Homemade Clabbered Milk

by Sarah Fermented FoodsComments: 52

clabbered milkWhen folks start getting into Traditional Cooking, learning to ferment foods like clabbered milk is a basic skill that must be mastered.  Lacto-fermented foods are rich in enzymes as well as beneficial bacteria.

Think of lacto-fermented foods like clabbered milk, sauerkraut or pickles as “super-raw” foods; the enzymes in lacto-fermented foods more than compensate for the enzymes lost in the foods that are cooked when consumed with a meal.

Lactic acid is what is responsible for the magic of lacto-fermentation; it preserves food by inhibiting putrefying bacteria. This organic acid is produced by a beneficial bacterium present on the surface of all plants and animals – even our own skin!

Traditional cuisines from around the world prized lacto-fermented foods and beverages for their medicinal properties as well as delicious taste. Most traditional cuisines included at least one fermented food or beverage with every meal, which worked to improve digestion and nutrient absorption.

When embarking on the adventure of lacto-fermentation for the first time, a basic ingredient required by many recipes is liquid whey.

Liquid whey serves as an inoculant and so is of critical value in fermenting vegetables, fruit chutneys and beverages; having some on hand is of primarily importance when incorporating these traditional methods into your routine.

Whey must be homemade and can be easily made by straining the clear liquid from plain yogurt, kefir, or clabbered raw milk through a dishtowel into a bowl. Powdered whey cannot be used as a substitute as whey is very fragile and its qualities are ruined when it is dried or powdered.

Tips for Making Clabbered Milk

Most folks try making whey for the first time from clabbered milk as you get a ton of whey this way and since whey lasts 6 months in the refrigerator, it makes sense to make large batches at a time.

What if you have trouble transforming your raw milk to clabbered milk?  I get this question often, so here are a couple of suggestions to get that process rolling more quickly:

  • When attempting clabbered milk, it is best to use milk that is a week old or more.  Keep it at room temperature on the kitchen counter and don’t try to clabber in the refrigerator.
  • Be prepared for a long wait if attempting to clabber extremely fresh, raw milk.  It can take quite some time, maybe even a week or more for the curds and whey to separate.
  • If all you have is fresh raw milk to clabber and you don’t have time to wait, try adding a few drops of lemon juice or a TBL of plain yogurt to the milk, shake it up and leave it on the counter.   This should speed up the process of making clabbered milk considerably.

Once you’ve got a big jar of liquid whey ready to go from your first batch of clabbered milk, the world of lacto-fermentation is truly your oyster!

More Information

101 Uses for Soured Raw Milk (Clabbered Milk)


Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (52)

  • Nelly

    I am making the homemade formula for my 6 month old. I bought raw milk and I am trying to clabber it in a mason jar to get whey. Is that okay to do? I know on your video you show a plastic gallon but was wondering if a mason jar would still keep all the properties and keep the clabber safe.


    October 19th, 2015 2:13 am Reply
    • Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      A mason jar is fine.

      October 19th, 2015 3:27 pm Reply
  • ethalfrida

    Did anyone ever determine what causes bitter buttermilk? Is it safe to use? I just do not want to toss mine as it was expensive to make. :(

    July 11th, 2015 1:36 am Reply
  • Lisa Allen

    It couldn’t be easier. It’s like raw yogurt.

    September 15th, 2014 2:50 pm Reply
  • Elizabeth Dye

    Quick question. Probably the same as many already on here. I had half of a gallon of raw milk that was a week old Friday. I poured half of a quart jar of the milk, set it on it’s side on the kitchen counter Friday afternoon (around 2:00pm). Saturday came and went and it hadn’t clobbered. I opened it to check and smell Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, before church, around 9:00am, it had obviously clabbered and separated. At this time, I put it in a new, clean ( only washed with Original tide, no bleach, no softener, two rinses) white kitchen towel and hung it from a wooden spoon from my kitchen cabinet handles. It drained from 9:30am to 2:00pm. Everything looked great, but when I tasted the cream and whey and they had a bit of an off-putting taste. Maybe like others explained – bitter? I was SO excited to smear it on a bagel, but now I’m not sure i want to eat it. I’m afraid the whey won’t be good, either or will mold when I ferment veggies. Did I do something wrong? Thanks in advance!

