Skip to Content

Clabber Milk – What It Is, Why You Should Eat It, and How To Make It

I may receive commission if you purchase through links in this post.

What is clabber milk?

Clabber milk is a naturally fermented milk product that can be eaten raw or used in recipes. It also has a little leavening power all on its own, so it’s great to add to baked goods.

A glass jar of clabber milk with text overlay.

Raw cow’s milk is full of naturally occurring beneficial lactic acid bacteria. When that bacteria is supported with a warm environment, it will ferment the milk and create something like a cross between yogurt and kefir. Eventually, if left to ferment long enough, the clabber milk will separate into curds and whey.

Fermenting or souring milk is VERY different than having milk spoil. Spoiled milk only occurs if the beneficial bacteria found in clean raw cow’s milk have been killed by pasteurization, thus allowing mold spores or other contaminants to flourish.

In a fermented milk product, the lactic acid bacteria have soured the milk with the lactic acids they produce while consuming lactose. The higher acidity keeps other microbes that can be harmful to humans from growing. It is very important that you use only high-quality raw milk from clean grass-fed cows when making clabber milk.

A bowl of clabber milk with honey and crackers.

Clabber milk with honey

Why Should I Eat Clabber Milk?

In Harold McGee’s book “On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” he elaborates on “The Health Benefits of Fermented Milks,” stating:

The standard industrial yogurt and buttermilk bacteria are specialized to grow well in milk and can’t survive inside the human body. But other bacteria found in traditional, spontaneously fermented milk-Lactobacillus fermentum, L. casei, and L. brevis, for example-as well as L. planetarium from pickled vegetables, and the intestinal native L. acidophilus, do take up residence in us. articular strains of these bacteria vPariously adhere to and shield the intestinal wall, secrete antibacterial compounds, boost the body’s immune response to particular disease microbes, dismantle cholesterol and cholesterol-consuming bile acids, and reduce the production of potential carcinogens.

Mr. McGee makes a good case for eating a variety of fermented foods other than commercially produced products.

Making Clabber Milk

The process is very simple.

Start by sterilizing a glass jar and lid in boiling water. To do so, fill your jar with hot tap water to avoid shattering the glass with the heat difference. Add the lid directly to the pan of boiling water, empty the jar of the warm water and pour boiling water into the warmed jar, and let it sit for a few minutes. Empty the jar and air dry the lid and jar on a clean towel. Let the jar and lid cool completely before using.

Add the raw milk to the sterilized jar and secure the lid loosely.

Ferment the raw milk at room temperature until the milk sours and starts to separate. This can take between 1 to 5 days depending on the age of the milk, the temperature in your home, and the natural bacteria in the milk itself.

When the clabber has solidified it can then be skimmed off the clotted cream, used for baking, eaten like yogurt, or strained to separate the curds from the whey.

After straining the clabber, the whey can be used as a starter for any lacto-fermented project from veggies to grains, and is especially useful for starting a new batch of clabber milk. Using a tablespoon of clabber whey in the new batch of milk will speed the fermentation process along considerably. The curds will thicken and sweeten with straining and take on a cream cheese-like texture.

James

Saturday 28th of May 2022

Hi all, I left my milk out and I see the clabbered milk but what is the layer on top is that cream? Thanks.

Butter For All

Monday 30th of May 2022

Hi James,

Yes, assuming your raw milk is whole and hasn't had the fat removed mechanically, the layer on top is cream that has risen to the surface. The best part :)

Heather

Sunday 3rd of April 2022

Hi I’m not sure if this has been answered somewhere else, but I’m interested in using clabber as a rising agent for pancakes and other baked goods. I cannot find how I am to do this. Should I strain off the whey first? Mix the whey and curds all together after removing clotted cream? How much should be used for a recipe? Is it to be added in with wet ingredients? Do I still need to use a store bought rising agent (like Clabber girl) for baking? Thanks so much!

Butter For All

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Hi Heather!

Great questions! Clabber can add a little volume to baked goods when the gasses from fermenting get trapped in the starchy networks. This is similar to how yeast produce carbon dioxide but you won't get as significant a rise. It's great for something like pancakes! I would mix the whey and curds together (you could even mix in the clotted cream), and use it just like you would buttermilk. Originally, no other rising agent was used, but us modern cooks are very used to having fluffy baked goods so you might play around with a batch or two and see if you need baking soda in the mix as well. I would look for a simple buttermilk pancake recipe and start there! Please let me know how it goes!

Happy experimenting,

Courtney

Ariel Angel

Friday 1st of April 2022

Hey Courtney :)

Thanks for the lovely info! Finally comprehended what it means to clabber milk AND how to sterilize jars(!!) hehe . Two processes i knew i had to master.

One question if i may, Can you out the jar in like an oven on pilot , or say a yogurt cooker on 90-100-110 degrees to speed up the process or is that not recommended?

Thanks in advance , Ariel

Butter For All

Saturday 9th of April 2022

Hi Ariel!

I'm so happy you found this post helpful!

You could definitely try it to see if you like the flavor. A warmer environment might encourage different strains of bacteria and yeast. It could potentially come out even better. I think it's 100% a fun idea to play around with! And once you have a nice clabber that you enjoy, you should be able to treat it very similarly to yogurt, using a little of the last batch to seed a new batch.

Let me know how it goes!

Courtney

Mary A

Saturday 26th of March 2022

Hello Chef Courtney, I just found your site while looking for a way to explain the difference b/t yogurt and clabber to somebody, and I'm tickled to find you here! I've searched the internet for info on butter making, and rare it is to find anybody talking about letting the cream "turn" first. I grew up with a Grannie who always had at least one milk cow, and carried 'milk-butter-'n-eggs' to town every week when she went in for staples, to sell to relatives who wouldn't touch store-bought dairy. She was scrupulously soap-and-water clean (but never boiled anything - my grandparents didn't get electricity until they were past 40; life was about taking care of absolute necessities, and they didn't have the pathogen load we do today). I did a little calculating recently and realized that having started out milking the family cow at eight years old, she had milked twice a day almost every day of her life for over 60 years. She was a fanatic about covering any edible with flour sack toweling or cheese cloth. The cream sitting out in a pitcher to turn was always covered with cheese cloth. I have so many memories of the magic she worked with milk, and crave those wonderful tastes enough that I plan to buy a milk cow soon and start trying to recreate them myself. I'm looking forward to visiting your site for information and inspiration along my journey. Thank you for being here!

Butter For All

Monday 28th of March 2022

Hi Mary,

What a lovely little story. Your Grannie was definitely a kindred spirit! Thanks for stopping by to brighten my day with your tale. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about your adventures recreating her dairy magic!

Happy Milking,

Courtney

Angela Weber

Sunday 6th of March 2022

What happens if I use grain fed raw milk?

Butter For All

Friday 11th of March 2022

Hi Angela!

It will totally still clabber. I just recommend grass-fed for the health benefits! Enjoy!