Buttermilk having the word ‘butter’ might project a creamy, savory, slightly salty image. But contrary to what people might expect, buttermilk is the complete opposite.
Buttermilk milk is low in fat with a milk-like viscosity and a tangy taste similar to yogurt. Commercially introduced in the 1920s, buttermilk can be produced by churning or fermentation.
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Churning is the old-fashioned way, used to make buttermilk locally in homes. The churned buttermilk milk is a byproduct/low-fat-milk that remains after churning butter from a pot of heavy cream. Churned buttermilk is slightly sweet and less creamy than fermented buttermilk. One gallon of heavy cream will only yield about ½ pint of churned buttermilk.
Fermented buttermilk is essentially the commercially produced buttermilk. It’s the buttermilk we buy from stores with a tangy, slightly acidic taste.
Fermented buttermilk as the name implies is produced by fermenting pasteurized low-fat/skim milk with lactic acid. The mixture is fermented for 12 to 14 hours at low temperatures (optimally around 69 degrees Fahrenheit). Sugar, salt, and stabilizers are added to help achieve a satisfactory end product.
A bottle of fermented buttermilk is more acidic and creamier than a bottle of churned buttermilk.
There are two types of milk, homogenized and unhomogenized milk. Homogenized milk has all of its fat particles dispersed evenly throughout the milk. Whereas unhomogenized milk has these fat molecules layered on top of each other.
The topmost layer which has 36 to 40 percent fat, when separated, is called heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. While the lower 30 percent fat layer is called whipping cream.
Heavy cream has a slightly sweet taste and a thick creamy consistency. When whipped, a pot half-full of heavy cream turns into heavy whip cream. But whipping – the same pot of heavy cream – with a bit of lemon juice or lactic acid will produce butter and buttermilk.
Can I Use Buttermilk Instead Of Heavy Cream?
No, you cannot use buttermilk milk as a replacement for heavy cream. Because heavy cream and buttermilk are completely different in taste, texture, and viscosity.
To explain further, we have listed the differences between buttermilk and heavy cream.
- Buttermilk due to having lactic acid has a low pH value, whereas heavy cream has a high pH value – higher than 4.6.
- Buttermilk has a tangy taste, whereas heavy cream has a slightly sweet taste.
- Buttermilk due to having a low pH is used as a marinade, a flavoring agent, and as a leavening agent. Heavy cream is used as an ingredient in soups, sauces, ice-cream, and baking.
- Buttermilk only has approximately two grams of fat per cup, whereas heavy cream is 36 to 40 percent milk-fat.
- You can use ⅔ Cup Buttermilk plus ⅓ Cup Oil as a replacement for heavy cream. But using it in such a way will give subpar results.
Better substitutes for heavy cream
Buttermilk is not a good replacement for heavy cream. Because even though buttermilk can be made from heavy cream, it still does not change buttermilk’s completely different flavor profile. A perfect substitute for heavy cream is milk plus butter.