    February 9th, 2014 4:44 pm Reply
  • Irene

    I’m trying to figure out if my clabbered milk came out right (or at least safe to consume). It has a strong yeasty (fermented) taste…is that normal? And, is there a way to prevent that for next time? Thanks for your time.

    June 10th, 2013 9:47 pm Reply
    • BeverlyAnn Chyatte

      It IS safe to consume.

      June 11th, 2013 3:49 am Reply
  • Mark

    I have not opened my FIRST quart bottle of raw milk, which was good until–March 16 !
    Today-May 31 st. Can I still use it as clabbered milk ? This is new to me . I have consistently
    been eating-store bought feta & goat cheese & organic butter, but milk is a new one for me.Any advice & suggestions are welcome . Also , I would love a simple method for cheese as an alternative to the pasteurised feta & goat I buy.

    May 31st, 2013 1:28 am Reply
    • BeverlyAnn Chyatte

      Mark, I am not familiar with “truly” raw milk having an expiry date. Maybe its because I live in Gerogia where milk straight from the cow (raw milk) is illegal (eeeer government control) for human consumption so it’s all labeled for “Pets Only” but totally intended for humans. Anyway, if your milk is truly raw then yes it is still good. Research it, raw milk never goes bad! I’ve had several different batches of raw milk in my refrigerator for over 4 months that has curdled and still safe to consume. We do not drink it but I do use it in cooking. Only pasteurized milk “rots” NOT raw milk. What I would do with it would be make cultured butter from the cream that has formed on top and save the rest of it to use in cooking over the months to come.

      To answer your second question: there are simple methods of making soft cheeses like the ones you mentioned so you’ll need to do your research for the methods. I would like to suggest getting Sally Fallon’s book called “Nourishing Traditions;” for it answers many questions about traditional foods and is an interesting and easy read. It is the food bible for us Weston A Prices followers. Also another good book on Traditional foods (albeit mostly on Lacto-Fermented foods) is “The Art of Fermentation” by Sandor Katz.. Good Luck!

      May 31st, 2013 3:18 pm Reply
  • Kelly

    Help, I am new to the raw milk, but mine tastes like a barn and I can’t bring myself to drink it. It this normal or should i try to find a different source? Also after three days of drinking the milk my three year old has a fever of 104 could this be from the milk, he is the only one in the family that doesnt mind the taste, so he has been drinking about 1.5 cups a day.

    Need some help thanks!,

    March 23rd, 2013 10:30 pm Reply
  • BeverlyAnn Chyatte

    Can you extract whey from raw cows milk when the cream has already been removed to make butter? I have 3/4 of a gallon of this raw skim milk sitting out for 4 days. I saw it separate a little but when I poured it into a tea towel to separate the whey from the raw skim milk it mixed back together. I did get some cream cheese (left over milk solids) in my tea towel though. Thank you, BevAnn

    February 10th, 2013 12:55 pm Reply
  • Fatima

    Hi Sarah,
    I found your website about a month ago and enjoy all the information you have on a traditional diet. I’m gathering a lot of information and would like to start with fermenting sauerkraut, but I need whey and I would like to make a lot of whey since it seems to be a main ingredient to many traditional recipes. My only problem is that I’m finding it hard to find raw milk. Places in my areas don’t seem to have Raw milk now and they wont for awhile. The only thing I found at Whole Foods is Organic Grass-Fed Unhomogenized whole milk by Sky Top Farms. Once I bought it I noticed in fine print that it is Grade A Pasteurized Cow’s Milk. I don’t think I could use pasteurized milk to get whey. Can you clarify this for me.

