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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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buttermilk was originally the liquid squeezed out when cream was churned to make butter. In composition it resembled a light, skimmed milk; but it was also mildly sour as a result of the ‘ripening’ of the cream to make butter.

Buttermilk was drunk in N. Europe throughout the Middle Ages; and in Britain it was for many centuries a ‘perk’ of shepherds and dairymaids. In the 17th century, and on into the 18th, both buttermilk and whey became fashionable city drinks (being drunk by the diarist Pepys, for instance, in 1664).