Colonial Recommendations for Clabbered milk – Mid-19th Century

In a part of central Africa that is in the highlands of present-day Uganda, Sir Baker was forced, in the mid-19th Century, to await the resolution of politically motivated delays before he could continue his search for the source of the Nile.

During this delay we again find him using his time in explaining  local food processing techniques and ways to enhance them.  In this case, milk.

My cow that I had received from Kamrasi [a local king in what is now Uganda] gave plenty of  milk, and every second day we were enabled to make a small  cheese about the size of a six-pound cannon-shot.

Sir Baker on his way, having been given permission and a local cow to ride by Kamrasi. Source:

The  abundance of milk made a rapid change in our appearance;  and Kisoona, although a place of complete “ennui,” was a  delightful change after the privations of the last four  months. Every week the king sent me an ox and a quantity  of flour [either maize, sorghum or millet] for myself and people, and the whole party grew fat.

We used the milk native fashion, never drinking it until  curdled;–taken in this form it will agree with the most  delicate stomach, but if used fresh in large quantities it  induces biliousness. [Milk is similarly drunk here in Burundi; traditional wooden milk containers for holding curdled milk are shown in the picture:

House of a local Burundian notable. Wooden containers for making clabbered milk are on the rear shelf. Source: Hans Baumann, ca. 1910

The young girls of thirteen and fourteen  that are the wives of the king are not appreciated unless  extremely fat–they are subjected to a regular system of  fattening in order to increase their charms; thus at an early  age they are compelled to drink daily about a gallon of  curdled milk, the swallowing of which is frequently enforced  by the whip; the result is extreme obesity. [This practice is still found today in parts of Africa.]

In hot climates  milk will curdle in two or three hours if placed in a vessel  that has previously contained sour milk. When curdled it  should be well beaten together until it assumes the appearance of cream; in this state, if seasoned with a little appearance of cream; in this state, if seasoned with a little  salt, it is most nourishing and easy of digestion. The Arabs  invariably use it in this manner, and improve it by the  addition of red pepper. The natives of Unyoro [part of current-day Uganda] will not eat red  pepper, as they believe that men and women become barren  by its use.

… The butter [that was locally produced] was invariably packed in a plantain leaf, but  frequently the package was plastered with cow dung and  clay, which, when dry, formed a hard coating, and protected  it from the air; this gave it a bad flavour, and we returned it

Source:  The Albert N’Yanza, Great Basin of the Nile And Explorations of the Nile Sources. by Sir Samuel W. Baker, M.A., F.R.G.S.  Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society.

Indigenous cattle of central Africa are of the Ankole breed – then and also today.  While they give little milk, they are highly resistant to a number of tropical diseases and parasites – a factor more important in the long run, than giving large quantities of milk.  This is a trade-off that many organizations and researchers who are involved in livestock improvement activities just haven’t fully appreciated.  This is just not the Northern Hemisphere.

Local Ankole cattle. Ankole have wonderfully long horns that are greatly admired, as are their various colorings - that can be black, white, brown and mottled. Source: Baumann ca. 1910


About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-Central, Colonialism, Cuisine, Explorers & exploration, Food, Livestock, Recipes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Colonial Recommendations for Clabbered milk – Mid-19th Century

  1. Melly says:

    The King would love me!! Already fattened up.

    Great read and love the photos too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s