A Fresh Batch of Homemade Buttermilk

I’ve been making homemade buttermilk for about seven years now.  It’s such an easy-to-make food item! 

The beauty of homemade cultured dairy products, besides the fact that it saves you a lot of money to make them yourself, is that once you’ve made a batch, you can then use that batch to make more batches.  In other words, once you have a jar of homemade buttermilk, you use the last cup of that batch of buttermilk to make another batch of buttermilk.  Then you use the last cup of that buttermilk to make another batch of buttermilk.  Then you use the last cup of that buttermilk to make another….

Well, you get the picture.

This system works very well.  Until you go on a long trip across the country and come home to find that the buttermilk that has been untouched for several weeks in your fridge smells gross and you need to begin a fresh, new batch. 

That would be the predicament that I found myself in this week.  I found that the last little bit of buttermilk in my fridge had seen better days and needed to go.  That’s okay though.  Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to begin with fresh cultures and start a new batch of buttermilk.

Why do I like having buttermilk on hand?  I use it often for pancakes and baked goods.  And I really love using it in Creamy Orange Coolers.  It tastes delicious and refreshing in that recipe, and gives our tummies some great, live cultures.  It’s awesome for digestion!

I’ve shared it before, but I’ll share it again – just to reinforce to you how easy it is to make buttermilk. 

First, you get a starter culture.  My favorite comes from Cultures for Health.  Also, you need milk.  I prefer raw milk, but this does work with store-bought milk as well.

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Next, you pour the starter culture into a cup of milk.  I use a pint sized jar for this.

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Put the lid on and shake it up. 

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Once you’ve done this, place your jar in a “warmish” spot in your house for about 24 hours.  (In the winter, I find that it often takes longer than 24 hours.)  I usually put mine in the cabinet above my refrigerator because it tends to be a little warmer there.  Don’t put it on your fireplace – that’s too hot and it will kill the live culture.  Not that you were thinking about doing that.  But just in case, I thought it was worth mentioning.  We’re going for warm here, not hot.  (About 70°)

In about 24 hours, the milk will have turned into buttermilk.  You’ll know that the process is complete when you turn the jar over and instead of being liquid, the buttermilk will kind of “plop” away from the side of the jar in a single mass.  It’s pretty cool.

No need to fear leaving this dairy product out in the open for 24 hours.  Live cultures are healthy and will not spoil your milk.  Leaving it out in a warm place is all a part of the culturing process.  I promise.

Once my buttermilk is finished culturing, I can then use the last cup of that buttermilk to make another batch of buttermilk. 

Pour your one cup of cultured buttermilk into a quart or even half gallon of fresh milk to make larger batches once you’ve activated your starter.  Allow the buttermilk/milk combination to culture in a warm place for 24 hours or until it has become buttermilk.  Then refrigerate it and use as needed, saving the last 1 cup for a future batch.  

Then you can use the last cup of that buttermilk to make another batch of buttermilk. Then you can use the last cup of that buttermilk to make another….

Oh wait.  I think I told you that part already.  But yay for saving money and eating healthy at the same time!

Ever tried making buttermilk?  If not, what is holding you back?

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Comments

  1. jessica says

    Either a step is missing or i’m confused. So this only makes 1 cup every time. Do you pour your 1 cup starter into a bigger container with more milk after the 24 hours?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh my goodness, my brain is fried. I read and re-read what I wrote to make sure I had everything, but yep, I did leave out some pretty important info. Give me five minutes, then re-read the post. I shall explain. (Thank you for pointing this out!!)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Okay, I think I fixed it. But if you re-read it and feel like it is still unclear, please do let me know and I’ll fix it some more! :)

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  2. Michelle says

    So, once you’ve made your cup of buttermilk, you can add that to a half gallon of milk, then leave it out for 24 hours to make more buttermilk. Is that right? Or do you add the buttermilk to the half gallon of milk and refrigerate it? I’m not clear on how exactly to make the bigger batch.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Once you add the one cup of buttermilk to a half gallon (or less) of milk, you leave that out for 24 hours until that becomes buttermilk. Then you refrigerate it. I’ll edit the post to make it more clear. :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Fixed it, I think. Be sure to let me know if it is still unclear. :)

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  3. jessica says

    Thank you! I think I got it now. So after the 1 cup starter sits for the 24 hours you pour that into the larger jar. Then when you get down to the last cup of that you dump that last cup into another jar with fresh milk. Then just keep it in the fridge?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Let the bigger jar that you’re culturing sit out for 24 hours until THAT becomes buttermilk, then refrigerate it. Shucks, I’m struggling tonight. I’ll go edit some more. :)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Third time’s a charm?? :)

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    jessica Reply:

    Yes! Thank you for taking the time to explain. I get it now :)

