Clabby – My last name. From Irish Gaelic: “He of the wide mouth.”
clab – Gaelic: an open mouth, a lip1
clabach – Gaelic: thick-lipped, wide-mouthed1
clabaire – Gaelic: a babbling fellow1
Bonny Clabber – A fermented milk product made by leaving raw milk alone. From Irish Gaelic: “bainne claba.”2
bainne – Gaelic: milk2
clabar – Gaelic: sour thick milk2
“Bonny clabber,” or clabbered milk, is a traditional food that nourished my ancestors in Ireland. When you leave out unpasteurized (raw) milk, bacteria naturally present in the milk will convert the lactose into lactic acid, and the milk will thicken, sour, and eventually curdle. The resulting product is similar to other fermented dairy products like yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir.
But for most people today, obtaining raw milk is not as easy as milking the family cow. In many states, including my two home states of Illinois and Texas, you have to get it directly from the farmer. While this means that many people can’t enjoy raw milk, or clabber, at all, it also means that if you do drink raw milk, you probably know the farmer who produced it. That’s a good thing. All food has some risk of contamination, but most of the time, unpasteurized milk from healthy, happy cows who live on pasture and eat their natural, grass-based diet is safe and healthy. But most American dairy cows live in crowded, unsanitary factory farms and eat a completely unnatural diet of corn, animal byproducts, and antibiotics. They’re sick, and their milk often harbors harmful pathogens. That’s why it has to be pasteurized.
To make clabbered milk, we have to seek out good farmers. But I think we should be looking for these farmers anyway. Their food is healthier for our bodies and their methods are healthier for the planet. Clabbered milk is a symbol of resistance.
I love to eat. And I love to talk about food. True to my name, I have a wide mouth.
This is a blog about food. Growing food, cooking food, and eating food. It’s about food tradition, food science, and food politics. Taste and nutrition. Although I believe that we can – and must – change the way that we think about food, I am still learning. I probably always will be. Questions about how we can nourish our bodies and our planet don’t have easy answers. I hope that this blog can be a platform for exploration, discussion, and sharing. Thanks for reading!
This post is a part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.
1Shaw, William. A Gaelic and English Dictionary. London: W. and A. Strahan, 1780.
2“Bonny Clabber.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bonny%20clabber.