Dairy Food Preservation and Storage

Sharon January 8th, 2009

Ok, folks, today we’re going to cover the storage and preservation of dairy foods and faux-dairy foods.  That is, how to keep your milk and what to do with it.

 Let’s start with types of milk storage:

1. Dry milk.  This comes in several forms (nonfat, full fat, low heat process) – the low heat, full fat tastes the most like regular milk (note that I did not say “just like regular milk).  The non-fat powdered lasts the longest – more than decade if stored in the right cool, dark, dry conditions.  Works fine for most milk uses, except perhaps drinking straight, although if you gradually mix it with regular milk, upping the proportion of powdered, you can cut costs and get children, at least, accustomed to it.  I keep some of this stuff, but I don’t love it since it all comes from industrial dairy – there are organic versions, but they are pricey and industrial organic.

2. Evaporated milk – milk reduced.  Can be used in baking, for coffee, or diluted to make something sorta drinkable if you add a lot of other flavors.  Keeps a long time in cans, expensive.  Not something I bother storing.

3. Condensed milk – sweet.  Ok for making key lime pie and pudding, not really milk. 

4. Powdered faux-milks – rice, soy… I don’t use these, so I’m not real famliar with them.  Readers here have reported that they are ok.  Probably better than nothing if you will be relying on them.

5. Cheese.  This is the traditional method of storing milk – turn it into cheese and keep it in a cool place.  Yogurt, kefir, and butter are other traditional methods.

6. In an animal.  In this method, you grow grass or save it as hay, and add some supplemental grains or roots, and the animal produces a daily supply of milk which doesn’t need to last too long.  Extras become cheese,  butter, kefir and yogurt.

7. In the form of soybeans or rice to be made into soymilk or rice milk.  I have a soymilk maker, which we use mostly for making tofu.  It does require electricity,

We have chosen a combination of #1 (we do store some powdered milk and use it in baking, and to thicken yogurt), #5 and #6.  Our two little tiny goats give an enormous amount of milk for their body weights – at this point, on the low end of their lactation curve, a little less than a quart of milk a day.  It takes about 10 days for the two of them to eat a small square bale of hay (they get hay from November to April), and they get a few ounce of grain and sunflower seeds each day.  A quart a day keeps us in yogurt and milk for drinking and baking, but not in cheese or enough, say, for dairy based soups.  So eventually we’d like to move primarily to on the hoof and cheese based dairy.

But while I think more people could have tiny goats than do (mine weigh about 55 lbs and are the size of a comparable dog, quieter than dogs, can be picked up by a healthy adult and carried where you want them to go and don’t require a ton of space, although they like it – perfect critters for a suburban yard), and it certainly would be possible eventually for neighborhoods to, say, go cooperatively in on a small cow that would rotate around the neighborhood lawns, most of us aren’t there.  But whether you are using powdered milk or real milk, you can make quite good yogurt, cheese, kefir etc…

Yogurt is incredibly simple.  You do need a starter – you can order funky starter cultures online from the resources at the end, but really the easiest way is to go to the store and buy a brand of plain yogurt that has live cultures on it.  A couple of spoonfuls of that will seed your next culture. 

If you are using powdered milk, mix up a batch, if you are using fresh, just pour it in a pot.  Heat 1 quart of milk up until bubbles form around the edge of the pan.  Stir in 1/4 cup of powdered milk (yes, over and above what you’ve already used) if desired – this will make the yogurt thicker and more nutrious. 

Take the yogurt off the heat, and let it cool until you can just put your finger in for 10 seconds. Stir in 2 tbsp of yogurt with live cultures.   Pour into either a thermos or a jar and put in a warm, draft free spot.  Leave for 6 hours, and check – it should be thick and yogurty.  All set! 

Yogurt will keep for a few weeks at around 50 degrees, or less time in warmer weather.  But it keeps longer than milk.

