Ranch dressing... and the importance of real buttermilk

Ranch dressing... and the importance of real buttermilk

By
From
Deep South
Photographer
Andy Sewell

Ranch dressing may well be the most common sauce in all the Southern states. That’s a blanket statement, considering that I’m talking about BBQ country, but there is only one style of ranch commonly available – one that is typically based on mayo with cultured buttermilk.

True buttermilk is hard to find these days. What is now sold as buttermilk is a massproduced cultured cream, more in the style of yoghurt or kefir and nothing like the true liquid run-off of cultured-butter production. Have faith; you can still get the real thing from a quality cheesemonger’s such as Neal’s Yard.

Because I culture and churn my own butter weekly I have access to a steady supply of fresh buttermilk, which has endless applications in the kitchen. This means I also have control over where my cream comes from and what the cows are consuming. Dairy cows that receive a supplement of grain in their diet to increase their production most often make cream that tastes of that grain (commonly corn). Cows are ruminants, adapted to eat a variety of grasses, not a mono-diet of grain, which upsets the natural pH balance in their stomachs and ultimately affects the overall health of the animal.

Here are some of the f lavour profiles you should seek when deciding on a good cream: grassy, earthy, naturally sweet with a slightly yellow hue. Grasses contain beta-carotene, the same nutrient that makes a carrot orange, so the colour of your butter is one of the first indicators of the cows’ diet and the quality of their cream.

I’ve managed to create a version of ranch here with a lightness more akin to a vinaigrette. Its uses are wider than those of a heavier, creamy ranch. Try it with fish, white meat, young bitter leaves or fresh vegetables of any variety.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
200ml fresh buttermilk
100ml see method for ingredients
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt

Method

  1. This recipe is simply a matter of combining all the ingredients in a jar and shaking well. The spices will dissolve in the buttermilk. Eventually the oil and liquids will separate, so shake well before each use.
Tags:
American
Southern cooking
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