much better weather were you live. Have a nice day, regards Mitza


        • judilyn says:

          Yes, care must be taken not to dip into these creamy delights too often. I don’t seem to gain weight, but fear for clogged arteries if there is too much of “the good stuff” taken in.

          Weather has been sunny, but cool. Some sprinkly rain predicted for a couple of days this week. Maybe a dusting of snow on the mountains near the end of the week. That is about three thousand feet above us, so unlikely we will get “socked in” down here in the valley.


          • taphian says:

            Sorry, this comment was hidden, too. Only today I have time to search around in my blog. I’m more into sweets so I would never dip too much into creamy delights. But it’s not healthy either. We have such wonderful sweets here I could not resist like marzipan and chocolate and truffles in different tastes. I took a little bit too much over X’mas, from my selfmade cookies, too. Hope you are fine and you had wonderful days. Here it’s very cold, but sunny, virtual hugs, Mitza

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Desert Diva says:

    The pancakes look delicious – could you share the recipe? 🙂


    • judilyn says:

      Thank you – they always come out great, but with the super fresh buttermilk, they are just so tasty. I usually put blueberries in them, finishing off with the last few with chopped pecans. Anything hard like the pecans holds the “cake” up off the heat, so the flip side doesn’t brown, but the pecan taste with the maple syrup and butter is a glorious thing to enjoy. Just don’t look at the pale underside!

      My entire recipe collection (all two of them!) can be found here:

      Sad to say, I never write anything down, and rarely use a recipe for anything, despite my collection of probably close to a thousand cookbooks! I usually choose cookbooks with a great deal of narrative about food, rather than just a collection of recipes. Written recipes are just guidelines or suggestions to me. Correction: When I formerly baked cakes a lot, I was always very careful to do it right. Real cakes are much less forgiving than pancakes!


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