Feb 15 2012

Buttermilk Plant

Posted by     47 Comments    Posted under: Kitchen


I assumed it was a house plant. I hesitated to get excited about receiveing this in to my home because, and here is a huge big dirty fact folks, the Chef and I kill houseplants. Not intentionally mind. We just can’t seem to manage to keep them hydrated enough. Everything flourishes and grows in the garden outside and in the polytunnel, but bring it indoors and you can kiss it goodbye.


Buttermilk plant envelope

A friend of ours dropped off a – kind of smelly – jar with something like a fungus growing in it. White and curdy…a little like cottage cheese without the cream. There was a sealed envelope with it, from our friends Mum. It had instructions.


Instructions for Buttermilk plant

Instructions for Buttermilk plant

I was a little apprehensive at first. It did smell sour and felt a bit funny. Dry and rubbery but easily smushed between the fingertips.

So, seeing as the Chef is the chief baker around these parts, and clearly the buttermilk is for him, I let him wash the plant and set it up for its first milking.

Dry Buttermilk Plant

Dry Buttermilk Plant


And then we waited. While we waited for a day or two,  I did a bit of googling to discover that  if you are so inclined, you too can have a buttermilk plant of your own by following the instructions on this website.


Make a bit of buttermilk

Make a bit of buttermilk

The reward, after adding a bit of milk and waiting for two days, is a beautiful rich creamy buttermilk. Now, before you go all ‘shur could you not run out and buy some buttermilk’? on me – I know. If you have to use milk to actually make the buttermilk it might end up costing the same or more as buying buttermilk from the shop. I get it. The reason bakers love to have this in their home, and now in our fridge, is because at any given moment you can bake anything you want – especially something that requires buttermilk. It is a convenience thing. One my Chef is tickled pink with.


Add a little milk after washing

Add a little milk after washing


So, seeing as there is buttermilk a plenty in the house…… then you know as well as I do what that means.

We are more than well prepared for Pancake Tuesday (which is next week!).

Are you?

Buttermilk Pancakes


  • 2 cups (260 grams) plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp (60 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups (240 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 whole vanilla bean pod, scraped
  • 3 tbsp (40 grams) butter, melted
  • Plus extra melted butter for greasing your skillet


  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
  2. In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, vanilla bean and melted butter.
  3. Pour in the egg mixture into the middle of the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  4. Do not over mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough and people will complain.
  5. (we always make our batter then night before)
  6. Heat a frying pan medium heat.
  7. Brush the pan with melted butter or sunflower oil.
  8. Pour pancake batter onto the pan.
  9. When the bottoms of the pancakes are brown and bubbles start to appear (2 minutes), turn over.
  10. Cook until lightly browned.
  11. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing the pan with melted butter in between batches.
  12. Serve immediately with butter and maple syrup.
  13. Makes about twenty – 4 inch (10 cm) pancakes. Hey – we have a lot of kids here!


Stack of buttermilk pancakes

Stack of buttermilk pancakes


Those are all the WiseWords I have for today!



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47 Comments + Add Comment

  • Oh I can see someone else getting excited about this! And we can use our neighbours raw milk to generate! Thank you! Thank you!

    • I know – it is very very cool. If you are heading west soon Margaret I would be happy to share ours with you. The nice thing about it
      is that it grows and you are supposed to share with baking buddies. I love that ours is FORTY years old from a monastery.
      See you soon I hope!

  • Wow!!!!!! I learnt a lot about buttermilk here in Ireland ’cause in Italy we don’t use this ingredient a lot. Have to say, I don’t buy a prepared one but I make it by myself using stupid methods. Never saw a “plant”, that’s unbelievable! 😀

    • I know – I had no idea what it was either until I saw this. I love it though.
      The buttermilk is delicious. Thank you for the visit!

  • Oooh – I have to try this as invariably the want for soda bread comes on me when there is no buttermilk in the house. Plus, I have come across a potato based recipe in an old cookbook my mum gave me. It must be amazing to have a starter that is a couple of generations on the go already.

    • Karen,
      I know you are a busy lady but I will try to get you some of our starter.
      It is so cool to have one with age. There is something lovely about the feel of it too and
      after squeezing the buttermilk out through the cheesecloth today my hands are so so soft.
      It is definitely a bakers dream. We are using the kefir for breakfast tomorrow with a bit of honey and granola. I am sure
      it will go down a treat with the hungry monsters. Hope you are well xx

  • Wow, you do realize that every food blogger in Ireland is going to want one now! *want*. I wonder which Monastery it’s from. I’m originally from Co. Wexford, I could go make a small pilgrimage to it 🙂 and bring a pancake offering! Lovely looking pancakes by the way.