    November 9th, 2012 11:50 am Reply
  • betty maass

    I’m trying to find out why my pasteurized milk actually clabbered. Not spoiled, Nothing done to help it clabber. It did it all by itself. Now, I grew up on a farm, we had cows, we milked cows, churned for butter, and the whole works. So when I say that I bought a gallon of pasteurized milk at the store, and since it was a week past the expiration date, I was preparing to pour it out when I realized that it had clabbered, and there was actually some whey collecting on the top of it, I know what I’m talking about!! So why would pasteurized milk clabber, without anything being done to help it??? I can’t find an answer!

    July 20th, 2012 3:22 pm Reply
  • Debbie Streeter via Facebook

    My milk took almost four days to clabber. After the first three days in the original plastic container, I poured it into a 9 x 13 inch glass pan and covered it with a towel, I remembered in the video that that milk needed to be exposed as much as possible to the air. The next day it clobbered!

    May 4th, 2012 6:28 pm Reply
  • Kate

    Can you use the whey from regular grocery store whole milk? I made Paneer a few days ago and had TONS of whey left. Will this still work even though it is not raw? Thanks!

    May 2nd, 2012 9:17 pm Reply
  • lauren

    hi sarah! i wanted to tell you how much i love your blog and also ask some really important advice from you:
    i’ve been on the scd diet(similar to gaps) for a while and am really interested in traditional foods. a big problem i’m having is that in canada buying raw dairy products is illegal(except for aged cheeses) and finding grass-fed butter is impossible. it’s possible to find a cow-share, as they’re in some kind of legal gray area, but they get busted often and i also don’t want to start looking for one until i move across the country in a few months
    so my question is, what dairy do you think i should be having? i know it won’t be as good as raw or grass-fed but is there any dairy that will still give me some benefits, just not be as good? and then others i should avoid completely?i do believe that a lot of the research about detrimental health effects of dairy is because they’re talking about pasteurized dairy…
    anyways, i’m currently having raw cheeses. i’m definitely not drinking pasteurized milk, but i do make 24-hour fermented yogurt from organic whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized or homogenized)
    any dairy advice you have for me would be great!
    thanks so much! sorry for this novel of a post…

    May 1st, 2012 8:17 pm Reply
    • Gwen

      Hi, Lauren. I did SCD to a T for 18 months, and it was so good for my gut healing and so many other benefits. I hope that if you are doing SCD for the same reasons that you have great success.

      May 1st, 2012 10:19 pm Reply
  • K-Anon

    Fantastic info… although, with all the cultured butter, yogurt and cheeses I make, I’m not sure WHAT I would do with all this extra whey… As it is, I ferment juices (lemon/lime/orange), soak a few grains and beans (we eat very few grains/beans to begin with), make crispy nuts, etc. I’m unsure what wheys are best suited for certain recipes – I generally use yogurt whey for 90% of things that call for whey (the other 10% are generally small amounts – like when making crispy nuts or soaking beans). I give my dog whey too, really helps with her digestion, but still end up with lots of whey seeming to go to waste.

    April 29th, 2012 10:26 pm Reply
  • Kristy Tompkins

    Does whey sometimes appear clear and other times look cloudy white, or even yellowish? I have made it 3-4 times now and each time it looks a bit different.

    April 29th, 2012 8:05 pm Reply
  • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

    You can remove that white stuff with a clean tea towel or restrain if you like. I have whey right now in the fridge that is easily 2 months old that is fine.

    April 29th, 2012 6:10 pm Reply
  • Meg Kelly

    HI Sarah,

    Apparently, I have a sensitivity to casein, so I’ve been staying away from milk, whey, cheese , etc. I LOVE raw milk, cheese, yogurt, etc, so this is a real sacrifice for me. Last summer was the first time I made your fermented lemonade and I’m HOOKED! I have a craving for it again and wondered if the fermentation process changes anything about the casein? Or is that even necessary? Please tell me I should just drink it! 😀

    You have been such an important guide for me and my daughter in improving our health -THANK YOU!

