“Like a full moon on a warm southern night, buttermilk makes something special happen” — Debbie Moose
My father, for some reason I have never been able to understand, used to drink ice-cold buttermilk. I think drinking buttermilk is a southern thing. My dad was born in the south…southern California that is, so I’m not really sure why or where he picked up the taste for buttermilk.
I remember the first time I ever tasted buttermilk. My dad was drinking a glass of the stuff and I asked if I could have some. How could a kid not love buttermilk was my thought. Butter and Milk? How could you go wrong. To this day I can remember the horrid, bitter taste of buttermilk. After that I shied away from anything with the term buttermilk in it. No buttermilk pancakes, no buttermilk biscuits…nothing.
As time went by, even though I still wouldn’t drink buttermilk, my avoidance of all things buttermilk slowly faded. It doesn’t get any better than buttermilk pancakes and biscuits. I can now make the claim that I love buttermilk, well at least the wonderful flavor it brings to other food preparations.
Buttermilk: A Savor the South Cookbook by Debbie Moose takes the use of buttermilk in the kitchen and elevates a very misunderstood ingredient to the status it deserves. “Well, buttermilk is just a classic. It’s such a fantastic ingredient, and really underappreciated these days. If I had a nickel for every person who’s told me “I’m so glad you wrote this book, because I buy a carton of buttermilk and make pancakes and don’t know what to do with the rest.” Buttermilk is way more than pancakes and biscuits, people. It’s southern history. It’s science. And you can do so much with it.” explained Debbie during a recent interview.
“Back in the farming days of the south, buttermilk was what was left after you churned the butter out of fresh whole milk with the old wooden butter churn. But that isn’t all that makes buttermilk. You kept that buttermilk to find ways to use it, and you put it in a pitcher on the counter. Then fermentation would take place naturally. Buttermilk, once it’s buttermilk, is more akin to yogurt than what my mama called “sweet milk” because it’s cultured, Debbie said.
“Today, milk companies add commercial cultures to milk to make buttermilk, and they pick from a range of cultures. Very few do a churn style,” she continued. This certainly explains why the flavor of the buttermilk my father drank might not have been all that appealing. Doesn’t explain why he drank it, but it might explain why I didn’t like it.
Debbie’s cookbook has 50 recipes that highlight the importance buttermilk plays in southern cooking. Each recipe starts with a short “introduction” with an anecdote or story about the recipe. This gives the cookbook the down home, friendly feeling you’d expect to find in her southern kitchen.
The introduction to the book is the most interesting aspect of the book. Debbie’s “Tips For Using Buttermilk” is a fantastic read. The Introduction also includes The Science, Myth, and Magic of Buttermilk in addition to the tips. I now know more about buttermilk than I ever thought I was possible, let alone necessary for cooking. I can’t wait to give some the recipes in this book a try.
The recipes in Buttermilk: a Savor The South Cookbook are divided into four sections. “Breakfast Recipes To Start the Day provides recipes that are sure to brighten up the start to anyone’s day. The “Tupelo Honey Cafe’s Ginormous Biscuits are on the top of my list. Next up a group of recipe called Time For Dinner. With recipes for mains and sides along with soups you’ll be able to prepare a whole meal with the tangy goodness of buttermilk. The Sweet Endings with buttermilk dessert recipes are sure to be a hit. The book closes out with dips, dressings and drinks…Good Things Anytime for sure.
If you are a fan of southern cooking, like I am, then Buttermilk: a Savor The South Cookbook is one to add to your collection. The book is also part of a new series of cookbook celebrating southern cooking:
Each little cookbook in our SAVOR THE SOUTH™ collection is a big celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. From buttermilk to bourbon, pecans to peaches, bacon to catfish, one by one SAVOR THE SOUTH™ cookbooks will stock a kitchen shelf with the flavors and culinary wisdom of this popular American regional cuisine. Written by well-known cooks and food lovers, the books brim with personality, the informative and often surprising culinary and natural history of southern foodways, and a treasure of some fifty recipes each—from delicious southern classics to sparkling international renditions that open up worlds of taste for cooks everywhere. You’ll want to collect them all!
In my book there isn’t a better use for than cornbread and fried chicken. Debbie was kind enough to share the recipe for Fiery Fried Chicken with my readers.
- 1 whole chicken, cut up, or 8 of your favorite chicken pieces
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1?2 teaspoon cayenne (optional, if you like it hotter)
- 1?2 teaspoon salt
- Place the chicken in a large bowl with a lid or a large reclosable plastic bag. In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk and hot pepper sauce. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the chicken, making sure all the pieces are covered. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- When ready to cook the chicken, pour enough vegetable oil into an electric frying pan or heavy frying pan to come to a depth of about 2 inches. Heat on medium-high heat to 350°.
- Drain the chicken but do not rinse it. Combine the flour, chili powder, cayenne (if using), and salt in a large reclosable plastic bag. Put 3 or 4 pieces of chicken into the bag and shake to coat them. Shake off the excess flour when you remove the pieces. Place the pieces in the hot oil but do not crowd them. Adjust the heat to keep the oil temperature at 325°–350°. You may cover the pan briefly to keep down spatters, but do not cook the chicken completely with the pan covered or the crust will be soggy.
- Fry the pieces for 5–8 minutes, or until the undersides are brown. Turn with tongs and cook another 5–8 minutes, adjusting the heat if the pieces are browning too quickly. The chicken is done when the internal temperature is 180° on an instant read thermometer or when no pink juices run out when the meat is pricked with a sharp knife.
- Drain the pieces on wire racks set over plates before serving.