    • I know. I do plan on dividing it and sharing with others as it grows :0)
      We see our friends on Friday so I will find out more about it.
      The Chef is beside himself with excitement over the plant.
      It is a lovely little addition to his pantry shelf and now he has a bit
      brought in to work with him so he can use it there too!

  • You are so sweet – I’d figured that if I had one in the house, the yoghurt will always be eaten when I don’t get around to using the buttermilk. And bonus on the no more hand lotion too

    • I know. A cool thing to have laying around the house indeed!

  • My mother eventually adapted her white soda bread recipe to not include buttermilk because she had gotten tired of keeping a buttermilk jar in her fridge. This sounds like a fun alternative to try out. Though I must say that Mom’s white bread hasn’t suffered in the slightest from the lack of buttermilk. In fact , it’s even better.

    • Hi Joanne,
      I know. There is a spot now in our fridge for the buttermilk bottle and this might cause problems when summer time (or Beertime)
      arrives :0) We make brown soda bread here but need to give a loaf of white soda a whirl It has been more than twenty years since I have had a slice of that!

  • I am so glad I forgot to give you your marmalade, now it is ransom for your geriatric buttermilk monster. Evil laugh.

    • Ha! I think this is a fair trade. I do not think it has grown enough for me to share it just yet
      so will not bring it with me tomorrow but maybe in a week. In the meantime keep the marmalade hidden please.

  • Mona, this buttermilk plant is genius! Like Karen, I always have a longing to bake bread or scones exactly when there is no buttermilk in the house. I will have to give it a try with the recipe on the link you supplied. Thank you for sharing!

    • We are loving it Adrienne.
      It has such a lovely feel to it and the buttermilk is full of flavour and creaminess.
      If you do start your own let me know how it turns out.
      Thanks for the visit.

  • I have tried for years to replicate my Nana’s brown bread – my Uncle and I think it’s down to the milk. Maybe a buttermilk plant is what I need………

    • You know Yvonne, I am sure your bread is delicious!
      But, in saying that, it is always very nice to have a bit of buttermilk handy for the odd loaf.
      Nice to see you on Monday night. Hope you are keeping busy!

  • I have heard about old yeast starters for a bread, but never about buttermilk.
    Do you need to keep using on and on again? Or is there a way to preserve it while let say you are on holidays?
    I know that bread starter can be kept in a fridge, or even dried. Of course later you need to revive it, which is slightly more difficult than using it on regular basis.
    I need to raise a starter…

    • Hmmm..great question Magda. Ours came in a jar – dry – with no milk or buttermilk in it.
      I think it stays dormant for a while but can die off if not cared for properly or if you do
      not keep it clean? I will let you know how we fair out with ours when we go on holidays.

  • Mona, this is fascinating! I have never heard of this. My husband who loves buttermilk to drink would go crazy for this. And as I have so many recipes for chocolate cake with buttermilk, I can see how this would come in handy for me as well. Strange and unsual. But those pancakes look fabulous and for these I’ll go buy a bottle of buttermilk. Delish. We love pancakes!

    • You know Jamie, I think it is very cool too.
      But I am finding out that a lot of my friends grew up with this in their home,
      but no longer carry on the tradition because the daily baking of soda bread and the like has died off.
      I love the end result from the bottle. We used to drink this as kids too – tell JP it is
      sweet and tangy…yum.

  • Fascinating post Mona, I’ve never heard of this before. Will definitely be bookmarking this (and truly scrumptious looking pancakes, can almost taste them!) 🙂

    • Thanks Dee!
      I think it is very cool too Dee. I am looking forward to growing and sharing our plant ;0)
      let me kow if you do decide to make one from scratch…And I will link this post to yours x

  • My paternal grandma always had buttermilk in her kitchen and would use it as the fat content to make scones and bread.

    • Hi Moira,
      Buttermilk is used here daily buy my husband who bakes for a living.
      It is deffinetly handy to have around the house!
      Thanks for the visit Moira.

  • Sounds similar to a vinegar or kombucha mother. Great idea to keep it around and send it to friends,

    • Hi Bill,
      It is a nice new (older) addition to the Wise Pantry.
      We made a buttermilk ranch dressing today with it and there was no salad left.
      Not a bite! Hope you are bouncing back and the weather is warming up over there.