What about non-dairy folks?  Must they suffer life without yogurt?  Nope, here’s a recipe for making soy yogurt out of soymilk – I’m told it is good for things like tandoori chicken (which I might try since the regular type isn’t kosher): http://www.soya.be/how-to-make-soy-yogurt.php  I’m told, but have not tried, that canned coconut milk can be turned into yogurt as well, by following precisely the same directions, and adding a small amount of dairy yogurt (or you could order powdered cultures).  This obviously would be a less efficient way of preserving coconut milk than keeping it canned, but might provide a tasty (I’m told it is pleasantly sweet and great with fruit) yogurt substitute for non-dairy households.  Let me know if you try it.

Kefir is a cultured milk product that, like yogurt, slows down the decay of milk, but doesn’t stop it.  But it is tasty in its own right, and extremely good for you.  Among other things, it has very small curds, so babies can eat kefir, and the bacteria in it can help you with digestive difficulties, even more than yogurt.  To make kefir, you need to order or barter some kefir grains – there are sources down below, or you can find someone with some and get some from them.  Once you have it, it stays alive as yogurt does, with a little from that last batch. 

 One advantage of kefir is that those who are lactose intolerant can drink kefir and eat kefir cheese in many cases (not all, and people to build up a tolerance) because the critters in the kefir eat almost all of the milk sugars (lactose) in the milk.  So if you haven’t been able to eat milk or yogurt, you might be able to enjoy kefir.

Here are instructions for kefir making – kefir can also be made on coconut milk and some soy milks – lotsa info here: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html

Making butter: Butter keeps nigh on forever frozen, for several months at fridge temperatures, and for a month packed into one of those butter keepers.  I won’t go into the details of how to make your own, since Crunchy Chicken has already done that. http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2008/01/holy-cow-i-made-my-own-butter.html.  If you are going to do it regularly (and note, you can’t do this with non-fat powdered milk), you’ll want some kind of butter churn, available at www.lehmans.com

If you need to keep butter in hot weather, or for a very long time without refrigeration, the best strategy is to turn it into ghee, or clarified butter.  This is not quite the same in taste or texture (it is somewhere between a liquid and a solid at room temperature), but it adds a buttery flavor and will last many months at room temperature.  Instructions are here: http://www.ayurbalance.com/explore_howtosghee.htm.  For those with abundant milk when the weather is warm, ghee is a way of having year round homeproduced fats.

Ok, on to cheesemaking.  This is not an area I’ve explored nearly as much as I’d like to – we’ve only made farmer’s cheese/chevre with our goat’s milk so far, and I’ve tried Barbara Kingsolver’s Mozzarella Recipe (which I won’t reprint here for reasons of fair use, but it is in _Animal Vegetable Miracle_).  So I’ll take you as far as I’ve gone, and then offer some resources.

1. Yogurt Cheese/Labneh – this is not a true cheese, but it is damned good stuff, and a much better choice for your bagel taste-wise than cream cheese.  All you do is take your yogurt and put it in some cheesecloth, and suspend it over a bowl.  Leave it overnight, and what’s left is yogurt cheese.  You can mix in herbs, put it in a jar and cover with a bit of olive oil, and it will last for a month or more in the fridge or at cool temps.  The liquid is good in fruit smoothies, or stirred into oatmeal.

2. Farmer’s Cheese/Chevre – with slight variations, these are the same – the latter is made with goat’s milk, the former with cows …usually.  Take 1 gallon of milk, 1 tsp salt and the juice of 1 large lemon (or 4 tablespoons of bottled).  Put milk and salt in a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium heat until it boils, stirring regularly to prevent burning.  When bubbles form at the edges, turn off the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. The milk will begin to curdle – the when the process is complete (maybe 10 minutes)

You can also stir in pepper, garlic, jalapenos, whatever before you add the lemon juice.  Experimentation is good.

Line a fine colander with cheesecloth and pour the milk through it.   When it is through draining, pick up the cheese curds and squeeze to get rid of remaining liquid.  What’s in the cheesecloth is the cheese, the remainder is whey.  If you have a copy of Sally Fallon’s _Nourishing Traditions_ she has many, many suggestions for fun things to do with whey, or you can give it to the chickens or whatever.  Pack into a container and store in a cool place for a month.  This is *great* crumbled over a salad of greens and fresh tomatoes, or over winter greens, sliced apple and dried cranberries.  Yum!

