I love buttermilk, or rather, the probiotic cultured dairy product that, these days, we call buttermilk.

(Historic buttermilk was the liquid residue left behind after the milk solids had been churned out into butter, but nowadays only butter-makers have access to this.)

I grew up drinking buttermilk in mid-century Pittsburgh—the Posches are an old Viennese family who, like most Central Europeans, relish sour flavors—and I still drink two or three glasses of it every day.

One of the things that I especially love about buttermilk is that it's easy. Other cultured dairy products—yogurt, kefir—require that you heat the milk to near-boiling, then let it cool until it's reached the right temperature to inoculate it with the appropriate culture. This is a big pain. It makes a mess of the cooking pot. If the temperature of your milk is too hot, it kills the culture. If it's not hot enough, it doesn't activate the culture, and you have to start the whole, laborious process over again.

Not buttermilk. Dump half a cup of buttermilk into a large, clean bowl. Add a quart of milk, and cover. Come back 24 hours later, and voilà: buttermilk. (You'll want to whisk it first before decanting, of course, to homogenize the texture.)

For years, I've just bought commercial buttermilk from the store and used that as my culture. One strain I managed to keep going for almost two years.

But cultures mutate over time, and eventually it's time for a new one. When this happened most recently, I tried four different local buttermilks, one after another, all without acceptable results. One had a nasty, ropey texture; one culture wouldn't take; one had a foul flavor; one was completely flavorless.

So I did what all early 21st-century people in despair do: I turned to the internet.

May the Great Mother bless New England Cheese-Making Supply Company!

I ordered their dried buttermilk culture; it arrived by mail post haste. Being at heart an antinomian, I disregarded their directions; instead I stirred the culture into a quart of milk and left it out on the kitchen table overnight.

The buttermilk that it produced was drinkable, but not great: a little thin, with a tendency to separate. I used some of this buttermilk to make more.


Thick, rich, non-separating buttermilk, with a pleasing lemony tartness, and just a hint of sweetness in the finish.

Imbolc, the season of ewe's milk-drinking, is upon us.

My friends, let us savor, and rejoice.


If you're wondering what any of this has to do with paganism, my pulse, let me tell you: food is the heart of every realized paganism.

There is nothing more important to paganism than food.