The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook
by Diane St. Clair
Forget about an apple. A glass of buttermilk a day can cure all sorts of ailments: canker sores, colitis, heat stroke, thrush, parasites, and even excessive sweating. Which must be why country folk have been enjoying a thick glass of cool, tangy buttermilk for generations. Nostalgia for that drink of childhood summers in the Catskill Mountains eventually led Diane St. Clair to make her own buttermilk. At least, it influenced her a little bit.
St. Clair is a dairy farmer, the proprietor of Animal Farm in Orwell, Vt., who supplies chefs like Thomas Keller and Barbara Lynch with her artisanal dairy products. She recently released The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook, a celebration of her farm, her cows, and ultimately, the choices she's made in her life.
St. Clair's story is the somewhat clichéd one: successful city dweller leaves the rat race and heads to the country to get back to basics. In Vermont, she discovers a DIY farming tradition that inspires her to grow her own food, raise her own animals, and even buy her own team of draft horses.
In chapter two, she starts with an ironic observation: "I'm surprised at how being a farmer or living on a farm has become romanticized in recent years." Her book, with pictures of beloved cows enveloped in haloes of sunshine and stories of freshly baked loaves of bread, does a fine job romanticizing the farming life. Despite the endless commitment and work — the daily drudgery regardless of health or mood — St. Clair's love for her farm, her cows, and her work is palpable throughout the book. You can also tell she loves tangy buttermilk.
The recipes she shares are accessible and quite delicious. The book begins with lessons on making buttermilk, whether it's from heavy cream or raw milk. From there, St. Clair offers advice on cooking with it (don't be afraid of the break!) before she shares a wealth of recipes. One chapter is dedicated entirely to breakfasts, which is really the strength of buttermilk, isn't it? From fluffy waffles to cinammon rolls, shirred eggs, and biscuits, breakfast just wouldn't be as good without a healthy dose of buttermilk.
St. Clair will be signing copies of her cookbook Wed. June 19, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Heirloom Book Co. at 54 1/2 Broad St. (843) 469-1717