Home / General / We Have Always Been At War With Buttermilk!

We Have Always Been At War With Buttermilk!


To make a point blatantly stolen from inspired by friend of LGM CS,  I am amused by this headline in the NYT food section, which reflects a longstanding pattern (although in the prior cases, more plausible.)

My question: who exactly maligns buttermilk? I can imagine the scene in restaurants across America. “Our specials today are a three cheese omelet, panko-crusted, chipoltle-dusted, mojito-infused corn dog batter with melted asiago and a Southern Southwestern BBQ glaze, and buttermilk pancakes.” “Buttermilk? Jesus, why not just make them with rat poison?” I know every time I walk to Stewart’s to get buttermilk so I can make pancakes, the look on the cashier’s face makes me wish I had done something less embarrassing, like ask for “A Barely Legal. No, not that one, the new one.” I hope this article will be the first step in the long road against anti-buttermilk discrimination.

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  • What? When has buttermilk been maligned? Buttermilk rocks. Love to make creamy homemade dressings with it. Mix it into mashed potatoes.

    This is silly talk.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yes. It is a wonderful product. Although in fairness it must be said that my wife’s family dissed it because they thought “butter” in the name meant that it was unhealthy. Explanations about how it was the non-fat part of the butter-making process went in vain. So maybe they were the source for the headline.

      • I was totally just going to write this!

      • Actually I only learned it was a low-fat food a couple years ago…though have no issues with fats that come from natural sources.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Right. Also, butter >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> margarine, but that’s another post.

    • spud

      The connotation with being unhealthy is the reason why buttermilk based dressing is now called “ranch”

    • Maybe they mean relative to yogurt if you’re into that probiotics thing? I know lots of people who eat yogurt based on that reasoning, but none who will drink a glass of buttermilk. In the 60’s that was allegedly reversed.

    • DrDick

      Love buttermilk, both to cook with (do not try fired chicken without using it) and to drink. I have literally never heard anyone bad mouth buttermilk.

      • No, honey is the secret to good fried chicken not buttermilk.

    • howard

      in the early ’60s, when i was about 10, my parents got a killer comedy record by shelly berman, “inside shelly berman” (i own it and still crack up over many of its bits).

      anyhow, one of the pieces on the album is entitled “why i hate buttermilk,” and it’s a live recording, and there’s a very appreciative guffaw when he says that.

      that’s the entire evidence of buttermilk hatred that i know.

      p.s. other, of course, than my personal experience visiting my cousins on cape cod around the same time and being fooled into drinking a huge swig of buttermilk and hating it….

  • Aaron B.

    The New York Times: making up things to be pretentious about since 1851.

  • Njorl

    I malign buttermilk. It tastes bad and leaves a disturbing coating on glasses.

    • djw

      Yes, if you drink it, which is nasty (but only slightly more than drinking whole milk). If you put it in things like mashed potatoes, pancakes, and soups, on the other hand, it’s fantastic.

      • JRoth

        See, this is precisely the malgning in question. Or at least this is what I thought of. For some reason buttermilk drinking has survived as a folkway here in Pittsbugrh (maybe throughout Appalachia?), and every non-native I’ve ever known to mention it has been repulsed. And these are people who like to drink kaffir and eat plain yogurt.

        • Colin

          Ohio too – it was years before I had buttermilk in anything other than a glass, and not coincidentally, it was years that I absolutely hated buttermilk.

    • KadeKo

      Are you familiar with Shelley Berman’s musings on buttermilk? I mean, this was in the very late 50s or early 60s, but he said the same thing about how the glass looked.

  • nitpicker

    I admit, it was I who maligned buttermilk. In my defense, however, I did so out of love. Buttermilk and I were once the best of friends, until Marjorie came between us. You know the story: Boy meets girl. Dairy product meets girl. Those those first days were glorious, our fragile triangle of longing soon collapsed when I noticed Marjorie and Buttermilk leaving me more frequently alone and returning to me only when apparently exhausted–lipstick stains lining Buttermilk’s container, Marjorie exhibiting a heretofore unseen milk moustache.

    I admit my response was dishonorable, but, intending to harm my opponent for Marjorie’s hand, I pointed out at parties or other places of conversation–casually, at first, though my tone grew, I fear, obviously harsh–that Buttermilk was rather fatty and what some people thought of as taste I saw as an underlying bitterness.

    Alas, while my rumors have remained, I lost the battle for Marjorie. She and Buttermilk abandoned me for the last time over ten years ago now. I think of her often and, whenever I encounter a stinky cheese or even whipping cream, I feel deep, poignant pangs of loss and regret…

    • That was terrific. I laughed, I cried, I ate some crudités with Ranch dressing.

  • RobNYNY1957

    American buttermilk is really just watery yogurt. It’s not a by-product of cream left over from making butter. Look at the ingredients — it’s made from cultured milk, not cream.