More cheesemaking info:http://www.leeners.com/cheeserecipes.html


Cultures, rennet, info: http://thecheesemaker.com/

Coming up next…kitchen equipment you need…and don’t.


30 Responses to “Dairy Food Preservation and Storage”

  1. kathy harrison says:

    I have another suggestion for keeping butter. It cans quite well. I found the directions ovet at How Many Miles From Babylon webblog. Once canned, it will keep for years and it does not need to be processed, just melted and canned in hot jars. You keep shaking it every few minutes until it sets up. The top will ping and that’s all there is to it.

  2. Susan says:

    Thanks so much for this post and all the resources in it!

  3. Susan in NJ says:

    Some dairy notes:
    Another option is shelf-stable organic milk or half and half, which has the disadvantages of price, packaging, and industrial origin, but is just as palatable as fresh milk from the store. If you have an ultra- picky adult cream in coffee drinker like I do, having shelf-stable stuff around saves many a trip to the store and if you can find it on sale is about the same as the fresh organic (industrial). And since we don’t drink much milk, I keep a case of shelf-stable single serving milk around in case a visitor wants milk. I use a 6 month rotation on this stuff.
    I keep some evaporated milk on hand to use in a few things like pumpkin pie but it mostly gets rotated by food donation and, frankly, this is one reason I buy it.
    For those who are a picky bakers, frozen butter has a lower moisture content and will not work quite as expected in recipes where you “cream” butter and sugar — the product is perfectly edible just different in the baking.
    My understanding is that sweetened condensed milk started as a way around rationing restrictions — it took a dairy coupon but not a sugar coupon. I can’t stand it, but in some cultures, this stuff is pretty much a staple. My grandmother used to boil the can and send it to my uncle as a treat during WWII — it makes a sort of carmelly pudding.
    If you use dairy in your bread, unreconsituted powdered milk works excellently.
    Re canning butter — for what it’s worth the feds aren’t recommending this, the appropriate studies have not been done re safety.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There is also UHT (ultra high temperature) shelf-stable milk. Expensive, though. It lasts for about 6 months at room temp, and has to be refridgerated and then consumed within 7 days. We saw it in the grocery store next to the powdered milk, and got a quart box of it to keep in the pantry for any short-lived shtf scenario.

    It probably would make more sense to get 8-oz, single-serving milk boxes, like the kind they give in humanitarian aid to refugees who don’t have refridgeration.

  5. And, Milk is a complete protein. Very important to have the full range of proteins in your diet. My preparedness cache has a dozen boxes of dry milk, which is cycled through regularly. This amount of milk make a significant contribution toward a years supply of food.

  6. grace says:

    Chevre Farmer’s cheese

    Also called paneer in India google paneer and there are lots of little videos on how to make it and ways it can be used in a variety of really good dishes. Can also be made with vinegar instead of lemon juice.

  7. homebrewlibrarian says:

    Personally, I find making kefir less work than yoghurt. Both require cultures but kefir doesn’t require warming. Add milk to kefir grains in a jar, let sit on the counter in the kitchen, when pockets of whey form, drain off the liquid, put the grains in a clean jar and start over. You can drink the kefir liquid plain or add fruit purees or other flavorings. You can also make kefir cheese the same way as yoghurt cheese. I don’t like using cheesecloth because too much kefir gets trapped between the layers – instead I use a single layer of fine 100% cotton muslin. The longer the draining, the firmer the cheese. I’ve made manaeesh (a North African flavored cheese spread) using kefir cheese which uses walnuts, thyme, garlic, olive oil and salt. Very tasty! As an experiment, I tried drying out kefir cheese to something closer to parmesan. It got very compressed and it’s in my fridge but I haven’t tried to use it yet.