    April 29th, 2012 5:49 pm Reply
    • mary lewis

      The casein is more or less depending on the breed of cow. We have bread our cows to produce more and that has resulted in a higher casein content. Some breeds have very little. There are also two types of casein that I am aware of.

      May 2nd, 2012 4:25 pm Reply
      • Meg Kelly

        Thanks, Mary!

        I learned on one of Sarah’s posts or videos about the 2 types of casein. Don’t we learn so much from her? I’m wondering if fermentation changes the structure of either type of casein. I understand that there isn’t much casein in whey anywhey :D, but thought Sarah would know if fermentation changes it at all…I sure hope she has time to answer.

        May 2nd, 2012 9:38 pm Reply
  • DJ

    The timing of this entry is just perfect! I started last week Monday in attempts to make the whey and curds from week old raw milk. By Friday it had finally clabbered. I just don’t know if everything turned out “normal”. Should the curds taste quite bitter and sour, kinda like blue cheese, or should it be milder in flavor? The whey is in the fridge and has white foam at the top. Is this what I should expect? I have done some searches on this, but to no avail. I would just like to know what it is supposed to taste like and smell like. BTW, I will be watching your videos to see what to lacto-ferment first!

    Thank you so much, Sarah, for your time and for sharing with us your common sense knowledge on such important health topics! I LOVE your blog and I am on the path to good health thanks to it!

    April 29th, 2012 3:38 pm Reply
    • Karen

      I’ve had the same issue. I tried for about 4 days and then finally opened it and it did not appear to be clabbered, but it smelled sooooo bad! I just couldn’t go through with the rest of the process. I used a glass jar sitting sideways with the lid not sealed shut. I noticed in your video, Sarah, that you used a plastic gallon milk jug. Could it have anything to do with glass versus plastic?

      April 29th, 2012 10:46 pm Reply
      • Karen

        I finally got the clabbering process to happen but it took from Monday to Friday and just like DJ it smells pretty sour. I watched your video again and when you smelled the cream cheese you said it smelled so good. I would not describe mine that way. It is quite sour smelling. I probably won’t use the cream (I drained too long it is came out somewhat dry), but am wondering if the whey should be okay.

        May 4th, 2012 5:00 pm Reply
  • Natalie

    What if my clabbered milk is bitter, I had to spit and rinse my mouth and rise some more after I tasted mine this morning. It’s been in my fridge for about 2 weeks now and then 2 days on the counter “clabbering”. What does it mean when milk tastes bitter, is it is bad/dangerous? Maybe it was too old?

    April 29th, 2012 3:26 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I’ve heard of raw milk going bitter instead of souring. I think this is a problem at the farm (imbalance somehow in what the cows are being fed). I would try another farm if this happens.

      April 29th, 2012 6:11 pm Reply
      • Natalie

        Hmm, well this farm sells 100% grass fed, nothing but the grass. Their cream does tend to go a little bitter as time passes. I have no idea what is going on.

        April 29th, 2012 7:23 pm Reply
      • veronica

        im having the same problem. i have raw milk and it never sours just goes bitter… as in it tastes bad. the cream cheese when separated tastes very bitter too, you can’t eat it. and the whey is terrible?

        September 18th, 2013 6:59 pm Reply
  • Rebekkah Smith via Facebook

    I have a question! I found an old school milk jug at a garage sale, with a cork as a stopper in the top. How sanitary is that to actually use for milk? What about using it for something like water kefir?

    April 29th, 2012 3:20 pm Reply
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  • Jen

    Clabbered milk is raw milk that has been allowed to sit out at room temperature long enough for the curds and whey to separate. It may take several days for it to separate. After it has separated you can dump the whole thing into a cheesecloth or large piece of muslin fabric, laying in a bowl (you want to catch the liquid whey that drips through), tie the corners of the fabric and hang it up over the bowl to catch the whey. After about 12 hours, most of the whey has dripped into the bowl, and the curds will remain in the cheesecloth.

    You can season the curds with herbs and spices to use as a dip, or use it as a substitute for cream cheese in recipes.

