When breaking bread with a friend in Southern Appalachia, you might suggest doing so directly into a tall glass of buttermilk. Also referred to as “crumble-in,” this hearty snack of cornbread doused in milk is beloved among communities in the Southern United States, stretching from Appalachian West Virginia to the heart of Texas.
Though the specific origin of this Southern snack is unknown, it likely emerged as a meal that farming families could scrape together during food shortages, as long as they had access to cornmeal and a cow. Cornbread is still considered a daily staple for many Southerners, and a glass full of milk offers a way to enjoy both freshly-baked slices as well as slightly stale leftovers.
Unlike the Northern variety, traditional Southern cornbread used in this dish is made without flour, baked in a large cast iron skillet, and cut into thick wedges. When the desire for a hefty snack strikes, one can prepare the dish by crumbling a slice into a glass or bowl, pouring cold or warm buttermilk on top, and eating it with a spoon. Buttermilk is slightly sour, so those who prefer a sweeter experience tend to top the mushy concoction with sugar, honey, or maple syrup. For a more savory take, it can be garnished with spring onions or black pepper. Those who aren’t partial to the tangy taste of buttermilk can substitute it for whole milk, also referred to as “sweet milk,” an old Southern term used to differentiate fresh cow’s milk from sour buttermilk.
Cornbread in milk can be served as breakfast, lunch, or a bedtime snack—or whenever you find yourself craving a tall glass of soggy Southern comfort.