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Really, it can be better with buttermilk ... give it a try

Have you poured yourself a tall, cool glass of buttermilk lately?

Me neither.

More noses have been turned up in askance of buttermilk than any other dairy food. I don't mean to offend those who enjoy buttermilk or even to the dear cows who 'udderly' give their all to create it. Let me choose my words carefully and promote buttermilk's assets with my most positive spin: It is low in fat and has a long shelf life.

Old-fashioned buttermilk is the slightly sour liquid left over after butter is churned - the milk from the butter or butter-milk. It is usually flecked with small bits of sweet creamy butter and tastes similar to yogurt.

Today most buttermilk is cultured buttermilk; adding lactic acid to skim milk creates it. It may or may not have added butter flecks in it. After the culture is added, the milk is left to ferment for 12 to 14 hours at a low temperature.

This good old-fashioned ingredient adds a tangy zip to salad dressings and baked goods. I enjoy its contribution to flavors - I just haven't felt compelled to drink it by the glassful.

One of the coolest jobs my Grandma Etta Sue Smith had when I was a youngster, was to be the cook at the Horsefly Ranch, a working cattle ranch near Bly, Ore. We were often treated to Sunday dinner at the ranch. Grandma Etta was an excellent 'scratch' cook - even her butter and other dairy foods were made by hand from basic ingredients.

The ranch hands would bring Grandma Etta buckets of warm, fresh-from-the-cow milk. She poured the milk through a machine that used centrifugal force to separate the cream from the milk. The milk was still pretty rich after it had been separated and I added the word 'decadent' to my vocabulary by eating Cornflakes and berries with that milk poured on top for breakfast.

On the ranch, nothing was wasted, including the liquid left after churning butter. I am sure Grandma used the resulting buttermilk to make beyond-delicious pancakes, cakes, and biscuits plus added it to anything else she thought would benefit from buttermilk's flavor.

You can buy powdered buttermilk, which is handy if you need just a little. Fresh buttermilk will last a long time, due to the high acidity level. If you are going to drink it, and I hope I haven't deterred you, do so within a week of opening the container. It will be fine for baking often even after the expiration date.

Come on, buttermilk is really good and good for us. We owe it to the cows to give it a try. Just buy one quart of buttermilk. That amount will be enough to try the flavor in these two recipes - one sweet, one savory.

The Buttermilk Ranch salad dressing has the taste the bottled dressings are trying to achieve. The Blueberry Buckle Butter-milk Coffee Cake is perfect for a summer breakfast al fresco!

Bon appetit!

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

This is what the bottled ranch dressings should taste like! It is perfect to drizzle over a crisp, crunchy salad.

1 cup mayonnaise, plain yogurt or a combination of both mayonnaise and yogurt to equal 1 cup

½ cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

½ teaspoon onion powder

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk together the mayonnaise and/or yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, salt, celery seed, oregano, onion powder, black pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Store refrigerated until ready to use.

(Use by the earliest expiration date on the dairy products.)

Blueberry Buckle Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Believe it or not, this is a recipe I've had since my seventh grade Home Ec class. I think you will agree the recipe was worth saving these few years.

Cake:

½ cup margarine or butter

1 egg

½ cup sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup buttermilk

2 cups blueberries

Topping: ½ cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup butter or margarine, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the egg and blend well. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk and mix until smooth. Gently stir in the blueberries. (Coat the berries with a touch of flour before adding to mixture, to prevent the batter from turning gray.) Spread batter into a lightly oiled 9 x 13 baking dish. Batter will be stiff.

For the topping: Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs are formed. Sprinkle over batter. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.