There are many times that you may be making a recipe and realize that it calls for buttermilk. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, chances are that you don’t have it in the fridge. Here is how to make your own buttermilk and it’s fast and easy!
Per one cup of buttermilk do the following:
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
This works (since when does being the mother of a four year old make you an expert cook?). To the rest of us who have working taste buds, it's not even close.
It depends what you're making I suppose. I've always had trouble making Yorkshire puddings because they didn't rise well, then I saw a tip from a chef who said his grandmother always added a tablespoon of vinegar to the egg, flour and milk mixture so I tried it and it worked, they rose really well...........so perhaps that is what the buttermilk does - makes it rise better. I'm not sure how that would work in a sweet dish, but that could be why the PP says vinegar or lemon juice (vinegar for savoury, lemon for sweet)
Buttermilk adds flavor and acidity. If all you need is the acidity (i.e., to interact with baking soda, or to help old baking powder activate), then vinegar or lemon juice are OK substitutes. If you're looking for the flavor, such as in buttermilk pancakes or southern fried chicken, then acidulated milk is a poor substitute.
As an aside, buttermilk freezes very well. When I find it at one of the above mentioned stores (it's hit or miss), I usually buy three or four 1 liter cartons, and freeze what I don't use.