It’s easy to have a love/hate relationship with buttermilk. The ingredient has a fantastic tangy, tart flavor, plus low-fat content. But how often do you buy a bottle and end up throwing most of it away? Supermarkets tend to sell the ingredient in one-quart containers, yet most common recipes — say for pancakes or biscuits — call for a much smaller amount.
So what’s a buttermilk lover to do?
Next time you pick up a bottle, pick up a copy of The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook, too. Written by Diane St. Clair, this lovely collection of “recipes and reflections from a small Vermont dairy” offers every buttermilk recipe you could ever want — and probably haven’t thought of.
The warmly written narratives about traditional buttermilk and modern dairy farming prove fascinating enough to take buttermilk from the sourpuss of the milk aisle to, as St. Clair describes it, “the elixir of the human race.”
While the product is often reduced to a “secret ingredient” in baked goods, The Animal Farm cookbook, as its title suggests, uses buttermilk as the main ingredient in, more or less, everything: from soups to salads, main dishes to sides, to breakfasts and desserts.
Beet, Orange, and Buttermilk Soup
This crimson-colored, chilled soup uses two cups of buttermilk as the principal “broth.” The ingredient’s inherent acidity complements the natural sweetness of juicy oranges and red beets.
Sounds too strange not to try, right? For a Vermont twist on an Italian classic, this recipe creates an unconventional béchamel — the classic white sauce — by using buttermilk instead of regular whole milk. It doesn’t hurt that the meat sauce calls for a half-cup of red wine, either.
Raspberry Buttermilk Tart
This surprisingly simple, perfect-for-a-dinner-party tart bridges the ocean between Southern deep-dish buttermilk pie and French clafoutis. Fresh raspberries are baked in lemony buttermilk custard — all secured in a buttermilk pie crust, of course.
Animal Farm Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Another Italian classic, panna cotta, is pudding’s refined foreign cousin. Traditionally made with heavy cream and unflavored gelatin, this custard is stand-on-its-own thick and silky smooth. St. Clair’s rendition calls for (nearly) equal parts of heavy cream and buttermilk, creating a perfect no-bake dessert to serve with seasonal fresh fruit.