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Buttermilk and Sour Cream:

    Buttermilk was originally the fluid left over after churning cream to make butter.
  • It used to be consumed most often as a drink, but today it is usually condensed and dried for use in the baking and frozen desserts industries.
  • The beverage that is today called buttermilk is actually cultured buttermilk.
  • This drink is made from skim or low-fat milk by adding bacteria that produce lactic acid.
  • The milk is pasteurized first to kill harmful bacteria.
  • After the milk is cooled somewhat, good bacteria, such as Streptococcus lactis, Streptococcus cremoris, Leuconostoc citrovorum, and Leuconostoc dextranicum, are added.
  • The fermentation produced by these bacteria produce a thicker liquid than the original buttermilk, but the cultured buttermilk is similar to the original in other respects.
  • It takes about 12 - 14 hours to produce a curd. The curd is broken up by stirring.
  • Next the product is cooled to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit to stop the fermentation. It is then packaged and refrigerated.
  • Cultured buttermilk made from skim milk contains mostly water (about 90%), the milk sugar lactose (about 5%), and the protein casein (about 3%).
  • Buttermilk made from low-fat milk has about 2% fat (butterfat).
  • In both skim and low-fat buttermilk, some of the lactose is turned into lactic acid by the bacteria.
  • This conversion makes the buttermilk taste slightly sour, but it also makes it easier for lactose intolerant people to digest it.
  • Sour cream is made using the same temperatures and culture methods as those for cultured buttermilk.
  • The primary difference is that sour cream is made from light cream (with 18% fat) rather than milk.

Source: Encyclopedia Brittanica online at "http://www.brittanica.com, entries Buttermilk, and Dairy Product, production.