  • …and all this time I thought buttermilk came from cranky cows! Seriously, I’ve never heard of a buttermilk plant before and I’m intrigued. Thanks for the link to the recipe and those pancakes…pass the syrup please!

    • Ha ha ha… Well, there are a few cows going in to calf here and they are mad as hell!
      Let me know if you try out youths recipe to start an original plant and I will link back to your site…especially if there are cookies xx

  • Can I join the line for some buttermilk ‘starter’ plant, thanks abigail

    • But of course my dear. I reckon it will be a few weeks before it grows but once it is ready we will divvy
      it up xx

  • Hahaha! I’ve got your touch with plants, Mona. It’s the kiss of death for greenery when it enters my house – although the herb garden grows like a jungle.

    I’ve been meaning to start a buttermilk plant for some time and only remember when I want to make soda bread or buttermilk pancakes – yours look divine! – and then it’s a case of start your buttermilk plant 3 days ago. Doh! I love the pedigree yours has. Can you just image how many people and recipes that it has touched since it first left the monastry 40 years ago!

    • Hi Hester!
      What is it with bringing them indoors? Oh well, if I had to choose I would prefer the outdoor plants anyway!
      I will save a piece of the plant for you Hester. It takes a while to grow so I will let you know once it is
      fatter and needs divvying up xx Wild and wet in Galway today!

  • Oh dear God, I’ve been making buttermilk by adding lime juice to milk and may even have told one or two people so. I’ll have to raise my game and at least *pretend* to have a buttermilk plant before I show my face in public again. What a blessing to have read this before I told anyone else.

    • Oh the horror of it all. I know exactly how you feel. Up to this point Mise we had been using cider vinegar and milk.
      I now feel like we have progressed to using something with a bit of history and it does pack a powerful punch.
      I shall sideline you for a cutting late in Spring when it has bloomed to share if you would like to chance your arm with a bit?

  • Hello:
    We too should have been terrified, like you, at having to take responsibility for a houseplant which we too should have been incapable of keeping alive. In the event you did not have that problem and instead had something both interesting and very different.

    Thank you so much for becoming a Follower of our blog. We are delighted to have joined you by email subscription.

    • Hello Jane and Lance,
      It is funny how house plants do not survive in this otherwise thriving household.
      Thank you for leaving a lovely comment and I do love your musings over on your blog.
      It was through the lovely PFW blog I discovered you and your wit.
      Best regards from Galway where it is crisp, clear and cool today.

  • Lol. We’re the same with house plants. They sort of die as soon as they cross the door here! We therefore have no plants except the little cresses we grow on the window sill. But those only need to last a couple of days so we can manage that! As for the buttermilk. Interesting! But it does remind me to go and make pancakes..;)

    • Glad to know I am not the only one killing indoor plants Simone.
      The kids are getting the batter ready for their pancakes tomorrow!
      Hope you are well and getting some nice weather x

  • This is so cool! That stack of pancakes is mouthwatering!

    • What a beautiful name you have Kale!
      The buttermilk pancakes are fantastic but by made so by the lashings of
      real maple syrup from your homeland that we have smuggled here but friends and family.
      Cute blog you have too! Thanks for finding me!

  • […] Making a salad dressing like this is not brain surgery folks. The whole sugar/honey piece at the end is really a personal taste thing. We like it kind of sour – but that is because we make and use our own buttermilk. […]

  • this plant is well over forty years old as my mother in law always had one and thats where i first seen it but have spent ages tryin to find one , my kids hated it when the visited nannies said it was like brains in a pot ,enjoy all.

    • Wow Rosie – thanks for this!
      We have used ours every days since we have received it. Last week we made a soft frozen yoghurt out of the
      contents – just let it sit a bit longer and OH MY GOSH it was delicious.
      Thanks for reading and commenting x

  • Hi, I am delighted to have finally found a recipe to start my own buttermilk plant -my mother always had one in the 1950s, when you could not buy buttermilk commercially, but the starter culture had been passed on yo her by another baker who made Irish brown soda bread daily. Could you tell me whether I must use skimmed milk (is this the same as low-fat milk?),or is it o.k. to use full fat milk? Thanks again, Eleanor.

    • Any milk will do Elanor and we are still using ours every day.
      It is brilliant stuff! Good luck.

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About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
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