Saturday 31 March 2012

Lait ribot

Periodically I have a conversation with someone - usually American - about what one can use as a substitute for buttermilk. Generally we agree that we have never, or very rarely, seen buttermilk available on the supermarket shelves, yet it is an ingredient that certain recipes traditionally contain and our mothers or grandmothers seem to have used reasonably regularly. We agree that the easiest substitute is natural yoghurt thinned with milk, but we occasionally use milk that has gone sour or faiselle (like cottage cheese) that is past its best, just like our mothers and grandmothers would have. We suppose that the other possibility is using drinking yoghurt, but since none of us ever buy the stuff, we've never tried it. I've also used the whey saved from mozzarella cheese as a substitute for buttermilk in cakes.

Just recently I wanted to make soda bread and it suddenly dawned on me that I had read a post on Clotilde Dusoulier's excellent food blog Chocolate and Zucchini, yonks ago, about a Breton product called lait ribot. I see it in the supermarket as a regular item, in the refrigerated section along with the fresh milk, and my memory of Clotilde's description was that if it wasn't buttermilk, it was a very reasonable substitute.

Using the other half of the lait ribot to make cornpone.
It turns out that lait ribot is indeed a type of buttermilk. In the old days it was the traditional product, which was the creamy but low fat liquid left in the churn after you have made butter, deliberately fermented to increase its keeping qualities. (Lait is the French word for milk and ribot from the Breton word for a churn). These days the by-products of industrial scale butter making go into industrial scale 'not butter' spread making, along with various vegetable oils. Cultured buttermilk, or lait ribot, is now manufactured in its own right by adding a lactobacillus to milk to lightly ferment it, making it go slightly sour and curdled ie essentially, drinking yoghurt. Many French people would dry retch at the thought of drinking a glass of milk, but they adore a glass of lait ribot, especially if they are holidaying in Brittany.



Tim said...

Merci m'dear... beats adding a squeeze of lemming jooce to milk... I will tell herself now as I go up with the morning tea... which supermarché, SVP? Sooper You, Hintermarket or The Clerk? Or A N Other?

The WV is plug and play this morning... "USB hts entarldr"

Ken Broadhurst said...

I use plain yogurt in the place of buttermilk and it works fine. Thin it with a little milk. Or use milk and add a few drops of vinegar or, as Tim says, lemon juice to it to sour it. That works too. I've seen something called lait fermenté in the supermarkets a time or two. Wonder if that's the same thing as lait ribot.

I've never thought of saving the water that mozzarella comes packed in for cooking. Maybe I'll try that.

Lady Justine said...

That's definitely got me in the mood for baking now!

Jean said...

I was looking in our local Spa shop for cream the other day, which they didn't have, but they had Elmlea, a cream substitute, instead. I looked at the info on the back of the carton and it said something like 85% buttermilk - I'm not sure of the exact percentage - so next time I need buttermilk I will try it and see what happens.

Carolyn said...

Commercial buttermilk is very different from what's left in the churn after you make butter. The cream has all gone into the butter and what's left is very acidic. Maybe it was considered drinkable back in the days when people didn't waste anything, but I usually put it on the compost.

WV was igestion. Tim, over to you.

Susan said...

Tim: SuperU.

Ken: I usually use yoghurt thinned with milk too.

LJ: go for it - you can't have too many biscuits in the house.

Jean: very interesting. I bet the difference is that it is sweetened in some way. Let us know the results of any experiments over on Baking in Franglais.

Carolyn: yes, old fashioned real buttermilk and modern cultured buttermilk are really two different products. My mother made our butter when we were children, but I can't remember what happened to the buttermilk - probably fed to the pigs. I am sure we never drank it - yuk!

purejuice said...

there's also this, which works very very well when sifted with the dry ingredients (or mix it up first, if you like) and has the virtue of staying fresh in the fridge for years as you use it up in 2/3 c increments.

Ken Broadhurst said...

I just found this funny YouTube video about Elmlea products and cats...

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