How To Preserve Milk for a Long Time | Maximum Storage

how to preserve milk for a long time
Image Credit: Rebecca Siegel

Whether you want to preserve the abundance of fresh milk that you produce on your farm or homestead, or you are looking for methods of long-term preservation for your survival stash, there are a few things you need to know about how to preserve milk.

To help your milk last as long as possible, you will want to make sure you always use the proper containers and that your milk is stored at just the right temperature. Refrigerated milk should always be stored in airtight containers and housed on refrigerator shelves instead of in the door. Raw milk should be preserved with additional care to prevent bacteria growth and contamination. In addition, there are also a few methods of producing shelf-stable milk that can last up to 2 years without any refrigeration.

Keep reading to learn more about basic milk preservation and storage, alternative methods of preserving milk without refrigeration, and the differences between preserving raw and pasteurized milk.

How To Preserve Milk For A Long Time?

There are a few different ways to make your milk last for a long time, and we will cover each of them in more detail below.

Milk can be preserved through the following methods:

  • Refrigeration in proper containers at the optimal temperature (1-4 weeks)
  • Freezing in proper containers at the optimal temperature (6 months)
  • Dehydrating and storing it as a powder (2-10 years)
  • Canning through pressurized canning processes (2 years)
  • Condensing and freezing or canning it (6 months – 2 years)

Please note: It is advised that all milk be pasteurized before you begin any long-term preservation methods such as dehydration or canning. Raw milk should be handled with special care when storing.

How Long Can Fresh Milk Stay In Fridge?

How long your milk will stay fresh in the fridge before spoiling depends on what type of milk you have.

Organic milk can last up to 1 month before spoiling which is about 4x longer than conventionally produced milk which typically only lasts about 1 week in the fridge once it is opened. This stark contrast in shelf life is due to differences in pasteurization methods. Similarly, raw milk typically stays fresh for about 7-10 days (max of 2 weeks) in the fridge before it needs to be thrown out.

You can always perform the “sniff test” to check if your milk is still good and check for any curds or clumps. But as the conventional wisdom goes: when in doubt, throw it out.

How Can You Make Milk Stay Fresh Longer?

To extend the shelf life of your fresh milk in the refrigerator, there are a few things that can help.

The factor that will make the biggest difference in how long your milk will last in the fridge is to buy organic. As previously mentioned, organic milk simply lasts longer in the fridge before expiring.

Purchasing smaller containers can also help, because once your milk container is opened, it will spoil much faster. For this reason, it can be wise to buy several smaller bottles of milk that you can open one at a time as you need them instead of one large jug that will spoil much faster. This is especially true if you do not drink or use milk very often.

When attempting to make your milk last longer, it is important to put it away as soon as possible after purchasing it and after taking it out to use it. Most people tend to store their milk in the door of the fridge, but the best place to keep your milk cold is actually in the back of the lowest shelf.

Keeping your milk in this spot will ensure that it stays at the optimal temperature and have the best chance of lasting longer. The ideal temperature is between 32-39 degrees Fahrenheit. This is especially important for raw milk, which should never reach above 38 degrees.

Best Container To Store Milk In Fridge?

While milk from the store typically comes in cardboard containers or plastic jugs, the best containers for storing milk in the fridge are actually glass jars and pitchers.

Glass bottles are the most efficient way to store milk and preserve its flavor and longevity. They help keep your milk colder and stay fresh up until the expiration date. For many years, glass bottles were the default milk storage option, but this has changed in recent years primarily due to cost.

In addition to helping your milk last longer in the fridge, glass containers do not leech any contaminants or chemicals into your milk that could affect the taste or the nutritional value. Since glass containers are washable and reusable, they are also the more sustainable option for your homestead. They are easy to sterilize and prevent contamination, which makes them a fantastic option for storing raw milk.

So whether you are storing your homemade raw goat’s milk, or transferring a jug of store-bought cow’s milk, glass containers are the best option to store milk in the fridge

How To Store Milk In A Freezer?

You can also make your milk last longer by storing it in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. This works well for store-bought milk that you just want to last a little bit longer but is not the ideal option for long-term preservation since you may not have power in an emergency situation. For survival planning, you will want to look into methods that do not need a fridge or a freezer such as powdered milk.

Frozen milk can last about 6 months in the freezer before it begins to degrade. Skimmed milk will freeze better than whole milk. Liquids such as milk will expand when frozen, so you don’t want to place a full or unopened container of milk in the freezer without at least pouring some out first. Alternatively, you can turn your milk into cubes by using an ice tray or you can store your milk in Ziploc freezer bags.

When it comes time to drink your frozen milk, simply thaw by placing it back into the refrigerator, never by storing the milk at room temperature.

Raw milk can be frozen and stored just as easily, but it is advised to periodically gently stir or shake the container during the freezing or thawing process to avoid separation.

It is important to note that freezing milk does affect the flavor and taste of the milk, especially over time, but it can still be safely consumed, and frozen milk is perfect for use in cooking and baking as well.

How To Preserve Milk Without Refrigeration?

Many survivalists, preppers, and homesteaders prefer long-term methods of food preservation and storage that can serve as an emergency supply or a buffer against seasonal supply differences. Milk preservation is no exception to this preference, and luckily there are several effective ways to preserve milk without freezing or refrigeration.

One way to preserve milk for a long period of time without refrigeration is to dehydrate it by turning it to a powder. Homemade dehydrated milk can last for up to 2 years with the proper storage, while store-bought powdered milk can have a shelf life of up to 10 years before expiration.

The process to convert fresh milk to powdered milk can be quite lengthy, so if you are simply looking for a way to stock your emergency supply, buying powdered milk may be a better option than making your own.

On the other hand, if you frequently have an excess of fresh milk produced on your homestead that you need to preserve, it may be worth the investment to purchase some dehydration equipment. Powdered milk should always be stored in dry, clean, airtight jars or vacuum-sealed containers.

Another option for preserving milk without refrigeration is to can it. Many people don’t realize that you can produce canned milk. Canned milk can also last around 2 years with proper preparation and storage. You will want to use pressurized canning methods to eliminate the risk of bacteria. The most common recommendation found for canning milk is to pressurize up to 10 pounds.

When canning milk it is extremely important to make sure that all canning equipment is extremely sterile and that your milk is pasteurized. If you are canning milk that you have produced from your homestead, be sure that your livestock’s udders and your milking equipment are extremely clean as well.

It is important to note that the USDA does not currently recommend canning dairy products so use extreme caution when using this method. Many homesteaders still regularly participate in canning milk.

Lastly, you can produce condensed milk by simmering milk in a saucepan with a heavy bottom for about 30-40 minutes. For sweetened condensed milk, add sugar while you are simmering the liquid. Wait until the liquid begins to evaporate and your milk is turning into a thicker consistency, then let your milk cool before storing it in an airtight glass container.

Homemade condensed milk should last a few weeks in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. To store without refrigeration, use the same pressurized canning methods detailed above for your condensed milk.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are hoping to preserve a stash of powdered, canned, or condensed milk for long-term storage or simply looking to extend the shelf-life of your favorite store-bought milk, there are a plethora of ways to make this sweet liquid gold last longer. By following the guidelines and recommendations of this article, you’ll be well on your way to preserving milk safely and naturally.

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