Holland is dairy country par excellence. Much of that lactic largesse is reflected in its vast assortment of cheeses of course, a product so closely associated with The Netherlands that its inhabitants are often referred to as "cheese heads" or kaaskoppen. But the dairy domination does not stop at the cheese monger. Besides yogurt, ice cream and chocolate milk, the dessert section at the grocery store holds a huge variety of puddings, pourable custards (vla), drink yogurts, cream cheese, mousse and bavaroise, all made with delectable Dutch milk.

The pourable vla is a typical Dutch product, with the consistency and mouthfeel of yogurt but without the tang, and served in over twenty flavors: vanilla, chocolate, caramel, strawberry, banana, raspberry, apple-cinnamon, coffee....you name it. We'll do a separate chapter on vlas alone one of these days!

But one dairy product does not usually jump out at anybody for its mouthfeel, for its flavor or even for its innovative character: it's the slighly snubbed, often overlooked karnemelk, or buttermilk. The somewhat sour taste, the viscosity of the milk and sometimes even the smell, will put many off.

Karnemelk is the milk that is left over after the cream has been removed for butter. It's slightly sour and a little thicker than milk and is most often used for baking with: the slight acidity is an excellent trigger for a leavener such as baking powder. In the older days, buttermilk was used as a beverage and for the poorest of people, as a substitute for meat gravy on their potatoes. In the more rural areas of Holland you will still find that some older farmers pour buttermilk over their potatoes before they prak, or mash, them. Don't knock it till you try it!

From probably those same days stems an old-fashioned dessert called buttermilk pudding, or karnemelkpudding. Easy to make, the hardest part is going to exercise the patience to wait until its ready to eat: the pudding requires a minimum of four hours in the refrigerator, and even better overnight. It's a creamy, airy, slightly tangy with a sweet undertone pudding and goes very well with sweet fresh fruit such as strawberries or rode bessensaus, a red currant sauce. For a more wintery dish, try a jar of sweet dark cherries to pair this dessert with.

1/4 cup granulated sugar (85 grams)
1/4 cup (60 ml) + 2 tablespoons water
1 envelope gelatin powder (or 3 leaves)
2 cups buttermilk (500 ml)
1 cup heavy whipping cream (250 ml)
2 heaping tablespoons powdered sugar

Soak the gelatin leaves, if using, in a bowl of water. Mix the gelatin powder with two tablespoons of water and set aside.

Mix the sugar with the 1/4 cup of water and slowly heat on a stove, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Take the sugar water off the stove, add the gelatin (squeeze the water out of the leaves if using) and stir until it has dissolved as well.

When the liquid has sufficiently cooled, stir the sugar water into the two cups of buttermilk. Stir until everything is well mixed and set it to the side.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream. When you have soft peaks, add the powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whipped cream in with the buttermilk until they are blended. Rinse a 4 cup pudding form (either a large one, or several small ones) with cold water and pour the pudding mix into the mold. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for a good four to five hours minimum, better overnight.

To remove the pudding from the mold, set the mold in a pan with hot water for ten seconds, then tip over on a plate. Decorate with fresh or canned fruit.


  1. Nog nooit gegeten, maar ga het zeker eens proberen.

  2. I was brought up on buttermilk and love it...still drink it and use it when I make "koek"


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