What makes pancake a “buttermilk pancake”? When buttermilk is used to make the batter, of course.
But what the heck is buttermilk?
Well, to start with, buttermilk is definitely NOT made by stirring together melted butter into milk. On the contrary, buttermilk is what’s left after the butter has been taken out of the milk. Confused?
Okay, milk is opaque (partially) because of the fat globules in it. The fat in milk is called butterfat. To make butter, milk is left to sit to allow the fat solids (cream) to separate from the liquid. The separation is due to fermentation caused by naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk. The cream undergoes “churning” (agitating) and it becomes butter. The leftover liquid is traditional buttermilk. Because it had undergone fermentation, buttermilk is tart. It is the tartness that adds flavor to buttermilk pancakes.
Traditional buttermilk? Why, is there untraditional buttermilk? Yes, but it isn’t labeled as “untraditional”. The term is “cultured” buttermilk, the kind sold in the grocery today. Instead of the more time consuming process of letting milk sit until the cream separates, a culture of Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc citrovorum is added to milk to mimic naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria.
Can’t find buttermilk in your neighborhood grocery? Click here for five substitutes for buttermilk.