    The website Sharon gives for kefir instruction is maintained by Dom Anfiteatro out of Australia. He is the guru of kefir to whom everyone refers. In fact, in my search for grains, I read so many glowing review of his kefir grains that I ended up buying some from him (through his American supplier). Have to say that these grains are vigorous! If I make continuous batches of kefir, I continually have to find homes for all the new grains that develop. I’m becoming something like the local kefir grain queen and have given grains to dozens of people over the last couple years. Craigslist is a wonderful thing!

    Kerri in AK

  8. homebrewlibrarian says:

    BTW, if any of the Alaskans who visit this blog are looking for kefir grains, let me know. It’s about time for me to “cull the herd” again and I’d be happy to share.

    Kerri in AK

  9. Thomas Eicher says:

    Another good cheesemaking site is Beginning Cheese Making.

    The recipes use Junket rennet tablets (available in most supermarkets–usually somewhere around the Jello). Professor Frankhauser’s recipes also come enclosed in the Junket box.

    For those who wish to get into cheesemaking in a big way I can recommend Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carroll. Her website has a lot of cheesemaking supplies.

  10. BoysMom says:

    While evaporated milk is pricey, my 4yo will drink it flavored. He won’t drink powdered milk flavored. (I can understand this, I can also detect it. Nasty stuff. It’s okay for cooking, though.) If I want to store milk for 4yo and me, it has to be evaporated. For everyone else, powdered is acceptable mixed with cocoa and sugar.
    If you have kids, I’d suggest testing the powdered milk before assuming they’ll drink it. 4yo will choose to go without rather than drink it. He’s not normally a picky kid, either.

  11. Teartaye says:

    Does anyone have any resources for goat care?

    I’ve always wanted my own and while I’ll still need to work on being able to have them (money, space, legally, etc.) I really enjoy reading up on them. Thanks!

  12. Jennifer says:

    There are some very good-tasting powdered milks available. Emergency Essentials is one company (beprepared.com) and Grandma’s Country Cream (don’t have the web address–just google the name) is the other. Mixed up the night before and chilled well, they are virtually indistinguishable from fresh skim milk. Seriously. I was amazed. All my five children will drink it, though they prefer lowfat and whole milk. Naturally, the powdered tastes much better with freshly baked cookies.

    Also, honeyvillegrain.com sells a whey-based milk substitute. It’s ok. It’s far better than regular powdered milk. It works well in baking and oatmeal. My children can’t tell the difference between the chocolate flavor and hot cocoa mix. And it is cheaper, but it doesn’t have as much protein.

  13. curiousalexa says:

    the Grandma’s case of milk is currently on sale: http://grandmascountry.com/?uid=8519&page=769

    I’m debating if I want to try this or not… Every time we buy a carton, half of it seems to go bad!

  14. sealander says:

    I just use milk powder to make yoghurt as it’s cheaper than liquid milk here. I get one of the packets of starter sold for use with yoghurt making kits – usually this is a mixture of dried culture and milk powder. I divide this into quarters (if I used the whole pack in one go it would be much the same price as just buying the yoghurt), make up the weight with milk powder, add water to a plastic lidded container and shake. This goes in the yoghurt maker which is essentially just a giant thermos flask, filled with hot water. In warm weather the yoghurt will grow overnight, in colder weather the hot water in the flask might need to be topped up and left longer. End result is a thick creamy yoghurt, at a fraction of the store prices.
    With the record prices for milk and dairy products in the last year, I do keep daydreaming about a goat. But I don’t think we could quite squeeze one in, unless she lives in the house. I wonder if you can milk a rabbit? ;)

  15. Liz says:

    People looking for “real” milk might want to see if there is a cow or herd share available near them (and in some states, you can buy raw milk legally). I get two gallons a week, and make all our cheese, yoghurt, butter, sour cream and fresh cheeses like paneer and ricotta. This isn’t exactly a storage suggestion, since it relies on the herd still being available when you need it (or transportation to the herd being available). Hard cheese made with that milk will last a long time, however. We’re just now eating the cheddar I made about this time last year. You can’t go back to supermarket cheese after you’ve tasted your own.

    You can make cheese with ordinary pasteurized milk, but not with the UHT or ultra-pasteurized. Pasteurization degrades the milk protein and the UHT process destroys it altogether, so it won’t bind together for cheese.

