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

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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.

Charlie Sommers

Sunday 10th of October 2021

I am curious. I was raised in a somewhat poor family that used a lot of powdered milk rather than fresh. My mother and aunt would mix up a batch and leave it sitting unrefrigerated to clabber. Even though it was definitely not raw milk we used it for years with no health problems. Is the required use of raw milk overstated?

Butter For All

Friday 22nd of October 2021

Hi Charlie!

That's VERY interesting. As far as I know, pasteurized milk products will spoil more easily, rather than ferment nicely. It all depend on what bacteria are present. I personally wouldn't take the risk now. I wonder if they might have had a continuous culture going that they added into the milk powder, similar to a yogurt culture?

Sarah

Wednesday 18th of August 2021

Hello, I have been trying to make Whey from raw goat milk and have been for a year or so, and usually it turns out fine. Lately, my milk keeps molding, making me unable to use it. I see you use a sterilzed jar and now I'm wondering if that is what is going wrong; though the jar itself should have been sterilzed when the milk was put in it. For a while I was able to use the jar the milk came in just fine. I would open the lid and set it on top gently, making sure nothing got in. Yet the past 3 times my milk has molded when trying to make whey, I will try a clean jar method. I'm also wondering if you can think of any other reasons it might be molding as I hate the waste and hate that I don't have whey even more! Thank you for your help; please email me! :D

Lydia

Tuesday 3rd of August 2021

I tried this for the first time this week! This morning it has solidified... now what do I do? Is the cream the stuff on the bottom? What do I do with the darker layer on top? Thanks!

Butter For All

Sunday 8th of August 2021

Hi Lydia,

The cream rises. The solids sink. Its basically like a naturally fermented yogurt at that stage. You can mix it together and eat it or use it in baking like buttermilk, or separate it like the directions call for in the post.

Hope that helps!

Courtney

Kristin

Monday 26th of July 2021

I have a few 1/2 gallons of raw milk that have been in my refrigerator for a few weeks now (we were traveling). All have yet to be opened (they're in glass jars with plastic screw top lid). Would this still be safe to consume, or turn into the clabbered milk you're speaking of? We buy from an organic farmer and they are grass fed cows.

Butter For All

Sunday 1st of August 2021

Hi Kristin!

I always say "the nose knows'! So give it a good smell first before proceeding. If it still smells pleasant, even a little sour then you can go ahead and try clabber. If it smells off, or makes you turn green, then you should compost it. One thing you can do next time is make my raw milk yogurt before traveling. it will keep a lot longer since it's already fermented!

Best of luck,

Courtney

Carrie

Sunday 25th of July 2021

Is clabbered milk lactose free?

Butter For All

Sunday 1st of August 2021

Hi Carrie,

Lactose is partially broken down by fermentation so clabber may be tolerated more easily by those who are lactose intolerant. The longer the fermentation, the more lactic acid and the less lactose.

But no, it's not completely lactose free.

Hope you can enjoy some!

Courtney