It’s a mouthful…but man, is it good!
I think buttermilk is overlooked by most people. If you gave the average person a quart of buttermilk, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Most people have heard of regular buttermilk pancakes, or maybe the process of soaking chicken in buttermilk before breading and frying…but that’s about it.
I grew up in a Lithuanian household where buttermilk, like many other dairy products, was an everyday ingredient. From something as simple as a bowl of cold buttermilk with fried potatoes on the side (one of my Dad’s favorites), to a cold summer borscht, my Mom found different ways to use buttermilk on a regular basis.
The term “buttermilk” actually refers to several different dairy drinks. Originally, buttermilk was the liquid left behind after churning butter out of cream. Buttermilk can also be quickly soured milk, a common drink in warmer climates. In colder climates, the souring process doesn’t occur naturally, but it is often encouraged, commonly by placing bread in the milk to make it go sour faster. (My Mom did this all the time, using Lithuanian bread, a dark rye-like bread.) And then there’s cultured buttermilk, which is what most of us find on supermarket store shelves today. This is milk that has had lactic acid bacteria introduced into it.
I loved the taste of buttermilk–still do. Just give me a cold bowl, sprinkle a little finishing salt in it, and I’m good. But for those who don’t want their buttermilk straight, here’s a recipe that will knock your socks off, and wouldn’t be the same without this great, misunderstood ingredient.
Blueberry cornmeal buttermilk pancakes with lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups stoneground yellow cornmeal
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter, slightly cooled
1–2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, preferably wild, rinsed and dried
Whisk flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl
In a separate bowl, whisk egg, lemon zest, and melted butter into buttermilk to combine.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients in the bowl. Pour in milk mixture and
whisk very gently until just combined. Do not over mix. A few lumps are OK.
Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil and brush to coat skillet
bottom evenly. Pour 1/4 cup batter into 3 spots on skillet. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon
blueberries over each pancake. Cook pancakes until large bubbles begin to appear,
about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using thin, wide spatula, flip pancakes and cook until golden
brown on second side, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes longer.