Clabbered Milk (aka Loppered Milk) is a product that we no longer really have any more. It was a byproduct of making Clabber Cream.
To recap, to make Clabber Cream, you’d set a pail or dish of freshly-milked milk out to allow the cream to rise to the top. This could take anywhere from 1 day in warm weather to 2 or 3 days in cooler weather. During this time, two things happen to the milk. Bacteria in the milk begin their process of converting lactose (a sugar, and therefore sweet) into lactose acid (which being an acid, is tart or sour.) In addition to changing the taste, this causes a slight curdling which thickens the milk and cream. And, the cream from this slightly-transformed milk rises to the top. This cream is skimmed off the top, and referred to as Clabbered Cream in English..
The milk left behind in the pail or dish is Clabbered Milk. It is thickened from the slight curdling that occured, and has a slightly sour, tangy taste. It is sour enough to react with baking soda to cause a leavening reaction in recipes, just as buttermilk would. Clabbered Milk can also be made into cottage cheese, or fed to livestock such as pigs.
Creole Cream Cheese is made from Clabbered Milk.
The clabbering process only works with unpasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk, if left out, only produces the disgusting, rank sour milk that we all know today.
Buttermilk, or to 1 cup (8 oz / 250 ml) of milk or soymilk add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar.
“Clabber Girl” baking powder, made in Indiana, refers back to the time when to leaven something you would add baking soda to sour milk (aka clabbered or loppered milk) to produce a leavening reaction.
Literature & Lore
“There has lately been patented in England a system for making buttons, combs, brush-handles, billiard balls, and such like articles out of milk.
The bone buttons and articles of that kind, which we have been using up to the present time, have been made of refuse from the slaughter-houses. This new process will only require milk.
Any one who knows anything about dairy work knows what loppered milk is. It is the thick soured milk that one finds under the butter cream.
This loppered milk is made into cottage cheese, and many people, in making their cottage cheese, stand it for a moment on the fire to thicken.
Woe to the dairy wife who lets it stay too long!
It becomes like little knobs of rubber, that nothing will soften. When one tries to bite it one’s teeth rebound. It is the toughest kind of material.
Mr. Callander, the Englishman who invented the milk buttons, must have had an encounter with some of this cottage cheese, and his trouble in chewing it must have made him wonder whether it wasn’t intended for something else instead of food.
He has found a means of making the loppered milk so solid, that three days after he has mixed it with some ingredients, the secret of which he will not tell, it is like celluloid, and is ready to be cut.
It has a glossy surface, and is of a creamy color.
It is said to be less brittle than bone or celluloid, and not likely to chip. Any one who has eaten cottage cheese that has been too long on the stove will believe that the new substance has powers of resistance that are quite unequalled.”
— Genie H. Rosenfield. The Great Round World and What Is Going On In It. Article: Invention and Discovery. Vol. 1, No. 17, 4 March 1897
“Clabber” and “lopper” both mean the same thing. Clabber is of Gaelic origin, lopper is of Anglo-saxon origin. Clabber was the preferred word in Ireland. You’d think that it would also be the preferred word in Scotland, and perhaps down a bit into northern England. Some linguistic maps show this, but others disagree, showing “loppered” as preferred in Scotland.
In Scotland, though, they also coined the English word “bonnyclabber” to mean “clabbered milk”. Note, it refers to clabbered milk, and not clabbered cream. The word comes from the Gaelic word “bainne clabair”, which in turn came from two Gaelic words, “bainne” and “claba”.
“Bainne” means milk. Different meanings are ascribed to the word “claba”:
- “Clabar”– can mean someone who turns a churn;
- “clabair” — a Gaelic word meaning sour thick milk or the paddle on a butter churn;
- Ben Jonson felt that “clabar” here should be interpreted as “mud or mire”, perhaps in allusion to some curdling.
The word “bonneyclabber” hung on in America in a few parts of New England, where it was sometimes pronounced “bonnyclapper”. In any event, there it continued to mean sour, thick milk.
In some places in Scotland, however, “bonneyclabber” later came to also mean a drink made from buttermilk and beer mixed together.
In any event, “clabber” is probably not, at least in this context, a old word for “cupboard or pantry”, as some sources say.
“Clabber Girl Baking Powder History. Clabber Girl Corporation, Terre Haute, Indiana. Retrieved July 2006 from http://www.clabbergirlmuseum.com/Clabber.php