Polish Buttermilk Cookery
By Robert Strybel
THE POLISH CHEF
BUTTERMILK POT CHEESE (twaróg maślankowy): Gradually heat 2 qts cultured buttermilk with 1 t salt to no more than 160°F stirring constantly. Curds should float up from whey. If they don’t, increase temp slightly. After curds separate, switch off heat and let stand 15 min. Transfer mixture to cheesecloth-lined colander or large sieve and allow to drip-dry into bowl. Save the whey. For a soft cheese, when dripping stops, transfer to bowl and refrigerate overnight. For firmer, sliceable cheese, roll curds in cheesecloth into tight ball and weigh down with water-filled qt jar to remove added moisture. When dripping stops, twist ball some more too remove as much moisture as possible and refrigerate in cheesecloth ball overnight.
USING YOUR HOME-MADE POT CHEESE (wykorzystanie domowego twarogu): You can serve your buttermilk pot cheese with chopped chives, radishes & chopped hard-cooked eggs, laced with a little sour cream and salted and peppered to taste, as a breakfast or light-supper dish, use it to fill pierogi or naleśniki, bake a Polish cheesecake (sernik) or wherever you would use store-bought farmer cheese or ricotta.
WHEY – COLD, REFRESHING DRINK (serwatka orzeźwiającym, zimnym napojem): Chilled whey, a pot cheese byproduct, makes a healthful and refreshing drink on a hot summer day and is loaded with valuable mineral nutrients. Its tart, tangy, winey taste can also enhance the flavor of sauces, soups and salads and can be added to bread and cake recipes.
POLISH BUTTERMILK PANCAKES (racuchy na maślance): Combine 2-1/2 c all-purpose flour with 2 t sugar, 1 level t salt and 1 unheaped t baking soda with 2 c room-temp buttermilk and 1 room-temp egg and mix into a batter. Let stand at room temp 20 min. In skillet heat 3/4 c canola oil and ladle batter into hot oil. Cook to a nice golden-brown on both sides and drain on paper towel covering tops with another sheet of towel. Dust hot pancakes with confectioners’s sugar and serve. Instead of sugar-dusting, serve with honey, jam or fruit syrup of choice
ENHANCED BUTTERMILK PANCAKES (racuchy na maślance wzbogacone): Prepare batter as above, but into hot oil ladle only half the amount of batter. After a min or so, add a slice of your home-made pot cheese or a thin apple slice at center and cover with a bit more batter. When top batter no longer looks wet, flip over and fry until golden brown.
POTATOES & BUTTERMILK (kartofle z maślanką): In my family it was common to serve a bowl of cold buttermilk with hot boiled potatoes on the side. Others combined the two. Allow a bowl containing 1 to 1-1/2 c room-temp buttermilk per person and add chunked-up, hot boiled potatoes. The hot potatoes may be first dotted with cold bits of butter or skwarki (golden-brown, fried fatback or bacon nuggets). Optional: Garnish with fine-chopped fresh dill.
BUCKWHEAT GROATS & BUTTERMILK (kasza gryczana z maślanką): Cook buckwheat groats until grains are loose and fluffy (na sypko) and garnish with skwarki (golden-brown, fried fatback or bacon nuggets). Serve a bowl of buttermilk on the side or combine the two as with potatoes (above). If combining, buttermilk should be at room-temp.
BUTTERMILK SALAD DRESSING (sos maślankowy do salatek): Combine ½ c buttermilk with ½ c sour cream of plain yogurt. Add ½ – 1 t salt, 2 t lemon juice or vinegar and 1-2 t sugar and fork-blend until smooth and creamy. Great over sliced cucumbers (mizeria), lettuce, sliced tomatoes and thin-sliced onions or other mixed salads of choice. Feel free to add fine-chopped chives and/or dill, grated radishes or fine-chopped green onion or other greens or herbs. Variation: Stir in a good-sized dollop of mayo to make a great sauce for hard-cooked eggs or potato salad.
FRUITED BUTTERMILK COFFEE CAKE (placek na maślance z owocami): Preheat oven to 350° and grease loaf pan. Beat 2 large room-temp eggs, 1 c sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, 1 c room-temp buttermilk and 1/2 c canola oil until combined. In separate bowl, whisk together 3 c cake flour, 1 t baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir into egg mixture and combine thoroughly. Transfer to loaf pan and top with ripe fruit: pitted, halved plums, pitted cherries, halved strawberries, thin apple, pear or peach slices, etc. For crumb topping, separately mix 1-1/4 c all-purpose flour and 1/2 c sugar and cut in 1 stick cold, unsalted butter in small pieces (like for pie dough) until crumbs form. Spread crumb topping over fruit and bake about 40 min or until wooden skewer comes out clean.
EMERGENCY “BUTTERMILK” (“maślanka” awaryjna): If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you are fresh out, try this emergency substitute. Into glass measuring cup add 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice or white vinegar. Pour in enough room-temp whole milk to make 1 c and let stand 10-15 min. Result: instant buttermilk substitute.