One of the themes I hope to capture in this Ancestral Fermentation series is the simplicity of cultured foods. Specifically, I want to emphasize how our ancestors continually made and ate cultured foods without any modern tools or specific cultures.
An example of this is the difference between cultured yogurt and clabbered raw milk. When we culture yogurt we use a starter that contains specific strains of bacteria that we wish to inoculate the milk with. This gives us a fairly consistent end result, which many today prefer since that is what we’re used to in store-bought products.
And then, as is the case with clabbered milk, there is what I call wild fermentation. These processes use the wild bacteria and yeasts – present in the environment or the fresh food itself – and create a cultured product.
Clabbered milk was eaten throughout various cultures and probably since the dawn of milk animals. It is, arguably, the easiest cultured milk product and you can make it right in your own kitchen.
At its most basic, clabbered milk can be made by allowing fresh, unpasteurized milk to sour and thicken. You absolutely must use raw, unpasteurized milk to make true and safe clabbered milk. Pasteurized milk does not contain the beneficial bacteria necessary for the culturing process to work and form a soured milk. Instead, you end up with putrid, rotten milk.
So, the only ingredient you need is unpasteurized milk.
The only instructions you need are to let it sit out at room temperature with a loose-fitting lid on it until it clabbers.
But here are a few more specifics:
- The lid could be a canning jar lid that you simply place atop your jar of milk, or you could use a tea towel or coffee filter with a canning ring.
- The time it takes your milk to clabber, or become sour from the lactic acid naturally produced, can be anywhere from 1-5 days, depending on the temperature at which you allow it to clabber and the bacteria within the milk. It is done when it has congealed, or separated into curds and whey.
- Once it is soured to your liking you can strain off a bit of the whey by pouring the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl or sink. The more you drain it, the thicker it will become.
- One thing you can do, to both speed up the souring process and capture a good-tasting batch of clabber, is to save a few spoonfuls from that batch and plop it into the milk for the next batch.
- You can make sour cream with this very same method. Simply use freshly skimmed cream instead of whole milk.
Traditionally, clabber has been eaten for breakfast with sweeteners and spices. It can also be used for baking or to make thick spreads and dips or even raw cottage cheese.
The beauty of clabber is in the simplistic nature of the process. Not only are no specific cultures required to make this cultured milk, but the natural souring process allows you to keep milk for days longer before consuming, and without refrigeration.
Which is probably exactly why our ancestors made it and ate it on a regular basis.
Have you tried clabbering milk?