Crazy for Kate’s Real Buttermilk

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Today, the family business churns 1,000 gallons of cream at a time—that’s still considered small-batch—into approximately 4,000 pounds of butter and about 500 gallons of buttermilk and then distributes the products itself. The buttermilk is sold as far south as Georgia and as far west as Chicago, where another shipper ferries it to Las Vegas restaurants. Growth is on the horizon, as the Patrys ready an 18,000-square-foot production facility in nearby Arundel.

According to the family story, when Patry decided to bring the buttermilk to market in 2008, he mused that the day might even come when demand for the buttermilk would drive the making of the butter. “It’s so unique,” says Patry of the buttermilk. “I wish I could have recorded all the calls I’ve gotten from people who just made a cake with it, or fried chicken or whatever, and they just couldn’t believe it would make that much difference.”

Just as I was convinced by my experience with Kate’s when developing my cake recipe this summer, Agnes Devereux, owner of the Village Tea Room in New Paltz, New York, swears by it for her own chocolate buttermilk cake. It’s been on her menu since she opened up shop in 2004, she tells me, but two years ago she discovered Kate’s Real Buttermilk and instantly tasted how much fudgier her cake was when made with the real deal. Up in Kate’s country, James Beard Award–winning chef Sam Hayward of Portland, Maine’s Fore Street swears by Kate’s “unbelievable” buttermilk at the restaurant and at home. “It’s got a very different taste. When you make a sherbet, which we do, with the real buttermilk, it’s such an incredible product—the flavors are just out of this world, and the layers of flavors and nuance and subtlety are incredible.… I swear there’s a different enzymatic quality to the milk because of what it does, especially to baked goods.“

Patry works 20-hour days, so when I finally tracked him down by phone, he was at the airport en route to Aruba for a well-earned vacation with his wife. My profuse apologies for the intrusion got the response of a true entrepreneur: “I have no problem talking to someone on my vacation,” Patry said. “I tell my wife, I like my vacation, but I miss my work, too. It’s a job, but it isn’t a job.” Sounds familiar, I thought—kind of like my lucky baking project and buttermilk awakening in New Hampshire last summer.…

Kemp Minifie was wrapped up in all aspects of food at Gourmet magazine for 32 years, and is now part of the Gourmet Live team. For more tried and tested tips and tricks, check out her Kemp’s Kitchen column on the Gourmet Live blog.

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