How to Can Milk Step by Step

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, however you need to make sure it is first pasteurized.

canned milk next to jug
canned milk next to jug

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 breeding and birthing because there will be a time that you can’t milk and will need that supply that you stockpiled.

removing jars of canned milk using jar lifter
removing jars of canned milk using jar lifter

Is It Safe?

Your kitchen, your rules but let’s look at a few things here as far as safety. I highly recommend and can my milk in a pressure canner.

Botulism has no smell or taste, so you need to be sure that the processing is done correctly. So do use the pressure can method outlined below because low-acidic foods should not be canned using the water bath method.

A lot of people say that you can’t can dairy safely 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 think is right for your family and homesteading lifestyle.

As such, I as well as the website and its owner disclaim any liability should you hurt yourself in any way after employing this recipe. You should definitely follow this recipe to the letter and not make changes or alterations to it.

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 of canning milk is allowing the milk to warm up after it has been refrigerated.

canned milk next to jug
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Canned Milk Recipe


  • Set the milk out to warm up.
  • 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.
    sterilizing jars
  • Remove from the heat source, and allow the jars to cool.
  • 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 jars of canned milk using jar lifter
  • 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, store it for a while it may discolor some but, don’t worry, this is normal.

Note: do NOT use an oven to pressure can milk. Only use it to sterilize the jars. Always use a pressure canner to can milk.

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.

canning milk Pinterest image

77 thoughts on “How to Can Milk Step by Step”

  1. 5 stars
    A little bit of physics here to help. The government says milk needs to be 240 degrees to kill botulism toxen,true. Water boils at 212 degrees so the first 10 minutes of heating is important to bring the milk to 212. Now, putting it under 10 pounds of pressure raises the boiling point of water,milk, by 3 degrees per pound so you now have 242 degrees,high enough to do the job. Kill the heat after 10lbs of pressure and go to bed, milk will be fine and should be safe by then. It’s still your call but just giving you the why.

  2. Help please , l canned whole milk but when l went to use it ,it was so thick l stirred it. It was bad tasting. What did l do wrong.l. really would like to try again. Any suggestions is appreciated. Thanks

  3. 5 stars
    I canned 32 quarts of whole store bought milk over a year ago using this method and just opened a jar. It was sweet and delicious. I’m going to can more and keep some of the originals, using one a year to see how many years they stay good.

  4. I canned fresh milk followed the directions but the milk curdled in the jars when it cooled. I have canned heavy cream and half and half the same way with no issues I don’t know what happened

  5. Question. I have an electric canner. I can all my dairy for 10 minutes and then remove after a quick release! Am I not doing it long enough? Oh lord

  6. This is all very odd! Removing from the heat as soon as it reaches ten pounds inside the canner in no way allows the heat to penetrate fully inside of quart jars, so this is NOT pressure canning, because the milk is not coming even close to pressure canning temperature . . . which is why it doesn’t turn color or taste different from fresh milk. It takes at least ten pounds psi to reach a temperature that will kill Botulism spores, and perhaps ten or fifteen minutes for the entire contents of the jar to also reach that temperature. 15 psi is 250° F. I’m not sure offhand what temp is reached at 10 pounds/sq. in., maybe 235°? So the question is: what temperature did the milk actually get to?

    • Milk isn’t dense. That’s why it doesn’t take 75 min for pts and 90 min for qts to safely pressure can milk and milk products. Products that take all those long minutes are dense and the 240F takes that long to penetrate the product to kill botulism. Milk, half n half, cream, etc. aren’t dense and it only takes getting up to the 10# pressure to kill botulism. They aren’t dense.

