Fermented Milk Products From All Over the World • Clabber (United States)
Clabber is the American version of soured milk. It was prepared mainly on farms, which had access to raw milk all the time. Clabber used to be added as a leavener in baked products, back in the days when baking powder was not yet available on the market, as it contains live bacteria that triggered fermentation and make the product soft and puffy once it was baked. Thus, there wasn’t a farmer’s wife that didn’t know how to make clabber or have it in the kitchen a few decades ago. Of course, besides using it for cooking, clabber was also a great breakfast solution, especially in the rural areas. Served with molasses, nutmeg, brown sugar, or cinnamon, it was the ideal replacer of fresh milk. In fact, when refrigeration was not an available option, people preferred turning fresh milk into clabber, as it could be stored better and easier, keeping its properties for much longer than fresh milk.
The process of making clabber is extremely simple. Raw fresh milk was simply left at room temperature until it got sour and thick. When the temperature is warm enough, the bacteria that are already present in the milk start doing their job, consuming the sugar in the milk, which comes in the form of lactose, and releasing acid in return, which makes the milk sour but also easier to digest. In other words, we can say that clabber is actually spoiled milk, although there’s nothing bad about it and it is very healthy food to enjoy. Unfortunately, this is not a kind of dairy product that can be seen that often these days, due to the fact that raw milk is not that available anymore. Pasteurized, store-bought milk is not right for making clabber, as the milk’s bacteria are destroyed during the pasteurization process. Fortunately, people start realizing the benefits of raw milk, so we can expect to see clabber made on a large scale soon, just like it was back in the days.
Raw milk is turned to clabber within 24 to 48 hours, depending on the room’s temperature. When ready, you should be able to distinguish the curds from the whey, although you don’t have to separate them. Also, good clabber should taste tart and not bitter. If it is bitter then it means that you allowed it to ferment for too long. Clabber doesn’t have a particular flavor, apart from being tart, so this is another good sign that you allowed the mesophilic bacteria present in the milk work for long enough.