The Firelands Kitchen

The Firelands Kitchen by Erin Howarth

More On Dairy - Buttermilk Is A Powerhouse Ingredient


Since last week’s recipe for Buttermilk-Brined chicken, I’ve determined I really like the results from the grill when meats are marinated in buttermilk.

In doing some reading about the science behind buttermilk brines/marinades from Dan Gill of Something Different restaurant in Urbanna, Virginia, I’ve learned that traditional acid and oil marinades do not penetrate – they just flavor and tenderize the surface of meats. In fact, strong acids like vinegar and lemon juice actually toughen muscle fibers - not really the result we’re going for when grilling!

Gill writes on his restaurant’s website, “Southern cooks have long known that chicken fries crisper and is more tender and juicy if soaked in buttermilk before cooking. Eastern and Mediterranean cultures use buttermilk or yogurt to improve the texture and flavor of goat and mutton. Many hunters know that a simple buttermilk brine does wonderful things to venison and wild turkey as it mellows strong, gamey flavors. It was long assumed that the acids and enzymes in buttermilk and yogurt tenderized meat. It is now known that calcium in these dairy products triggers “aging” enzymes within muscle and connective tissues, which, in turn, degrade certain proteins that hold bundles of muscle fibers together.”

Gill goes on to explain that the science behind buttermilk isn’t just for the grill. “Buttermilk is also the key to making light, moist and tasty biscuits, hotcakes and corn breads. Acids in buttermilk react with baking soda to produce harmless bubbles of CO2 gas for leavening. Proportions and timing are fairly critical: Acidity varies with different buttermilks but the rule of thumb calls for one teaspoon of soda to neutralize two cups of buttermilk. Too much soda results in “off” flavors. The reaction rate decreases over time and increases with temperature so it is best to add the soda just before cooking or keep the batter cold.”

Mr. Gill is also kind enough to share two buttermilk recipes on his website - one for a brine and one for hotcakes.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this week’s recipes!


Basic, All-purpose Brine

Per gallon of liquid (water, buttermilk or a combination) stir to dissolve:

1 cup of salt (preferably non-iodized dairy, kosher, or pickling)

1/2 cup of sugar (I like molasses)

2 Tbsp. of ground pepper (I use freshly ground)

1 Tbsp. each of granulated garlic and granulated onion

Just about any other seasonings or herbs can be added for flavor - I always include a little allspice as homage to the origins of barbecue. Ginger, rosemary and red pepper are popular additions. Use a non-reactive container such as plastic, glass or stainless steel (re-sealable plastic bags work great for small cuts). Cover completely with brine and refrigerate for about 12 hours. I don’t bother with rinsing or soaking in fresh water before cooking.


Helen’s Buttermilk Hotcakes

2 cups of white or whole-wheat flour or 1 cup flour plus

1 cup seconds, middlings, corn meal or buckwheat

Stir in 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of baking soda.

Add 2 eggs and 1 Tbsp. of bacon grease and beat the eggs a little with a fork.

Mix in buttermilk until the batter drips from a spoon.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle until a moistened fingertip sizzles when quickly touched. A little salt sprinkled on the hot griddle, and wiped off, supposedly keeps the hotcakes from sticking. Mother also had a special tablespoon to dip the batter and pour five cakes at a time about four inches in diameter. When the bubble holes from escaping gas stopped closing completely on the upper surface, she flipped the cakes to cook the other side.


Buttermilk Pork Chops

2 cups buttermilk

3 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar

4 Tbsp. extra -virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

6 cloves garlic, smashed

6 bay leaves

2 teaspoons hot sauce

12 black peppercorns

1 lemon

6 bone-in center -cut pork loin chops (1-inch thick? about 3 pounds total)

Make the brine: Combine the buttermilk, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons salt, the garlic, bay leaves, hot sauce and peppercorns in a large bowl. Remove 4 wide strips of lemon zest with a vegetable peeler and add to the brine? squeeze in the juice of half of the lemon. Pierce both sides of the pork chops a few times with a paring knife. Add the pork to the brine, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Preheat a grill to medium high and lightly brush the grates with vegetable oil. Remove the pork from the brine, letting the excess drip off, and transfer to the grill. Cover and cook until marked, about 7 minutes. Flip and continue cooking, uncovered, until the other side is marked, about 7 more minutes.


Baked Buttermilk Doughnuts

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil (warmed briefly in the microwave)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray doughnut pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. In a smaller bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and the softened coconut oil with a whisk until smooth. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix until well blended and then fill each doughnut cup about 3/4 full. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the doughnuts spring back when touched (this could take as long as 12 minutes baking time but do not overcook or they will dry out). Allow to cool slightly in the pan before removing. Glaze or frost as desired.

Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon. Place in a paper bag. Place a warm doughnut in the bag and shake until the doughnut is completely covered with cinnamon sugar. Place on rack to cool.

Vanilla Glaze for Doughnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla together, starting with just 1 tablespoon of milk. You want the glaze to be fairly thick. Microwave for about 8 to 10 seconds, stir well and then drizzle over the doughnut. Dip in finely chopped walnuts, if desired.

Maple Glaze for Doughnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tbsp. maple syrup

1 tsp. milk

Mix the ingredients together until you have a fairly thick glaze. Microwave for a few seconds until it’s warm. Stir well and then drizzle over the doughnut.


Campfire Pinecones

Submitted by Marissa Leinbach, Greenwich, Ohio

In a plastic bucket, mix:

1 gallon hot water

1 tsp. dish soap

1 pound of one of the following:

Epsom salt, rock salt, baking soda, or boric acid

Add pinecones and weigh down to keep them submerged. Soak for 24 hours. Remove and place on newspaper to dry. Dry thoroughly. Add cones to campfire when it has burned down to almost embers.



Submitted by Marissa Leinbach, Greenwich, Ohio

4 1/2 cups flour (pastry)

1 cup butter

2 cups white sugar

5 eggs

1 tsp. slat

4 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 cup milk

Mix together and put in cake pan.


1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

6 Tbsp. butter

Mix together and put on top of cake. Bake at 350 degrees. Serve warm. Serve with strawberries or other fruit of your choice.


Yogurt Jello

Submitted by Katie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

1 cup Jello, your choice

1 cup water, boiling

4 cups yogurt

1 cup cream

3 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Dissolve Jello in water. Beat yogurt until smooth. Whip cream, adding vanilla and sugar. Mix all together and serve when cooled.


Applescotch Dessert

Submitted by Katie Garber, Ashland, Ohio


1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 cups cold water

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. butter

Combine first ingredients in a saucepan and cook until slightly thickened. Add vanilla and butter. Pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Dumpling Mixture:

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup shortening

3 cups chopped, peeled apples

3/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix first 5 ingredients until crumbly. Add apples and stir. Combine milk and vanilla and stir into mixture just until moistened. Drop by tablespoon over sauce in dish.


2 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine and sprinkle over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream. Tastes like apple dumplings. Yield: 10 servings.


Triple Treat Cookies

Submitted by Mary Garber, Ashland, Ohio

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup chocolate chips

3 cups flour


1/2 cup peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup milk

3 cups powdered sugar

May use less peanut butter and some Crisco.


Coffee Cake

Submitted by Mary Garber, Ashland, Ohio

1 1/2 cups white sugar

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oleo

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3 cups cake flour

1 can pie filling

Spread 2/3 dough on large cookie sheet. Cover with pie filling and spoon rest of dough on top. Bake 30-40 minutes.


2 tsp. melted butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla

11/2 cups powdered sugar

Warm milk to make thin glaze

It’s also good without glaze.

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