How to Can Milk Step by Step

canned milk
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Milk is a staple for every kitchen, it is used for so many different things from drinking to cooking many different foods. Milk needs to be kept in a refrigerator unless it has been canned to be shelf stable. You can process any type of milk that you have be it store bought, raw cow’s milk, or fresh goat milk.

Why would you want to make milk shelf stable? How about when there is no electricity and the milk spoils – all of that milk has gone to waste. You have a limited amount of room in your fridge and freezer to hold your milk supply.

There was an awesome sale on milk at the store so you stocked up, and now there is no way you can use it all before it expires. These are some of the more common reasons to can your milk.

Now the other reasons are, you have your own milk supply at home, and you have really started to accumulate it, the cows or goats are really producing.

The homemade cheese and yogurt take certain amounts of milk, and it is quite easy to can what you have on hand until you have enough to make a big ol’ batch. You can process raw milk the same as you would store-bought to make it shelf stable.

And what about baby season on your homestead? If there is a momma that has no interest or just can’t keep up with the multiple kids she birthed, then you can always use your shelf stable goat milk for bottle feeding.

It may even be their own mommas’ milk that they get. You also need to consider the breeding and birthing because there will be a time that you can’t milk and will need that supply that you stockpiled.

Is It Safe, You Decide

Your kitchen, your rules but let’s look at a few things here as far as safety. I recommend and can my milk in a pressure canner, but you can do it in a water bath canner. This takes much longer to do, be sure take all safety measures.

Milk is low in acid, so it can be water bathed. I believe it takes about three hours to do so. Botulism has no smell or taste so you need to be sure that the processing is done correctly. Better yet, simply use the pressure can method outlined below.

A lot of people say that you can’t can dairy because of the high fat content and the fact that it spoils. If you stop to think about the trips to the store or to your grandparents, I bet you have seen shelf stable milk.

Canning milk does the same thing, except it is stored in glass jars instead of those cardboard cartons. Canned milk is canned milk regardless of the packaging.

Opinions are like… well everyone has one. So with that you do what you feel is right for your family and homesteading lifestyle.

Now that we have discussed some of the reasons for canning milk let’s get down to the how to. This is a very simple canning to do. The longest part to canning milk is allowing the milk to warm up after it has been refrigerated.

Canned Milk Recipe

Instructions

  • Obtain your milk, however you get it.
  • Set the milk out to warm up.
    warming milk to room temperature
  • Gather the desired size of jars, I use quarts.
  • Inspect jars for cracks or knicks as you clean them.
  • Sterilize jars. I prefer the oven as it saves me stove top space but you can use whatever you are comfortable with. You can boil them, place in the oven at about 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius) for ten minutes or so, or by sanitizing in the dishwasher. The high heat is what sterilizes the jars. Remove from the heat source, and allow the jars to cool.
    sterilizing jars
  • Put water into your canner. Mind you, this is for pressure canning so it only takes about two inches of water or so. For a water bath canner you will have to completely cover the jars with water.
    A good rule of thumb is the second knuckle is about two inches, so fill the water to about the second knuckle, and you should have plenty of water:
    filling pressure canner with water
  • Prepare lids and bands according to the instructions from the manufacturer.
  • Once the milk has warmed and the jars have cooled pour the milk into the jars.You do not want to pour cold milk into hot jars as it will cause the jars to break.
    pouring milk into jars
  • Fill the jar to one inch of headspace, then wipe the rim with a clean dry towel.
    wiping the rim
  • Place the lids, and then the bands onto the jars. The bands should only be finger tight.
  • Fill the canner with the filled jars.
    jars of milk inside pressure canner
  • Turn the stove on high, and place the lid onto the canner.
  • Once the pressure has been reached and your valves have set you will need to let the canner vent for ten minutes to be sure that adequate temperature is reached.
    The red arrow is pointing at the pressure valve, and the purple arrow is pointing to the vent pipe. The pressure valve is raised, meaning that it is ready to start to pressure can. The vent pipe is where the pressure gauge or weighted jiggler goes:
    pressure valve and vent pipe
  • After ten minutes is reached with venting, start the jiggler or gauge to reach ten pounds of pressure.
  • As soon as ten pounds of pressure is reached, turn off the stove and remove the canner from the heat.
  • Allow the canner to depressurize before opening. The valve has dropped back down indicating that it has depressurized, and can now be opened:
    valve dropped back
  • Remove the jars with the jar lifter and set on a towel to cool. Leave space between each jar to promote adequate cooling.
    removing the jars
  • Do not touch or mess with the jars while they are cooling. You should hear the jars ping as they seal, it is such a happy sound.
  • After 12 to 24 hours check that the jars have sealed. The center should be pressed down and not make the “popping” sound.
  • If the jars have cooled, they can be stored away until you need to use them. This is the canned milk as it cooling:
    canned milk cooling

If the milk is left canning too long, it will cause the milk to scorch. It will appear to be a tan color, and will have an off taste. Properly canned milk tastes about like before it was canned. After the milk has set in storage for a while it may discolor some but, do not worry, this is normal.

There are so many reasons to can milk that it just makes sense to do it that way you always have good milk on hand. Maybe it will keep you from having to make an unplanned trip to the store.

Anything saved is a good day on the homestead. My kids don’t tell me we are low on milk until we are out of it. It is nice to say go get it out of the pantry. As a homesteader I am generally prepared.


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Sarah Rodriguez
About Sarah Rodriguez 21 Articles
Sarah Rodriguez is a homesteading wife and mother of five living in Appalachia. She grew up in a homesteading and logging family. She and her husband Arnie work their 10-acre homestead together alongside their growing family. Sarah honed her self-reliance skills through 4-H and FFA at an early age and is now teaching her children to live off the land, raise livestock, and the importance of both sustainability and frugality.

5 Comments

  1. Since I live at a higher altitude and have to can at 15 lbs of pressure, would I do that with the milk also or would the 10 lbs be safe as you stated ? Thank you. Great site.

  2. Water bath canning is NEVER safe for LOW ACOD foods.
    No matter how long you process.
    Only HIGH acid foods iike tomatoes can be safely water bath canned.

  3. Sarah,
    I’ve been canning milk the same way for decades! Well written how-to. I learned how at my grandmother’s (born in the 1800s)knees like so many things I know and do. This was before the FDA got involved and paid by lobbyist.

  4. Hi Sarah,good article . I didn’t know you could can milk but it makes sense. I have 2 questions.First what is the shelf life of the canned milk. And there wasn’t a time for the pressure canning, it you said just bring up to pressure and vent and cool. Is that right or is there a canning time.
    Thanks for the article and your help. John

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