Food Heritage

Digital Heritage Moment: Buttermilk

Digital Heritage Moment: Buttermilk

Courtesy of the Mountain Heritage Center, Western Carolina University

Do you know the difference between buttermilk and sweet milk? In Appalachia, sweet milk refers to whole milk. Buttermilk is what’s left over from churning butter. It’s the liquid left in the churn after the butter has floated to the top.

Buttermilk became a staple of the Appalachian diet, either as a cooking ingredient or a beverage. It was especially popular in the days before refrigeration because its greater acidity made it slower to spoil than sweet milk. Buttermilk was very popular in baking, especially in biscuits and pastries. It was also served with meals as a drink. Its slightly tart taste appealed to many. Cornbread was often crumbled into a glass of buttermilk, and when times were hard that might be all there was for supper.

Digital Heritage Moments are produced at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. To learn more, visit You may also hear Digital Heritage Moments each weekday on radio stations WKSF-FM, WWCU-FM, WMXF-AM, WPEK-AM and WWNC-AM.

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