Butter(milk) Up

How to use every last drop of the Southern staple

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We've all been there. You're making a recipe that calls for a tablespoon (or less!) of buttermilk, and your grocery store stocks only the quart-size containers. Yes, you could make biscuits, pancakes or fried chicken, but what about trying something new? We tracked down a few forgotten favorites and some ideas you might not have considered. Who knows? You might like it so you much you end up stocking a quart at all times.

Farmhand's Delight

Angie Mosier, author of the Buttermilk cookbook from Short Stack Editions, clued us into this classic Southern dish. All you need is a piece of day-old corn bread (like this one, which happens to call for a cup of buttermilk already). Put said bread in a bowl, then add enough buttermilk to soften it and dig in.

Cheese Curds

Another favorite from Mosier is using buttermilk to make cheese curds. Don't be intimidated if you've never made them before—they're easier than they might seem. All it takes is bringing the buttermilk to a slow bubble on the stovetop over medium heat until the curds and whey begin to separate. Then just drain the whey, salt to taste and enjoy.

Caramel Sauce

If caramel sauce veers too sweet for your taste, try this idea from Virginia Willis, author of Lighten Up, Y'all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy & Wholesome. She substitutes buttermilk for half of the heavy cream when making the sauce, letting its natural sourness lend just a hint of tang.

Steamed Potatoes

Willis learned about this simple-but-impressive dish from the queen of entertaining herself, Martha Stewart. Steam and slice your favorite variety of small potatoes. Then warm some buttermilk and sprinkle it with chives, salt and pepper. Serve the potatoes doused in buttermilk, and you may never go back to gravy again.

Crème Fraîche

With extra buttermilk on hand, there's no need to buy crème fraîche. Phyllis Grant, a food writer and former pastry chef at Bouley and Nobu, recommends combining a cup of heavy whipping cream with two to four tablespoons of buttermilk in a pint jar, covering it and letting it sit at room temperature until the mixture has thickened up but remains pourable (anywhere from 24 hours to three days, depending on the temperature of your kitchen). Store it in the fridge and use it on everything from enchiladas to spring soups to your Easter ham.

Buttermilk Soup

This isn't the kind of soup you'd serve alongside a loaf of crusty bread, but rather, a Danish treat that's eaten for breakfast with sweet vanilla biscuits and a few berries on top. Get the recipe right this way.

Milk Shakes

Yes, you could make Jeni Britton Bauer's excellent Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream, but if you're short on time, make buttermilk shakes instead. Pick up a pint of your favorite strawberry ice cream and use an immersion blender to whip up a batch of milk shakes with the perfect mix of sweet and tart.

When in Doubt, Freeze

If you still have leftover buttermilk kicking around after all this, freeze it for later. The easiest way to do so is to pour one-tablespoon portions into ice cube trays. Just remember that you'll have to allow time for the cubes to thaw before using them and don't worry if they separate— just give the milk a quick stir before incorporating it into your recipe and carry on.