    The buttermilk that separates from butter is NOT whey.

    April 29th, 2012 2:03 pm Reply
  • Jennifer

    The best clabbered cream I ever had was a bottle the farmer gave me. He had accidentally left a gallon (gasp!) of raw cream in his truck in the summer (pacific nw summer… not SO hot – but hot) for a week! It was SO good. SO GOOD! so I think warmth must help.

    April 29th, 2012 12:58 pm Reply
    • Jen

      I’m just curious how you used the clabbered cream?

      April 29th, 2012 2:04 pm Reply
  • Danny

    Hi Sarah

    Is the whey from clabbered milk a culture? say for example, if i wanted to make cultured butter would the whey act as the culture? would that prolong the butter from going rancid?


    April 29th, 2012 12:57 pm Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      To make cultured butter you can either let raw butter culture naturally or add a culture to the butter when it is fresh (see my Resources page for where to buy cultures). It does maintain the flavor of the butter better as raw butter does get strong tasting as time goes on even in the refrigerator which is why I freeze what I’m not going to use in a couple of weeks.

      April 29th, 2012 6:09 pm Reply
  • Megan @ Purple Dancing Dahlias/Little Boy Blue Farm

    Sarah – What is your take on the info out there in the foodie community about whey not being the best thing to ferment veggies because the bacteria in the fermented veggies and the whey are completely different. (actual veggie cultures are being promoted/or salt ferments) Also, this week I also read that mason jars are not recommended for fermenting anymore, the you should used the special jars/crocks to ferment your food. It was mentioned that in the updated version of NT, Sally Fallon was going to change the recommendation of using a mason jar, opting for the (rather expensive) lacto-fermenting containers (pickle-its I think they are called). Thanks!

    April 29th, 2012 12:04 pm Reply
    • Jen

      I tried using whey in exactly one ferment (salsa), which molded horribly shortly after I moved it to the refrigerator. I emailed a well known real food blogger (not Sarah) for advice. She said she doesn’t use whey when fermenting because she’s had such variable results.

      Since then I’ve only used salt, with excellent results. I’ve always used mason jars too. I think these methods are just fine. These foods have been made in traditional cultures forever, and I highly doubt those traditional people had access to special “veggie starter cultures” and fancy fermentation equipment. They used… salt, and whatever containers would work, I’m sure. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with purchasing expensive air lock fermentation crocks and starter cultures, but they are not necessary. I’ve made many lovely, delicious ferments over the last 4 years with salt and mason jars.

      Fermenting is NOT an exact science! Don’t worry about doing everything “perfect”. I don’t even follow recipes anymore. Just dig in, experiment and have fun. The results will be delicious!

      April 29th, 2012 1:56 pm Reply
      • Laura

        Some of us are just more concerned about this because we’re on GAPS and we want the ferments to do as much as possible to heal our guts. Being overseas and reading about how much better a Pickl-It is than an ordinary jar really hurts, because I can’t get a Pickl-It. I am going to try to find a store that sells wine-making supplies and hope they have airlock containers. I’m afraid I won’t find any small enough to just ferment veggies in!

        My ferments in ordinary jars fail half the time, and it’s frustrating to put in all that work (and make the amount of ferments needed for 5 people on GAPS) then be forced to throw out half of it!

        April 29th, 2012 2:24 pm Reply
        • Helen T.

          Are you in France or in Europe, Laura? I am……and still trying to source lots of things like fermented cod liver oil. If you are, let me know – we can forward addresses when we find something.

          Ages ago I came up with pickling items from Germany – often they ship to France being in the EU (European Community).

          April 29th, 2012 5:31 pm Reply
          • Silvia G.

            Hi Helen T., I’m in Ireland. Greenpastures ship FCLO to Europe, it’s not cheap though.

            May 2nd, 2012 9:33 am
  • Kellie Hunt via Facebook

    Also I learned not to use ANY kind of antibacterial soaps or bleach in your containers that you clabber or churn in.It kills ALL the bacteria.