    For sources of raw milk, see http://www.realmilk.com

  16. Lisa says:

    My number one resource for goats is Fias Co Farm

  17. rhonda jean says:

    I have gone off powered milk as I’m following the Nourishing Traditions way of eating. I still have about 10 lbs of powdered milk in the stockpile and will use it up, and replace some of it for an emergency, as the months progress.

    Thanks for this post. I’ll link tell my readers about it.

  18. suburbanfarmgirl says:

    I try to store milk in the animal, but sometimes more comes out than I know what to do with! I make butter, mozzerella and ricotta cheese, and yogurt. When there’s STILL MORE, I can it. I actually love the taste of pressure-canned milk.

    Because milk is high-acid, you can water-bath can it, but that takes 60 minutes. In a pressure canner, you leave 1″ headspace, then process 10 minutes at a pressure adjusted to your altitude (10 lb at sea level).

    This carmelizes the sugar, which gives it a lovely golden look and carmely taste. That’s my opinion. If it’s unhomogenized cow milk, the cream will rise to the top and become more solid over time. You can keep this from happening by inverting the jars every so often, or you can just enjoy the ‘almost butter.’

    The nutrient quality is about the same as UHT milk (because, I guess, that’s what it is, only done at home).


  19. suburbanfarmgirl says:

    P.S. Even if you don’t like the taste of home-canned milk on its own, it’s useful for soups, puddings, etc.


  20. FoodRenegade says:

    I think that in a pinch, I’d rather do without milk than rely on dry milk. Not only is it not a whole, real food, but it has free glutamic acids in it (which is basically MSG). I’d never call the stuff “nutritious”, but then again I think 80% of what you can buy in a grocery store to eat doesn’t qualify as “real food.”

  21. Andrea says:

    I can milk too…I keep a couple gallons of it on hand just in case. It’s come in handy during snow storms when the roads are closed and we can’t make it to the grocery. It’s not as good as fresh milk, but in a pinch and with a dose of chocolate, it’s fine for drinking. Makes great potato soup too.

    I also keep a case of evaporated milk on hand… I like it for cooking, coffee, tea, etc. And AGAIN, in a pinch a little Ovaltine goes a long long way.

  22. Although you have small goats, you can still collect enough milk to make cheese. Just put the milk in the freezer until you have enough to make cheese. Freezing does NOT destroy the live elements in the milk. You will also want to get a home cheese press to make hard cheeses.

  23. [...] Preserving Dairy Foods “….But while I think more people could have tiny goats than do (mine weigh about 55 lbs and are the size of a comparable dog, quieter than dogs, can be picked up by a healthy adult and carried where you want them to go and don’t require a ton of space, although they like it – perfect critters for a suburban yard), and it certainly would be possible eventually for neighborhoods to, say, go cooperatively in on a small cow that would rotate around the neighborhood lawns, most of us aren’t there.  But whether you are using powdered milk or real milk, you can make quite good yogurt, cheese, kefir etc…” [...]

  24. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Dairy Food Preservation and Storage Ok, folks, today we’re going to cover the storage and preservation of dairy foods and faux-dairy foods. That is, how to keep your milk and what to do with it. [...]

  25. Tawny says:

    I’ve recently started making yogurt in my crockpot (following the directions from “A Year of Crockpotting”: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html). I make it using a half gallon of local organic milk (Cedar Summit Farms) that is regularly marked down to half price because the sell-by date is tomorrow. It works great, although I’ve found my yogurt firms up much better if I leave it to sit an extra 4-8 hours. I make yogurt about every two weeks and we eat it with granola every morning. The half price milk means my homemade organic yogurt costs about 1/4 as much as the same amount of regular industrial yogurt. I’m going to have to see if the heavy cream goes on sale near its expiration date and try making butter.

  26. [...] Totally off subject but, here is some good info about dairy produce. [...]

  27. [...] Totally off subject but, here is some good info about dairy produce. [...]

  28. [...] Totally off subject but, here is some good info about dairy produce. [...]

  29. I enjoy reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

Leave a Reply