How to Make Homemade Sour Cream From Raw Milk

How to Make Homemade Sour Cream
As a child, I was always puzzled by the descriptions of sour cream and sour milk in the Little House on the Prairie books. When our milk went off, it didn’t smell sour – it smelled like garbage!

The culprit, of course, is pasteurisation. Heat-treating milk turns it from a living substance teeming with benefcial bacteria to a lifeless, denatured product. While raw milk turns sour, pasteurised milk turns rancid. (Click to Tweet)

Finding a source of raw milk can be tricky, but if you have access to pastured raw milk, you get a host of potential dairy products out of the deal. Nutrient-rich foods such as kefir, cultured cream, butter, yoghurt, whey, cottage cheese and sour cream are easy to make.

How to Make Sour Cream From Raw Milk

Because raw milk usually comes non-homogenised, the cream will separate from the milk on its own. It isn’t necessary to skim the cream off – you can simply sour cream and milk together, then spoon the sour cream off the top and use the thickened sour milk (known as clabber) for baking. If you want to drink the milk fresh, however, the easiest way to separate milk is by pouring the milk off the bottom, not skimming the cream off the top. Pour the raw milk into a glass keg with a tap at the bottom (these are available for home brewing) and leave until separated; then simply pour the milk away into a jug.

Souring your cream takes only one easy step – leave it! We store our raw milk in Thermoses, so all I do is leave one Thermos out of the fridge for a few days with the lid slightly ajar, and voila! Cream sours in about a day in warm weather, but may take a few days in winter. When it’s thick and tastes sour, it’s ready. Sour cream may not be quite as thick and jelly-like as commercial sour cream, which often contains gelatine and thickeners.

If you make sour cream without separating the cream first, you will find the sour cream forms a recognisable layer over the milk, but that the milk has also thickened into a kind of curd-like mixture. To hasten the process of making sour cream the next time, you can add a few tablespoons of this clabber to a fresh batch of cream or raw milk.

Safety of Cultured Milk Products

Anyone consuming raw milk should be aware of the risks and benefits, particularly the difference between raw milk produced in sanitary pastured conditions and raw milk from CAFOs, intended to be pasteurised. Obtaining raw milk from a trusted source is vital – some farms have their milk regularly tested for pathogens to ensure consumers’ peace of mind.

Using Homemade Sour Cream

Sour cream loses some of its health benefits from enzymes and probiotics when heated. However, homemade sour cream is still healthier than storebought, as it lacks additives. To get the maximum health benefits from your cultured sour cream, do not heat it above bath temperature. Sour cream is delicious on top of nachos, spooned into soup, used as the base for a dip or mixed with berries for a tangy-sweet dessert sauce.

About Sarah Tennant

has written 24 posts in this blog.


  1. Julie says

    Thanks Sarah,

    Love the idea about separating the milk from the cream. My husband and I have been buying raw milk for over a year now and skim the cream off the top. No big deal really but your idea is so much easier and now I have a reason to that buy beautiful beverage dispenser at Costco. :)
    I’ll be trying this recipe and looking for others in your blog. Seems much easier than others have described and no culture!

  2. deanna says

    I was wondering if you can give me any information about a blunder I made today while making sour cream. I set the jar of raw cream, with a little cultured buttermilk mixed in, in my crockpot since I had just washed it and it was warm (and we keep our house on the cool side). the crock pot was off but I figured the residual heat couldn’t hurt. I left it over night. this morning I turned on the crock pot in preperation for some beans later. I totally had forgotten the cream was in there and then got distracted for a few hours. when I cam back the cream was quite hot and had seperated to a clear liquid in the bottom and white solids on the top. now that it has cooled I opened it and the solid top is a thick sour cream consistancy. do you think it is edible? can you give me any info on if it is ok or if I should just start over?

  3. Steph says

    Hi Sarah,

    We buy our milk raw, but my husband pasteurizes it because the cleanliness of the farm where we get it is questionable. (We live in northwest China). Do you know if there’s any way I can still make sour cream from his pasteurized milk/cream? We do have a friend here who makes yogurt from the raw milk, because the souring of the yogurt is supposed to kill any harmful pathogens. Do you have any thoughts on this? I’m wondering if it’s true for yogurt, it would also be true for sour cream…?

    Thanks for your help! Just found your blog, and looking forward to reading more :)

  4. bleeglaser says

    Hello Sarah,

    I’ve be searching the internet and everyone does this differently. We buy good raw milk and I just started making butter. Now I want to expand to cottage cheese, yogurt, and cream cheese. Most places say I need a culture or Tbsp of store bought yogurt with live cultures. Why do you not use anything? Are the heslth benefits the same without introducing the additional bacteria? Thanks for your help!

    • sharon says

      Sour cream doesn’t require a culture as it is just sour cream. However Yogurt and cheese are cultures themselves therefor require a starter culture. I hope this helps you.

  5. Dee says

    I am trying to find the answers on this website to the last 3 comments. How do you do that?
    Sorry just very new at this.

  6. Kara says

    So I know it probably depends on the cow and how much cream you will get, but on average, how much raw milk do you have to set out in order to get 8 oz. of cream soured from it?

  7. crissy says

    hey, I did try this, and left it out a couple days, and instead of getting a soft mound, it was actually a harder round cylinder like peice and almost smells like parmesan cheese. ??? I hope it’s safe to eat!

  8. Michael says

    I’m trying to go more “natural” while supporting myself with memories of our cow in Poland.
    After milking the creature the fresh raw milk could go to a crockpot (perhaps covered to protect it from flies itp yet exposed to air) and placed in the basement. After few days milk separated itself into two parts: cream on the top and sour milk beneath. If I wanted I could drink this sour milk like yogurt or mix it with the cream from the top. Cream could have been used to make butter and sourmilk even in a tepid temperature started dividing itself into curds on the top and whey below. Curds to be used to make cottage cheese; it is by taking whey out from it.

  9. Shasta says

    Thank you for this information! We have recently started milking again, and get quite a bit of milk and cream from Annabelle. We are making butter, and I was trying to think of a few other things to do with all of the bounty without letting it go to waste!

  10. Shasta says

    Hi! I made sour cream from our cow’s fresh milk. I took both milkings from Sunday and left them sitting out (in a stainless bucket), until yesterday. I then scooped off the cream from the top and put it in a bowl in the refrigerator. This morning, that stuff is SO THICK, it’s like store bought cream cheese. Did I do something wrong? After I did the sour cream, I left the bucket sitting out so I could make cream cheese today, and get the whey. I have the cream cheese hanging to drip right now, so will see how that turns out.

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