Buttermilk Stew

A recipe in an 1877 cookbook for Buttermilk Stew was included in a section titled “Food for the Sick.”

Research involves a lot of reading for historical novelists, but I don’t remember reading about this type of stew. Civil War nurses and cooks likely fed it to wounded soldiers. I love learning about our history. It’s fun to add authentic details like this when a story requires it.

Boil one pint of buttermilk over a medium high heat. I allowed it to boil less than a minute before removing from the heat. The consistency of the milk completely changed. The thick, creamy liquid thinned to a grainy consistency of water.

A “small lump of butter” called for in the original recipe became a tablespoon of butter to this modern cook.

When that melted, I added 2 tablespoons of sugar—a complete guess as the recipe said to “sweeten to taste.” I added more because adding ginger was an option. Ginger has such a strong flavor.

I added ¼ teaspoon ground ginger. Cooks may substitute honey for sugar.

The consistency remained like water as it cooled. It had a very strange flavor. It tasted like buttermilk though different. The sugar overpowered the ginger, so I’d suggest decreasing it to only a tablespoon. Ginger is optional.

After only a couple of sips, I pushed it aside. It wasn’t terrible. I can understand that thinning out the buttermilk made it easier for ailing patients to digest.

Good luck! I’d love to hear if you try this recipe.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Compiled from Original Recipes. Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, Applewood Books, 1877.