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Foods -- General

Why would home churned butter have the consistency of milk with butter added?

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Buttermilk is a cultured-milk product. To produce a good-cultured milk product, you need the following: 1) a source of good-flavored, low-bacteria milk; 2) high heat treatment of the milk (in order to destroy competitive organisms; 3) an active, properly functioning, appropriate starter; 4) quick chilling of the cultured product; and 5) high standards of sanitation. (After reviewing the above, I believe that we should not recommend making buttermilk at home because of all of the potential sources for contamination.) To further illustrate the complexity of making buttermilk, please read below. The industrial process for making buttermilk is as follows: Skim or partially skimmed milk is pasteurized at 185 degrees F for 30 minutes and cooled to 72 degrees F. Heat denaturation of the whey proteins by this treatment is desired to increase the viscosity and body of the product. The cooled milk is inoculated with 1.0 percent active lactic starter culture composed of S. lactis, S. cremoris, and L. citrovorum. The inoculated milk is held at 70 to 72 degrees F until the titratable acidity is 0.85 percent or higher, or the pH is 4.5 or below (12 to 14 hours). The buttermilk is now cooled to 40 degrees F, rapidly and with minimum agitation, and filled into appropriate containers. The temperature of the inoculated milk is quite important. The optimum temperature for the growth of flavor-forming bacteria is 68 degrees F, while the optimum temperature for acid-forming bacteria is 86 degrees F. At a temperature below 68 degrees F, insufficient acid is produced and the product is "flat" in flavor. Above 75 degrees F, the acidity becomes excessive and the flavor is "harsh" and "coarse."

SOURCE: Paul, P.C. and H.H. Palmer. 1972. Food Theory and Applications, p. 596.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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