  7. Read her directions ppl, she plainly listed the instructions! Once the canner starts to steam out the hole the vent will pop up indicating to start timing on venting for 10 minutes meaning let the open vent blow steam out for 10 minutes and then after 10 minutes of steaming escaping the vent hold put the 10 pound weight on the vent pipe and once it starts to juggle turn off the stove and leave the canner setting there until it’s completely cooled, the vent little pressure vent will fall back down indicating it’s cooled down, usually about 2 hours later or let the jars sit in the canner overnight it helps clean the jars off from any spillage. Tip add a tad bit of vinegar to the canner along with your water before sitting the jars of milk in the canner and the jars should come out squeaky clean!

  8. 5 stars
    I have done this 3 times and each time there is seepage from the jars. I followed the instructions carefully. Does anyone else have this problem or know how to fix it. The milk is really sticky to clean off the jars.

    • 5 stars
      Seepage happens on many products. Nothing wrong with that at all! My products never have a problem. She’s done a fantastic job with this recipe for us. I’m glad there’s common sense out there! Regards from far north California

    • To avoid seepage bring the temp up slowly. I never heat my pressure Canner on high. I use medium or medium low (3-4 on my gas stove dial) it takes longer for it to get to 10 lb of pressure, but I don’t get seepage.

  9. 5 stars
    I used your recipe today. First time canning milk. I bought 3 gals whole milk and got 13 1/2 qts of perfect looking milk. No discoloration. I was spurred on to try it as I got the idea from a Dollar Tree ad-$1/qt. Mine cost $.75/qt. Thank you.

  10. Love the article!

    I have 1 question, I’m lactose sensitive so I use lactose free milk. Can I can that? It’s usually expensive, so I would love to do this when it’s on sale!

      • 5 stars
        I have a huge list of products and their pressure can times in half gallon jars from online. I’ve even pressure canned dry products like nut-meats, and dry beans.

    • 5 stars
      I’m doing it right now in half gallon jars. A jar is a jar is a jar. Doesn’t that make sense? And milk product is milk product is milk product! What makes the difference is how dense the product is. Milk doesn’t become more dense because you add more product into a jar. However long it takes to heat up in order to start venting is however long it takes.

  11. 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.

    • I live at 3000 ft which is the altitude it changes at. I always go to the higher one to be safe. Do a test batch and try it.

  12. 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.

    • I have used nothing but water bath for over 30 years so did my mother in law. Have not had any thing bad happen. Very few jars ever spoiled and they were years old. I will take water bath over pressure any day.

        • Sandra,

          You probably should can milk in a water bath. Please use the pressure can method as per the article for your own safety. Thank you.

          • 5 stars
            A milk product shouldn’t be water-bathed because it is not acid enough. I’ve drunk milk, and other milk products, and swear I can’t taste any acid! Hence, the need to pressure can to be sure and kill botulism.

      • Thank you. I do not own a pressure canner, would you mind sending me the diections you use to waterbath your milk, please?

        • 5 stars
          Milk and other milk products aren’t acid enough. Acid in products, fruits and vegetables that are acid enough can be water-bathed, but not milk. You can add ACV, or lemon juice for acid, but it won’t ever taste like milk again if you’re determined to water-bath.

  13. 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.

    • 5 stars
      The reason the FDA has no guidelines for canning milk products or for water-bath canning or pressure-canning using half gallons is because they’ve never trialed them. So they have no guidelines for them.

  14. 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

    • John, hopefully you’ve tried it by now, but if you haven’t the recipe as written is perfect. If you let it cook for any length of time, the milk starts to caramelize and (in my opinion) makes it taste burnt. I’ve got a few jars that I canned a year ago that are still good now. Wouldn’t hesitate to keep it a year or more..

      Also, I’ve found 3 percent/whole milk seems to taste the best. The skim and low fat varieties tend to taste preserved, and that gets worse over time. 3 percent seems to be just as consistent when kept. Hope that helps!

    • I had the same question. I’m wondering if the cook time is until the jiggler starts to jiggle and then remove from the heat maybe?

    • 5 stars
      One commentor said that from her experience, the milk and milk product shelf life is perhaps 8-9 years. She stated she’d had no problem.


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