When 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.
Why Clabbered Milk is Important
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.
Once you’ve got a big jar of liquid whey ready to go from your first batch of clabbered milk, the world of fermenting food is truly your oyster! The whey lasts 6 months in the refrigerator, so it makes sense to make large batches at a time.
You can also make delicious beverages with your clabbered milk. Try a milk clabber smoothie, or a sweet lassi, India’s delicious yogurt-style drink.
I’ve Left the Raw Milk on the Counter for a Week and it Won’t Clabber!
If after following the recipe below, your the raw milk still does not clabber, it’s time to have a conversation with your dairy farmer.
There is likely an issue with the Milk Urea Nitrogen value (MUN), which probably measures 23 or over. A high MUN prevents the raw milk from fermenting into yogurt or even clabbering properly. Cream from high MUN milk will not whip properly either.
This article on evaluating a grassfed dairy farm provides more information.
Homemade Clabbered Milk Recipe
Recipe for making clabbered milk at home which can be used for making homemade fermented foods and drinks loaded with enzymes and probiotics. Makes a great substitute for yogurt in smoothies too.
- 1 quart raw milk preferably grassfed
- 1 Tbl whole milk yogurt optional
- 3 drops lemon juice optional
Add optional yogurt OR lemon juice to milk container if you need clabbered milk as quickly as possible. Skip this step if your milk is already sour or you are not in a hurry.
Shake up milk container vigorously.
Leave on the counter for 1-5 days until yogurt like curds form and separate from the clear liquid (whey) portion of the milk. How long this will take depends on the temperature in your home as well as the freshness of the milk. Here in Florida, clabbering typically takes 1-2 days no matter the time of year.
When attempting to clabber milk, it is best to use raw 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.
If your raw milk is very fresh and you don't have time to wait the many days until it clabbers, add the optional a few drops of lemon juice or a tablespoon of yogurt to the container of milk and shake it up. Leave on the counter as usual and it will clabber much more quickly.
NEVER attempt to clabber pasteurized milk even if low temp (vat) pasteurized. It will go putrid if left on the counter and is never safe to consume.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Why can’t I clabber raw milk in the frig?
You can … it will just take weeks instead of days. The cold slows down probiotic activity tremendously.
I had milk in my freezer that I took out to thaw and forgot about it overnight. Can I do this with that milk?
Hi, was wondering if it can be in a sealed container or if it has to be able to breath?
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes, sealed container is best.
Do I need to put the milk into a mason jar to clabber it or can I just leave it in the milk container?
Sarah Pope MGA
You can leave it in the milk container. It will clabber better if you turn it on its side. Be sure the lid is screwed on tight or it will leak out as the pressure builds up as the milk starts to clabber.
To add to my earlier comment, these gallons have NOT been opened.
Thanks for all of the great info as always, Sarah! I really appreciate your hard work and efforts to help others around you. Question: How old is TOO old to use your raw milk? Sad to say, I have a few gallons that I didn’t get to (my son has Crohn’s and so he doesn’t always eat like I’d like him to) and they’re just sitting in the spare fridge. I don’t want to throw them out if I don’t have to, but I’m trying my hand at all of the fermented, cultured, sprouted, Nourishing Traditions principles, and I feel a tad overwhelmed. I will get new milk if needed, but some are a few months old. Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks! MA
Sarah Pope MGA
As long as the raw milk doesn’t have mold, it is fine to clabber. However, the clabbered milk might turn out far too sour even for cooking. You will have to try it and see.
What is wrong with milk from grain fed cattle? Most dairies feed a mix of corn silage, haylage made from alfalfa, dry corn grain, soy meal, dry hay and minerals, which provide a more balance diet for hard working cows. Grass alone does not provide a balanced diet. Proteins content of grasses vary. So, what is the science behind your statement of ‘preferably grass fed’?
Sarah Pope MGA
Soy, corn are GMO and the glyphosate residue ends up in the milk. Grassfed (aka pastured) cows eating GREEN grass have much more nutritious milk. The cream is BEIGE instead of white like with grain fed cows. This color differential and richer tasting milk is indicative of higher fat soluble vitamins (A, D, K2). This is why grain fed milk needs to be fortified with synthetic A/D like what is typically done with supermarket milk. Supplemental hay is fine along with minerals. Watch out as some alfalfa is now GMO.