“Excellent for convalescing patients” was the way a recipe in an 1877 cookbook described mulled buttermilk.
Given the date of the cookbook, wounded soldiers during Civil War probably received this drink in hospitals. As a historical novelist, I’m always interested in learning tidbits from our history. It’s fun to add authentic details such as this one when a story requires it.
Boil a cup of buttermilk over a medium high heat. The consistency of the milk completely changes. The thick, creamy liquid thins to a grainy consistency of water.
Beat one egg yolk. Temper the yolk by stirring in a couple of tablespoons of the hot buttermilk. Add the tempered yolk to the boiling buttermilk. Stir and allow the mixture to return to a boil. I stirred the mixture while cooking.
Pour into a glass and drink. I allowed it to cool slightly before trying it. One sip was enough. I did not like this.
There is a second recipe for mulled buttermilk.
Forgetting the egg yolk, put a heaping tablespoon of flour into a glass. Pour in 1/3 cup of cold buttermilk and stir well. If this is not enough liquid for the flour to assimilate into the liquid after a brisk stir, add more buttermilk—a tablespoon at a time—until it is combined into a thick, pourable liquid. Set this aside.
When the cup of buttermilk initially boils, add the buttermilk thickening to the saucepan. Return to a boil, cooking an additional minute to make sure the flour is done.
I really liked this second alternative. The thicker beverage tasted better to me.
And it is good for patients. If you lived one hundred fifty years ago, you would have drunk mulled buttermilk when you were sick.
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.