Clabber cream

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Submitted by Tube


Clabber cream is a spooning cream (as opposed to a pouring cream). It is extremely similar to créme fraîche, though typically with a slightly thicker consistency, and makes an excellent alternative to sour cream in cooking.


Once a common ingredient in Ireland, Scotland, and the United States, clabber cream was used for many dishes where one might now use sour cream or plain yogurt. Raw milk was left out for a day or two until the cream rose to the top. During this time, bacteria in the milk would convert the lactose sugar in the milk into lactic acid. This lactic acid would then make minute curdles in the milk, thickening it. Thanks to pasteurization, clabber cream really doesn't exist in any meaningful way anymore (though some could argue that créme fraîche and certain Central American varieties of crema are exceedingly similar). If you try to leave milk out to curdle, it will simply go sour and become unusable. But clabber cream can still be made, with a little ingenuity, and it doesn't take nearly as long as in the old days.


The key element here is to replace the missing bacteria found in raw, unpasteurized milk. The good news is that buttermilk typically still has these necessary bacteria, and while it can't make clabber cream on its own, it can be leveraged to help with the process.


  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk (churn buttermilk preferred, cultured buttermilk will do in a pinch however)
  • 2 cups whole milk


  • Pour the milk into a shallow bowl.
  • Stir the buttermilk into the milk.
  • Let it sit, unrefrigerated, until it reaches your desired consistency.

The length of time this takes can vary dramatically, but is largely dependent on the bacteria count of the buttermilk and the warmth of the air (warm, but not hot, is typically best).

NOTE: When finished, you may have some watery runoff, which I suggest removing and keeping. This is useful as a leavening for biscuits, if mixed with baking powder.

I recommend keeping some of your clabber cream around for use instead of buttermilk as a starter for your next batch. You've already let those bacteria grow, so there's no sense in wasting them. Plus, it develops a (very subtly) different taste.

Recipes Using This Ingredient[edit]