Buttermilk cheese is a type of cheese derived from buttermilk, as opposed to regular or reduced-fat milks. There is a misconception that buttermilk is made out of butter, when in fact it is actually derived from milk. In order to make this cheese, cooks have the option of either using store-bought buttermilk or making the buttermilk themselves in advance. Goat’s milk could also be used instead of cow’s milk, if preferred.
Buttermilk gets its name, not because it contains butter, but because it is made from the milk leftover from homemade butter. When butter is made, there is a sour liquid leftover from the churning process that is used to make buttermilk, which is usually thicker than regular milk. The sourness of buttermilk is what gives this type of cheese a different twist. Sour flavors are attributed to the original butter churning process, in which the milk used is left to sit out for at least 12 hours. This helps to create the bacteria needed to help increase the smoothness of the mixing process, as well as the resulting flavor.
When making buttermilk cheese, cooks have two options: they can either use homemade buttermilk or purchase buttermilk from the store. Making the milk at home involves combining the liquid from churned butter with regular milk. The residue tends to taste acidic, so cooks sometimes add salt or sugar to their buttermilk recipe. Store-bought buttermilk is labeled as a cultured product, because it is also made from part milk and part live buttermilk cultures. Commercial buttermilk has a more tart taste than the homemade version and it often contains added salt.
Buttermilk cheese is ready to make once the cook has buttermilk and regular milk on hand. Salt is combined with the milks in a saucepan and cooked for approximately 10 minutes. Curds and whey separate during the process and are drained while cooling. The buttermilk cheese can be served immediately, or can be refrigerated if a firm texture is desired.
For consumers who do not eat cow’s milk, buttermilk cheese may still be made from other milks such as those derived from goats. Goat’s milk tends to have a stronger flavor, so it should be expected that buttermilk cheese made from this type of milk will have a stronger flavor than a cow’s milk version. The fat content of goat’s milk is slightly higher on average than cow’s milk, and it contains more essential fatty acids.