    • JRoth

      The part of that article that Scott didn’t complain about discusses that dairies are starting to sell real buttermilk again.

      • RobNYNY1957

        I haven’t had real buttermilk since I was a kid on a dairy farm and my grandmother still churned butter. Barely remember the real thing.

  • Anonymous

    My mother died of a buttermilk overdose.

    • Grocer

      It killed my dog and ate my cat.

      • Mrs Tilton

        It turned me into a newt.

        • Linnaeus

          But you got better, no?

    • Walt

      Buttermilk killed Christ.

  • Lara

    I malign buttermilk because I can never use it up before it goes bad. It should come in smaller sizes, like cream and half-and-half.

    • JRoth

      Really? It lasts a month or two in the fridge, and I certainly can use that much (3/4 cup per batch of pancakes, and I always make a double batch).

      Although, as I mentioned above, due to local tradition it’s sold in the same pint bottles as chocolate milk and 2%. When I only started to cook with it, that’s what I bought.

    • S_noe

      The powdered stuff is good for cooking, and freezes well!

  • BruceJ

    That didn’t get me so much as the gawdawful hipsterishness “Oh this isn’t COMMERCIAL buttermilk that YOU can buy, this is REAL buttermilk. You probably never heard of them.”

    • nitpicker

      I was totally into buttermilk’s early stuff.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Then they sold out.

        • Mike

          I stopped buying their stuff – they just keep making the same pancakes over and over again.

    • Uhm, it’s true though. 99% of buttermilk sold in stores is not milk that is the by product of making butter… it’s created with bacterial cultures that make it acidic and chemicals that make it thick. Kate’s of Maine however does sell *actual* buttermilk.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Which is what we normally use, although I did not know that.

      • Njorl

        I use duPont industrial “BudderMelk”. It is an entirely mineral based alternative that tastes twice as much like buttermilk as buttermlk.

        • Ruviana

          And costs 50% more than buttermilk!

  • JREinATL

    A more charitable interpretation: Buttermilk, as a product, has been physically maligned by commercial bottlers, whose product is really skim milk with some bacteria added.

    • Mrs Tilton

      Mmm, bacteria.

  • Grant

    “Hard-tack Candy Rises Like a Phoenix”
    NY Times June 23, 2013

    • saucyturtles

      Unlearn everything you thought you knew about gruel.

  • Light Rail Tycoon

    I live in Maine, and the store I work for carries Kate’s butter and buttermilk, and it really is great. I never understood drinking buttermilk, when all I’d had was the manufactured stuff, but real buttermilk is great to drink, and to cook with.

  • KLG

    My grandmother (b. 1910) used buttermilk in pancakes and drank it. Pored it over cornbread and ate it. Me, not so much, but the powdered stuff is OK for making bread.

    Then there is this:
    “Lorie darlin’, life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”
    –Augustus McCrae

  • So does this mean that the high falutin’ organic “buttermilk” I’ve been buying all this time was not actually buttermilk? Very irritating. I hope when this real stuff starts to hit stores the labels push that it’s real buttermilk.

  • Gus

    My problem with buttermilk is I rarely need more than a cup of it at any given time, and I can rarely find it in containers smaller than a quart.

  • Ruviana

    I too suffer from a surfeit of buttermilk but I love to cook with it and to drink it. I’m 60 and when I mention drinking it my students look at me in horror and astonishment. I’m thinking it may be generational as well as regional. Would love to find the real buttermilk. I’ll drink the cultured but miss churned.

  • I ain’t never drunk none, but I don’t need to jump off a cliff to know what’s bad for me.

    I do prefer buttermilk donuts, though.

  • Dammit, now I gotta stand up for gruel. Well, in my family, gruel was just watery oatmeal with dried fruits in it like apricots or maybe some apples if we had those. When we were broke sometimes in South Carolina. It was ok! Nothing wrong with gruel so concocted. In the Chinese boarding school my daughter goes to sometimes (only for like 2 weeks of the year) they really have gruel, barley water, sort of. We are unsure whether it is meant to be soup or a drink (no water or tea is provided). It is unsatisfactory either way. It comes in a GIANT pot with a big ladle. It is sadtime food. Again, regular barley water is good; this stuff has simultaneously too much barley and not enough flavor. It goes without saying that buttermilk is delicious, the NYT is tripping, and you just need to eat more pancakes in order to use up that pesky extra buttermilk. Or drink it!

  • Halloween Jack

    I didn’t like the taste of buttermilk when I was young and something of a supertaster (also didn’t like sauerkraut, and couldn’t tolerate the taste of hops until my mid-late twenties), but I like it just fine now, although I don’t have it often (usually when I’ve got some left over from a recipe). My main complaint is that Colleen Cruze, while cute as a button, is not “outfitted for work”, she’s outfitted for the farmer’s market. Real farmers prefer overalls, which are among the most practical garments ever made.

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