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  4. Alisha Sullivan says

    so you don’t heat yours up? I am making mine for the first time..I heated it up then let it cool then added it..didn’t work overnight so put in on stereo..think it got to warm because it separated a bit..but I just shook it up and added it to my raw milk this evening and this time trying the oven with the light on..so I don’t have to keep the culture like my directions say? I can use the big batch of buttermilk instead?? That would be so much easier..and next time if I don’t have to heat it up but can leave it out in my raw milk instead that would be nice too!!
    Oh, and do you use kefir too? I was debating whether or not I needed buttermilk at all and if I could just order the kefir grains since that sounded like less trouble since I don’t heat those! lol..sorry for the long post!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    No, I go make it with cold milk, straight from the fridge. The directions make it a bit complictated, but I’ve found that it works the same whether I do it the easy way or the hard way. So I go for easy. :)

    Yes, I use kefir too, mostly for smoothies. I make it the exact same way – without heating the milk. :)

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  5. tulip says

    If I wanted to make a new batch right away, could I use store-bought buttermilk I already have in the fridge?

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    Rebecca Reply:

    Store bought butter milk is rarely cultured, it is often thickened with other things.

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    Sarah Mulholland Reply:

    Yes, you can! I buy a small buttermilk and add it to my jar. You want 1/4 buttermilk, 3/4 milk. Shake and set on counter for about 24 hours. You can take 1/4 from each batch and start a new indefinitely. Even meadow gold buttermilk is cultured. I have never seen a kind that wasnt. Homemade buttermilk done this way is very thick, but works awesome in recipes!

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    Sarah Reply:

    I make it with store bought cultured buttermilk. I added to mixed powered milk in a jar and let sit overnight. The only time I ever had an issue making it was when I tried to use an organic brand of milk that was ultra pasterized.

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  6. Tanya S says

    I am just getting ready to make my very first batch tomorrow!!! Great timing! I had the same question as Alisha…about heating the milk if you use raw. So you’ve found that your buttermilk never gets compromised by ‘possible’ bacteria in raw milk, like the directions say. And there is no reason to keep a mother starter? Guess that’s pretty much the same question, but I just want to make sure I don’t ruin it:)

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    No, I don’t worry about possible bacteria in the milk. Raw organic milk is so full of good bacteria that I don’t want to compromise that!! :)

    And no, no reason to keep a mother starter. I just keep a running buttermilk jar going and keep using that to make fresh jars. :)

    [Reply]

    Tanya S Reply:

    Great thank you for the reply! I was thinking about the good bacteria too and how heating would kill it. I love our raw milk. This will be so much easier! Thank you!

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  7. Andrea says

    That is a CUTE little jar! I just got the same buttermilk culture! I’ve been holding off on using it because I’m doing water and milk kefir grains and it can all get a bit overwhelming sometimes. But I think I’m ready.

    We make power smoothies in the morning. A couple farm fresh raw eggs with water or milk kefir or homemade yogurt or fresh milk or coconut water or whatever I have on hand, frozen fruit, frozen/fresh banana, a teaspoon of herba smoothie mix from Bulk Herb Store (we bought all four on special and rotate them), a bit of vit. C rich Camu powder from Azure, a bit of grassfed gelatin powder from Azure, a bit of elderberry juice concentrate from Vitacost, a few drops of minerals from Concentrace, and a dropper-full of Stevia tincture all whirred up in the blender. It is amazing how much real superfood is in it. When it’s summer and I have fresh greens ready, I add those too! I guess it’s time to add the buttermilk!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Buttermilk is one of the easiest to make, so I’m sure you’ll be able to keep up with it. Your smoothies sound delicious!!

    And I got that jar from my mom’s stuff when we were going through it after she died. I LOVE IT!!

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  8. Angelia says

    I got the same thing about three weeks ago. I ended up using a cooler with a heating pad on high and a metal coaster for the large jars I use plus once you make the buttermilk you can put that into heavy cream and make sour cream. I found the best book on buttermilk called better with buttermilk author Lee Edwards Benning a great book. You can usually get it at the library. Now my next project is sour dough. I should have it ready in a few more days. Hope that is easy to do as well!

    [Reply]

    Angelia Reply:

    Oh i should say the only reason I use a heating pad
    in the cooler is my house is cold. And I can’t reach the desired
    temp without doing that.But if you are in a warmer place you wouldn’t need to do that. I cant wait till the summer then I won’t have to use the cooler.

    [Reply]

  9. Kayla says

    Would this work with fresh goat’s milk?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I believe it would, although I don’t have experience with goat’s milk to say for sure.

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    John Reply:

    Yep did it all summer… but if milk is raw you must heat to 170 to kill “raw enzymes” and cool to room temp before adding culture.

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  10. Jamie says

    I make butter and keep the buttermilk from that, but this is MUCH easier and less time consuming, which is what I’m aiming for with infant and toddler in tow :)

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  11. Jackie B. says

    This is wonderful information, thanks for sharing! If I may ask, though, what’s the difference between Kefir and buttermilk? I currently use Kefir and we love it, but don’t know if one is better than the other.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Their taste is a little different, but essentially, you can use one instead of the other. I don’t really like buttermilk for smoothies, but kefir works great! I use buttermilk to make ranch dressing, and when I bake…really though, I’m sure kefir would work for those too!