    April 29th, 2012 12:01 pm Reply
  • Gwen

    I want a T-shirt that says, “Help! My Raw Milk Won’t Clabber!”

    Seriously, happy to read this. I clabbered milk for the first time this week and it took 4 days. I went though the steps anyway. Then, I found out that the cow had gotten into some weeds that make the milk taste bitter. Sarah, do you think it’s still ok to use? I don’t know what the cow ate.

    April 29th, 2012 11:06 am Reply
  • Dae

    My family and I are preparing for the GAPS diet. I’ve known about traditional cooking for some time and have worked some of it into my cooking–but still had trouble with my stomach. When I came upon the GAPS diet info I had an “ah ha” moment thinking that maybe this was my problem–my gut is probably in such a mess that even properly prepared foods aren’t being digested properly. So…here in Virginia raw milk is illegal (grrr) and getting a cow share is very expensive. I’m currently working on our budget to make this happen (and no, I don’t buy junk food, never have)–in the mean time I’m trying to find out how to get the most bang for our buck nutritionally out of a gallon of raw milk. With GAPS/traditional foods diet in mind, what is the best way to use a gallon of milk. Make butter, sour cream, yogurt, kefir…..whey.

    Now I realize that the amount of cream in the gallon varies according to the cow species, time of year, feed…. but generally speaking if you were only able to get 1 gallon of raw milk, what would you make with it in order to use every precious drop of it and get the most benefit and going the furthest to stretch the dollar.

    We are a family of 4, and I should mention that I’ve been buying Kerry Gold butter and loving it, and, I just bought the fermented cod live and butter oil blend. I about tossed my cookies taking it though, however, I am determined to get the stuff down.

    I bought milk and water kefir grains and a kombucha scoby (I haven’t hydrated any of them yet)– so I’m poised to make probiotic drinks and I’ve tried some fermented carrots and pickles.

    BTW, can you drink kombucha that is still sweet (hasn’t had all the sugar eaten up) on GAPS?

    Lots of questions! Thanks in advance!

    April 29th, 2012 11:04 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      If I could only get 1 gallon of raw milk, I would ferment it into kefir and make smoothies with it. Drinking raw milk fresh is a luxury no doubt.

      The first couple of years I ate traditionally, raw milk was hard to come by .. I shipped in raw cream from Pennsylvania frozen and did raw cream everything. That worked fine. When a local farm finally started having raw milk available and I could actually get as much as I wanted weekly, that was a dream come true.

      April 29th, 2012 11:37 am Reply
  • Nashira

    Its not possible to find raw milk were I live (Puerto Rico) It not like the old day its illegal now, and I live in apt, can I use the organic one for cream cheese or to extract Whey?

    April 29th, 2012 10:54 am Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Yes you can use organic plain yogurt to get liquid whey.

      April 29th, 2012 11:34 am Reply
  • Sarah

    Oh am I ever glad to see this post!!! I have a question on topic and was hoping to get it answered. We will soon be moving to a place where it is going to be very difficult to obtain raw milk (by all appearances, anyway). Can I make several batches of whey and freeze them? Will they still work for lacto fermentation? I am really hoping the answer is yes…I will be lost without my whey!

    April 29th, 2012 10:12 am Reply
    • Colleen

      I haven’t used raw milk to make whey, but often use yogurt from the store (obviously organic, low temp pasteurized) and drip the whey out. Then I have the whey and some yogurt cheese. I’ve been fermenting for about two years now using this whey and have had great results. This could be an option for you

      April 29th, 2012 10:18 am Reply
      • Tamara Slack

        Thanks for your reply Colleen. I can’t get my hands on raw milk either (yet!). Do you recommend a brand of yogurt to use?

        April 29th, 2012 11:11 am Reply
        • Colleen

          Hi – sorry this is a few days later, so not sure if you will see it. I usually just go through the store and look at the labels for those that are just milk and cultures. I sort of mix and match with what’s available.

          May 3rd, 2012 9:50 am Reply

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