What is a Clabbermouth?

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.

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19 Responses to What is a Clabbermouth?

  1. Welcome to the world of blogging! I am a big fan of clabber, and am actually soaking some organic wheat flour in clabber right now!

    I think clabber and other sour raw milks are wonderful to use in cooking. It is one of the few ways I have found to make palatable whole grain baked goods, pancakes and waffles.

    Please share your clabber recipes on your blog and I will try them!

  2. Just saw your blog featured on Weston A. Price and I’m looking forward to bookmarking it and checking back! We LOVE raw milk! Keep up the bloggy work :-)

  3. Peggy says:

    My mom and I were talking about clabbered milk at Christmas. She said her mother used to leave milk out on the counter for days and drink what Mom calls “ban clabba” for breakfast. (Mom’s maiden name O’Flynn). Mom thought it was beyond disgusting, especially the way it made the whole house smell. I love that smell, and that taste! Maybe it skips a generation.

  4. Julia Martin says:

    The future of food is definitely through the local farmers. I support my farmers and am a raw milk drinker. I found your blog on the Weston A Price Facebook site. I look forward to reading all your posts!

    • Elena says:

      Girrrrl…I have been wntaiig to see these!! Love him and love them! My favs…2,3,4,9,11,13,15. Okay, so that is just about all of them lol but those really stood out to me. I think you’re gonna be huge Matt BEST OF LUCK!!!

  5. Katherine says:

    “Clabbered milk is a symbol of resistance.” Right on! :o )

  6. brianna says:

    great post! luckily for me, we have a family milk cow, so yes i do know my farmer! i look forward to reading more thought provoking posts here. :)

  7. Hear, hear!! Heard about your site from the Weston A. Price Foundation Facebook page, and glad that I came by.

  8. Shirley Gipe says:

    I also clabber milk and find it to be much better than cottage cheese, with just a hint of tartness. I usually don’t find I even need to add any spices…the flavor stands alone!

  9. JamieS says:

    I look forward to following your blog! Thanks for taking the time.

  10. clabbermouth says:

    Thanks for the very warm welcome! Yes – clabber is great for making pancakes, muffins, etc. I’ll definitely put up some more posts about it in the future!

  11. clabbermouth says:

    Fishbowl Living, Julia, Trace, and Jamie,
    I’m so glad you’ve all found my blog, and thanks for commenting! It’s great to know that I have listeners. I hope you all enjoy my future posts!

  12. clabbermouth says:

    Maybe! It was definitely an acquired taste for me, and I eat lots of fermented food. I can imagine how strange it would seem to someone who is used to processed, heavily sweetened stuff, like most of the yogurt products you see at the store.

  13. clabbermouth says:

    Thanks! That’s what made clabber seem important enough to name my blog after it.:)
    How wonderful. I dream of having a family cow…someday it will happen!
    Yes – it’s an acquired taste, but if it goes a little too sour, it’s still great to use in cooking.

  14. Tom Riley says:

    Miss Clabby,
    To quote Emerson’s response to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start.” Your opening entries are impressive and inspiring. There cannot be enough writing about the importance of good food and healthy, passionate cooking and eating. You are making the world a better place simply by sharing your considerable thoughts on these matters. Thank you for that. I wish you the best of luck and hope to see you this summer.

    Tom Riley
    Alameda, CA
    The Grape Belt — http://www.thegrapebelt.wordpress.com

  15. clabbermouth says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Tom! I appreciate the comment – we’ll keep in touch.


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  18. Michelle says:

    Hi Clabbermouth! Thanks for the great info. I found you when I googled “how to eat bonny clabber.” I’ve been experimenting with fermenting lately. Just tasted my lactofermented red sour krout yesterday and, other than a tad too much salt (I was trying to avoid spoilage that happened to my first attempt), it is awesome! I made what I thought was unpasteurized yogurt, but turns out is a highbrid yogurt-clabber, I guess. I put 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt in a jar and topped it off with local raw milk and stirred. Then I covered it with cheese cloth and let it sit for 36 hours on the counter then refrigerated it. It smells yummy to me. I, too, am of Irish descent- half to be exact and know little of my heritage. I love that soon I will be ingesting a traditional Irish nourishment other than the whiskey and butter i currently take (for medicinal purposes of course)! I’m so NOT a corned beef kinda girl! haha. This morning I will blend some of my lovely beverage for breakfast with berries and coconut palm sugar. Here’s hoping it won’t make me ill…Wish us luck then…SLAINTE!

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