A Fresh Look: Buttermilk

Once upon a time, I read that maintaining family traditions is healthy for children. I’d like to say that’s why Saturday morning pancakes are non-negotiable in my house (really, who’d want to negotiate that anyway?), but honestly, I just love pancakes. And I especially love watching my entire family devour a meal without one syllable of complaint from any of their darling little faces. Throw some bacon on the side, pour some fresh coffee, and that’s a great start to any weekend.

Which brings us to buttermilk. I couldn’t agree more with Slate magazine’s L.V. Anderson that buttermilk “is absolutely crucial for good pancakes.” For years, I’ve never made a batch without it, and I don’t intend to any time soon. I’ve also heard tell of southerners crumbling leftover cornbread into buttermilk for breakfast or a late-night snack, there’s no better way to batter fried chicken, and let’s not leave out buttermilk pie. Even so, never have I been tempted to drink buttermilk straight—until today.

Last February, Garden & Gun magazine’s Robert Moss explained the difference between the “buttermilk” you might find at your local supermarket, and the rare, traditional buttermilk that is a product of—what else?—churning butter. That’s the kind on which Earl Cruze, SFA’s 2008 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award winner, has built his reputation. His passion for true buttermilk, along with filmmaker Joe York’s many takes of tall, glorious glasses of the stuff, has left me itching to take a road trip to East Tennessee. I was happy to hear that I wouldn’t be the first to cross state lines for a fix.

Earl Cruze shares my enthusiasm for (delicious) family traditions. He is a third generation buttermilk maker, and along with his wife Cheri, he delights in giving his customers a product that will take them back to their own childhoods. Read our interview with the Cruzes here, then scoot on over to the Cruze Farm Girl blog to see what happens when you bring true buttermilk to Oxford, Mississippi.