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  12. Sally says

    We too purchase raw milk. With many milk drinkers in my house we go through 4 gallons or more a week. Our farmer always sells it to use with the cream on top. So I end up with lots of cream. I use it mostly for butter and keep the buttermilk and also use the cream for soups, alfredo sauce, and other such recipes. I end up with quite a bit of raw buttermilk. This is equally as healthy wouldn’t you say?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I would think so!

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  13. Amy says

    How long will a half gallon (or smaller) container of buttermilk last in the fridge?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I have found that mine lasts for up to a month. :)

    [Reply]

  14. gayle says

    How would you make just a quart at a time? And if you don’t want perpetual buttermilk, can that last cup be frozen?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    To make one quart, I would put about 3/4 cup buttermilk into the quart of milk and let it culture for 24 hours. I’ve never frozen it, so I’m not sure how that would work!

    [Reply]

  15. Amanda says

    I’m so glad to hear you say it may take longer than 24 hours – I actually finally made mine last night, and it’s still very runny, after about 18 hours now. My house is pretty chilly, so I have it in the oven with the light on, and a towel around it to make sure it’s warm enough. I would have been nervous tonight if it hadn’t cultured yet, but am glad to know it has taken longer for you.

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  16. Danielle says

    So, so glad you posted this! I too ordered the starter from Cultures for Health and made my first batch according to their directions. It turned out great -very thick and tasty in my recipes. However I was discouraged at how long the process took to reach the heated temp and then reach the cooled temp. Certainly easy, but time consuming to stand in my kitchen with a thermometer in the pot! I had a cup remaining of that batch and just made my next batch according to your directions. Wow, so much quicker! Thanks!!

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  17. Alisha Sullivan says

    made the orange cooler today using my buttermilk! Best recipe ever!!! My hubby and I gave it to the kids first since we were nervous/grossed out about drinking buttermilk but when they loved it we tried it and fought with them for the last sips! lol Thanks for all your hard work in the kitchen!!

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  18. Juli says

    I hesitate to make it because I only use buttermilk about once a month. I’d prefer to make my own but I’m afraid I would be throwing out more than I use!

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  19. Holly says

    These are great directions, but no need to use the special powdered starter with the extra 24 hour step. Just buy buttermilk from the grocery store, and follow the bolded directions given above. Make sure your buttermilk is NOT ultra-pasteurized, but every non ultra-pasteurized brand of buttermilk I’ve tried this with has worked just fine. Nothing wrong with using the starter, but plain old buttermilk from the store is easier for most people to come by, and it saves 1 day/step. I’ve rebatched our’s multiple times with no problems also.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I’ve done it this way before too – thanks for mentioning it! Unfortunately, I have a really hard time finding any prepared dairy product in my area that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. :(

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  20. Alecia says

    I make butter from the raw milk we get from the farm. My family loves buttermilk – the thick kind that comes from the grocery store, but not the thin remnants after making butter. I was hoping to use the milky leftovers from my butter-making as the basis of homemade buttermilk, but I want to transform it into the thick, creamy stuff my family knows and loves. Has anyone tried the process in this post on the buttermilk left after making butter from their raw milk?

    [Reply]

    Ana Reply:

    I’m trying to find out the same thing. My remnants of butter making is very thick actually. I didn’t mix it with the rinsing water though, so maybe that’s why.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Mine is always very thin, basically skim milk since all the fat has been pulled out to make the butter. :)

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  21. Julia says

    Can I use store bought buttermilk as my starter for the first batch, then just keep some buttermilk for my next batch? I wasn’t sure if store bought worked. Also, should you use it in a certain amount of time to make another batch so that cultures are still strong? If so, how soon? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Sure, that should work fine. I usually try to make a fresh batch at least every two weeks if I can.

    [Reply]

  22. Jeni says

    I just got my starter in the mail today and I’m so excited to get started.
    Quick question when you are ready to make your next batch with the reserved 1cup from the first batch. Do you just pour the 1 cup into your cold milk and refrigerate right away or do you let it sit for 24 hours again? Hope that makes sense.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Go ahead and let it sit for 24 hours as well so that it can turn into buttermilk before refrigerating. :)

    [Reply]

  23. Ana says

    Can I use the buttermilk I got from making butter? Mix that with regular milk, leave it out for a day? Or add some yogurt to that buttermilk, leave it out, have it ferment and go from there?
    Thanks

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve never done it this way, so I’m not entirely sure. I would add it to some yogurt and let it ferment like you suggested. :)

    [Reply]

  24. Josie says

    Will the live cultures from buttermilk survive being frozen? Is love the freeze the buttermilk I have now to make more later.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think that should work, but I’ve never tried so you may want to do an internet search to be sure. :)

    [Reply]

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