Canning Milk


From the Off-Grid Food Preservation Stratagies post came this comment from Robin:

I would be interested in learning how you can milk.

Unfortunately, before we get to the good stuff I must present a couple of disclaimers.  1)  The USDA does not recognize canning milk at home as a safe practice.  2)  Being somewhat of a rebellious soul I make decisions on a daily basis that run counter to academic recommendations.  The fact that you might see me do something or omit something in no way is intended to imply that you should do the same.  Do your own research, trust your instincts as they develop and make your own decisions.

Now, I’m ready to can milk.

A search of the web reveals lots of warnings and several methods for canning excess milk at home.  The method I use is pretty much the same as Mary Jane Toth’s method seen here on the Hoegger Farmyard site.

First, assemble your gear.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a canning project just to realize that you’ve forgotten something important, like lids.  Trust me, I know.  Speaking of lids, you’ll notice that I’m using re-usable lids and gaskets.  The technique for canning milk is the same as with standard lids except for a few minor differences in how you handle tightening the rings.  I hope at some time to do a post on canning with re-usable lids.

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I use freshly washed jars, lids, gaskets and rings.  I don’t sterilize.  For my purposes the canner gets plenty hot to do that for me.  Make sure there are no chips on the jar rims.

Fill the jars with fresh milk, leaving 1/2” of headspace.  I actually leave just a bit more.

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Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and position the lids and rings.

Place the canner on the stove with enough water to come within an inch or so of the top of the jars.  Load the jars into the canner.   Experience will teach you how much water to use.  This load of 8 pints takes not quite 1 1/2 gallons of water.  It is not necessary or even desirable when pressure canning to cover the jars with water as in water bath canning.

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The way I do this, in not heating the milk before I pour it into the jars, it’s important that you not have the canner water boiling or even too hot when you put the jars in.  If you put cold jars into hot water you’ll blow the bottoms out of your jars.

I’m using a wood cookstove this morning so I’ve juiced the heat up with some smaller wood before filling the canner.

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Place the canner lid on without the weight and allow it to heat until it begins to exhaust steam.  Let it exhaust for 10 minutes then place the weight.

Heat until the pressure reaches 10 pounds then turn off the heat and let the canner cool until all pressure is released.  Don’t try to rush this when pressure canning by messing with the weight or using other methods to speed cooling.  It will cause your jars to boil over and ruin the seals.  Let the canner cool undisturbed.

Once the canner is depressurized remove the hot jars carefully and allow to continue cooling undisturbed for 24 hours before checking the seals, labeling and placing in storage.  I remove the rings after 24 hours, but opinions vary.

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Canned milk is great to have on hand for cooking – gravies, cream soups, puddings, baking.  I’ll plan to have at least 60 pints on hand to get our family of usually 2 through two months of no fresh milk plus some extras for just-in-case.

18 thoughts on “Canning Milk

  1. Judy,
    What a timely article. I’ve just been wondering what to do with all of the extra goat milk that I’ll be getting sometime in the future. I’m assuming there is no difference in canning cow’s milk and goat’s milk? In your experience, how long will canned milk last on the shelf?

    1. Hi Manette! Good to hear from you. No, no difference in cow and goat milk. Actually what I’ve canned is goat milk from two lovely LaManchas. I’ve had milk last a year at least.

  2. Hi Judy!

    I agree with Manette in that this is a very timely article. After reading it I slapped the heel of my hand to my forehead and had a “I could have had a V8” moment. Last year I hated buying “alternative” milks from the store during our non-goat milking months. This is an awesome way to keep us in milk during those months! (Especially my husband’s goat milk ice cream 🙂 Can you confirm or clarify if the heat during the canning process destroys the probiotic and nutritional properties? And does it taste “goaty” after canning? Regardless, it’s better than store-bought! Thanks so much.


    1. Susan, yes, the probiotics are wiped out. Most of those bacteria are killed at 110 and pretty much all the rest at 120. But, nutrition isn’t all about probiotics. The valuable carbs, proteins and fats are still there. I’m sure there could be some decrease in vitamins but certainly not all of them or we would all be quite unhealthy simply from eating cooked food. No goaty taste. The goaty taste that can develop in goats’ milk is due to enzyme activity on the fatty acids unique to the goat. I usually find it developing after about 3 days in unpasteurized milk. Pasteurizing deactivates those enzymes allowing a bit more keeping time for liquid goat milk. We usually just try to drink raw or process it within a couple of days of milking. A little different from “goaty” is a barnyard taste that can develop in milk that isn’t strained well. It seems to be due to hair and bits of dust, feed or manure. Either one isn’t a complete waste when I let it curdle and feed the curds to the chickens and the whey to the garden.

  3. So you don’t leave it at ten pounds of pressure for a length of time, then? You just get it to 10 pounds and that’s it, turn off the heat and wait? That sounds like the easiest pressure canning instructions ever. And thanks for posting this. I’ve been waiting for it.

    1. Robin, yes, this is how I (and the Heogger Farmyard folks) do it. So far I have had no bad seals or other problems. You can process it longer if it makes you more comfortable but you will end up with a darker colored milk due to caramelization of the milk sugars.

    1. I can vouch for a year and that’s under less than ideal storage conditions – a little too much heat in the summer. I would expect more under better conditions. Since we keep goats my goal for milk is to get us through the drying off period with canned milk. We have fresh milk 10 months a year. Thanks for commenting!

    1. Does the milk get hot enough long enough so that the botulism, spores, etc would be killed so we can use it for drinking? Can you use these same directions for nut milks?

      1. Unfortunately, the USDA says no. We use it generally in cooking but I have to be honest and say that I would drink it myself, though I can’t say that it’s safe to do so. That being said, we can other products that aren’t advised by the government and we take full responsibility or any adverse issues that might develop. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked with nut milks.

  4. Can you drink it? Or does this question fall under the “on cereal” question? Just tastes a bit like canned milk?? But if its really cold after opening the jar that should help a bit right? Especially if its this or nothing lol…

    1. The government would tell you that since it’s a pressure-canned, low-acid product it should be boiled for 10 minutes before tasting. But, as I pointed out in the original post, the government says don’t can it at all. LOL. So, I’ll phrase it this way: If I weighed all the info and decided to drink it without boiling, it wouldn’t taste like fresh milk. I might prefer drinking it sweetened with some honey and vanilla or made into chocolate milk or hot chocolate. 😉

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