How to Can Milk
By Mary Jane Toth, Michigan
While frozen milk will taste more like fresh, it takes up a lot of space in the freezer. It costs money and energy to keep it frozen. Canning milk is one way to preserve your milk and save energy at the same time. It will keep for a long time on the shelf. Canned milk will taste like any canned milk available in the grocery store. It will not be suitable for drinking, but will work great for making soups, sauces, gravies, puddings, fudge, etc. I like to have at least 100 quarts and a few pints put away so that, when I dry off my does before kidding, I have enough canned milk to get by until they freshen again.
In my book Goats Produce Too!, I have included a method of preserving milk via pressure canning.
Hot water bath canning is not a recognized method or USDA approved method for canning milk. It is a low acid food and the biggest fear is contamination with botulism. Because I don’t want to promote a method that could prove risky for some people, I recommend that you use a pressure canner so that you can get the milk to a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.
When canning milk, it is important to only use fresh milk. Do not try to can milk that you have stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Older milk will be more acidic and there is a risk that it could curdle at the high temperatures required in a pressure canner.
1. Pressure canner.
2. Quart or pint jars.
3. Canning lids with rings.
4. Jar lifter, to help you get the hot jars out of the canner.
Most canning recipes will say that you should use sterilized jars. There are various ways to sterilize the jars. The dishwasher is good, especially if you have a high heat setting. They can be washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed well, and filled with boiling water. Another method is to place the jars in a hot oven for several minutes. Having said all that, I usually just wash in hot, soapy water or use my dishwasher. The high heat of the pressure canner permeates inside and out.
Before filling the clean jars with your milk, run your finger around the rim of each jar to check for nicks or cracks. Discard any jars that are not smooth and free of defects.
Place your canning lids in a pan and pour boiling water over them. Let them soak in the hot water while you are filling your jars. I don’t worry about sterilizing the rings as they do not come in contact with any of the milk.
Keep in mind that this whole process will usually take a good hour for the pressure to build up to 10 lbs. and another 30-60 minutes for the canner to cool enough to open it up.
• Put water in the pressure canner to a depth of 2-1/2″ and place on the stove burner.
• Fill clean jars with fresh milk, leave 1/2″ head space, make sure you don’t spill any milk on the rim of the jar and if you do, be sure to wipe it off.
• Place a lid on the jar, screw on the ring, and put into the canner.
• Once the canner is filled, put on the lid, tighten it down, and turn on the heat.
• As the canner gets hot and begins to steam, let it exhaust steam for at least 10 minutes before closing the exhaust nozzle.
• Watch the pressure gauge. If your canner has a different setup, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. It can take up to an hour for the pressure to reach 10 lbs. Once the pressure has reached 10 lbs., turn off the heat and allow the canner to cool a long time before trying to open it. I open the exhaust valve and if no more steam escapes, then it is safe to open my canner.
• Lay a towel on your countertop; carefully remove hot jars from the canner and place on the towel. Jars should not touch each other. Allow to cool for 24 hours before checking to make sure they are sealed and moving them to storage. Label them with the date the milk was canned. Milk will keep for 1-2 years or more if stored in a cool, dark place.
Note: If you live in a high altitude area, you need to bring the canner to 15 lbs. pressure.
It is normal for the milk to turn a slight tan color, as the milk sugar will darken at high temperatures. The cream will rise to the top; just shake well before using.
Originally published in the September/October 2012 issue of Dairy Goat Journal.