Prasadam - Buttermilk
BY: SUN STAFF
Sep 03, 2010 CANADA (SUN) A journey through India: border to border, bhoga to prasadam.
Today we begin a new segment on Prasadam ingredients, this time one of the many super-excellent products given by Mother Cow – buttermilk! As with so many bhoga ingredients, there are a few preparations that pass for buttermilk, with differences between the products in east and west. What is known as commercial buttermilk in the west is quite different from India's traditionally prepared buttermilk, and the two don't always perform equally well in some preparations.
The traditional form of buttermilk in Vedic culture is the liquid remaining after butter is extracted from the dahi, or churned yogurt produced from cow's milk. It is known by many different names: chaach, chaas or mattha in Hindi, majjige in South India, and chasse in Gujarat. There are a great many Sanskrit terms that refer to buttermilk, and we'll explore a number of these variations.
In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, buttermilk is typically referred to as takra or matha, (mattha). Matha generally describes a sour milk, but of course, milk can be soured in many different ways. Pure buttermilk has only a little sour quality when fresh, and even that might better be called strong and tangy rather than sour.
There are numerous Sanskrit terms that describe blends of buttermilk with water, and each of these has a particular use in Vedic cooking. For example, katura, katvara, kagkara, and paramarasa all describe buttermilk mixed with water; samodaka or udazvit describe mixtures of half buttermilk, half water; takra describes a combination with two parts buttermilk to one part water; arzoghora or sarana is one part buttermilk to three parts water. Mathita, on the other hand, is buttermilk churned without water.
While all these are proper names for buttermilk, there are several things that are really not buttermilk. For example, the term lassi is often translated to 'buttermilk', although lassi beverages are often made by whipping sweetened yoghurt with water, and only some lassis have sour milk, or buttermilk, in them. Likewise, dahi or dadhi, which is really yoghurt or curd, is often used synonymously with buttermilk, when is actually the liquid left from churning the yoghurt. Another common variation is that the whitish liquid by-product from making ghee is called buttermilk (or lassi), but it is actually the whey.
As with all of the by-products from Mother Cow, buttermilk is a highly valued spiritual food. In fact, the Puranic model of divine cosmology, with Mount Meru at the center, describes the seven dvipas or continents which are surrounded by seven concentric oceans, and one of these is the Ocean of Buttermilk. These concentric circles of ocean and land, emanating out from Mount Meru, are:
Jambudvipa – Roseapple Tree Land
Ocean of Salt Water
Ocean of Sugar-cane Juice
Ocean of Wine
Ocean of Melted Ghee
Ocean of Buttermilk
Teak Tree Land
Ocean of Milk
Ocean of Sweet Water
It's interesting that three of the oceans are made of a product from Mother Cow: milk, buttermilk and ghee. Absent are yoghurt and butter, which are byproducts of churning.
There are so many excellent pastimes found in sastra which describe buttermilk preparations being offered to Sri Krsna and Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and we will cover as many of these as possible. Having just celebrated Sri Krsna Janmastami, we enjoyed the beautiful description of Krsna's Appearance in the narration from Ananda Vrindavan Champu by Srila Kavi Karnapura, which describes the play of the gopis, who were overcome with happiness due to Krsna' birth:
"Carried away with joy over Krishna's birth, they fearlessly threw cheese balls, butter, and yogurt at each other. One could mistake the white balls of cheese for hailstones, solidified moonlight, or white mud from the floor of the milk ocean. Then they showered each other with buttermilk, aromatic oils, and water mixed with turmeric."
Another famous pastime is that of Lord Caitanya's parishad associate, Srila Raghunatha dasa Goswami, who was known for his austere practice of taking only a leaf cup full of buttermilk every day to sustaining his bhajan. Raghunatha dasa Goswami once fell ill, and the doctor suggested it was from taking too much milk and rice, not knowing that the Goswami took only a small cup of buttermilk each day. In fact, it was the Goswami's practice to offer sweet rice to Their Lordships each day, and taking this rich prasadam in his mind was apparently the cause of his transcendental affliction.
There are some unique methods of cooking with buttermilk that are specific to both North and South India, and we'll offer recipes for both. What is known in Anglicized jargon as "curry" most likely came from the North Indian term kaddy, which refers to a sauce or gravy that is thickened by boiling. Kaddy, or 'cuddy', often uses buttermilk as the liquid ingredient, or sometimes yoghurt is used. This thickened gravy base is used in many dishes, often spiced with masalas or 'curry powders'. With vegetables mixed in, the preparation might also be called a sabji.
Kittrie and Cuddy was one of Srila Prabhupada's favorite staple dishes, and he taught the devotees how to properly prepare it. There is a good basic recipe found in the 1970 Devotee Cookbook, which is a manuscript thought to have been prepared by Revatinananda das. His recipe calls for yoghurt, but buttermilk is also brilliant in this prep.
Kittrie and Cuddy
Prepare rice and mung the same as for regular kittrie, and fry the same way but no chaunce. Spice and salt and turmeric, and while frying add chunks of cauliflower and potato. When dal appears a bit glassy add water in the same proportion as for regular Kittrie and cook in the same way, exactly until done.
At the same time this is cooking, put one part sifted gram flour in the bottom of a deep saucepan, add a moderate sprinkle of turmeric and salt, (it takes some practice on the turmeric), and then mix in a little water, beating into a pasty batter so that lumps are stirred out. Then add four to five parts yoghurt [or buttermilk] (4 if very thick, 5 if thinner) and beat this into the batter. When all lumps are gone, add water slowly, stirring constantly until the batter has become nearly like water. If turmeric has been right this liquid should be white with a light yellowish caste, not bold yellow. Then bring this mixture up to a boil, being careful because it burns easily and even a little burning spoils cuddy sauce. As it gets near boiling it should turn yellow and almost simultaneously thicken into a thick liquid (gravy-like). When boiled, finished. Chaunce with fairly heavy cumin seeds, very light red peppers, and heavy hing. When offered or served poured over the kittrie this is one of Srila Prabhupada's favorites.
2 cups of Rice Flour
¼ cup sour Buttermilk
1 tsp Mustard
1 tsp Black Gram (Urad dal)
3 dry Red Chillies
1 Green Chilli
2 Curry leaves
2 tsp Ghee
Salt to taste
Mix the rice flour and salt with buttermilk to a get a curd like consistency. Heat some ghee in a pan and add the dry mustard seeds, black gram and chillies till they sputter. Add the flour mixture and stir well to get rid of all lumps. Add curry leaves for a few minutes, then remove them when the cuddy leaves the sides of the pan.
Here are two more nice prasadam preps from the 1970 Devotee Cookbook:
There is one special dal using whole chickpeas which is good for big S.K.P. (sankirtan party) days or feasts: Boil whole chickpeas until soft when squeezed. Drain off water and add buttermilk to the top of beans. Mix in a little gram (chick pea) flour - enough so that as the buttermilk comes to boil, it thickens a bit. Spice with turmeric, salt, light on red peppers, and plenty of hing.
Can be made from cultured buttermilk, sugar, and ripe, pulpy fruits like peaches, bananas, pears, etc. The fruit is thoroughly mashed and mixed into the buttermilk along with a little sugar (it should not be too sweet.)
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