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How To Preserve Dairy Products For Emergency Situations

How To Preserve Dairy Products For Emergency SituationsPreserving dairy products is tricky, but it can be done. A part of storing food for emergencies is ensuring that the food you store is nourishing and will keep you and your family fortified for a time when food may not be readily available. Dairy is an important component in a well-balanced diet, and many meals require dairy in their preparation. While you can stock up on evaporated and dried milk, there are also ways of storing dairy in your home that could potentially be less expensive than store-bought items.

A note: Some of these methods are not recommended by the USDA for food storage and are presented for information purposes only. While these methods have been used to successfully preserve dairy for many years, utilizing them means you proceed at your own risk.


Believe it or not, it’s possible to can milk in a pressure cooker. If you own a cow or goat, this is a great way to preserve milk for emergencies and also just for regular cooking needs. Milk can only be canned in a pressure cooker because it’s low acid. To prepare milk for canning, you want to make sure that all the mason jars you use have been washed thoroughly with hot soapy water, and then sterilized by boiling water. When you apply the lids to the mason jars, it’s important that you don’t touch the underside of the lid where is connects to the jar. This might disrupt the seal and make your milk go bad. Keep a close eye on the pressure canner while it’s cooking, because pressure canners can be unpredictable. Even though it’s possible to can milk at home, it’s also a good idea to stock up on canned milk from the store as well. Buying sweetened condensed milk for baking or for coffee is a good idea since it’s harder to make sweetened condensed milk at your house. Your home-canned milk will last for about a year.

Prepare now for surging food costs and empty grocery store shelves…

Another option is to freeze milk, though you may not want to drink it after it’s thawed out. The milk tends to get grainy and will separate when it’s frozen, but a good shake will help it come back together. You can use it for baking and drinking, if you don’t mind the taste.  This method of storage should last about 3 months.

You can also buy powdered milk. It’s probably best that you both pressure can and buy milk because canned milk is not for drinking or using on cereal. It’s more for cooking and using in pies and gravies. Powdered milk can come in large bags depending on where you buy it. Powdered milk can last up to five years, especially if it’s packaged well and unopened. It will also last longer if you package it in a reduced oxygen environment by using a vacuum sealer.


You might be surprised to find that cheese is actually fairly easy to preserve without refrigeration. Cheese existed long before people had a refrigerator to keep it from going bad, and the methods they used can still be used today for your emergency food store. One method is by covering the cheese with wax. You need to use special cheese wax and not paraffin wax, because paraffin cracks when it dries. To preserve the cheese, begin by melting the cheese wax in a pan. The wax will not totally come off, so know that whatever pan you use will be a wax-pan from that time on. While the wax is melting, cut the cheese into manageable blocks, no more than what you can eat or cook within a few days. Gently brush the melted wax over the cheese using a boar’s hair bristle brush. This specific brush will often be sold with the cheese wax. Within about thirty minutes or so, the wax will be hardened and then you must hang it in a mesh basket in a dark place. Cheese preserved in this way will keep for up to twenty-five years! Make sure you get mild cheese when you start preserving, because it will eventually turn extra sharp.

How To Preserve Dairy Products For Emergency Situations

Canned butter. Image source: thereclub

Cheese can also be frozen, but only a few types hold up well in the freezer and can last for up to six months. Handcrafted cheese and gourmet cheese should never be frozen. Not only does it lose flavor, but it also just doesn’t freeze well. It can disintegrate or just crumble when it’s thawed out. The best cheese to freeze is block grocery store cheese like cheddar, Monterey jack, and provolone. Cheese lasts for a long time in the refrigerator too, but not nearly as long as it will last in the freezer or by preserving it with cheese wax.


Butter can be preserved a little easier than milk, but not as well as cheese. Butter can be frozen for up to eight months without losing its texture. After eight months, it begins to look like frozen milk and will become grainy and separated. Always freeze butter in its original packaging, and if you like, you can also put it in a Ziploc bag for further protection. Salted butter can last up to two years in the freezer and four months in the refrigerator. Unsalted butter will last about four to five months in the freezer and about three months in the refrigerator.

You also have the ability to can butter. The process of canning butter is a little simpler than canning milk because you don’t need to use a water or pressure canner. Start out with several pounds of butter. About eleven pounds will make a dozen pint jars of canned butter. Put your pint jars in a roasting pan in the oven and heat it at 250 degrees for twenty minutes. While the jars are heating, melt all of your butter until it comes to a boil. Stir often so that the butter won’t scorch at the bottom of the pan. After the butter comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes. While the butter is melting, boil the lids and seals to your pint jars to that they are sanitized. When the jars are done, take them out of the oven and ladle the butter in until there is ¾ inch of headspace at the top. Put the lids and seals on and wait until the jars begin to seal themselves. You will hear a pinging or a popping noise that indicates the jars are sealing.

Once all of the jars have sealed and are cool enough to touch. Shake them so that all the separated butter particles mix together. Place them in the fridge and shake them periodically until they solidify. After this, place them in your pantry. Canned butter will last up to five years unopened. When the butter is opened however, it should be refrigerated after use. If you don’t have the ability to refrigerate after opening, it’s probably better to use the whole thing within a day or two or else the butter could go rancid.

Preserving dairy products is probably the hardest type of food to preserve and store. Since the expiration times of so many dairy products are very short, your options for storing them for long periods of time are limited. However, there are methods of preserving dairy products so that you can have access to them even when there is no power or when you don’t have the ability to go to the store. It’s a good idea to research all the different ways of preserving dairy so that if there is an emergency that restricts your ability to get fresh milk, cheese, and butter, you and your family don’t have to go without. Most people don’t think about what they will do if they can’t get milk and butter, but most meals are prepared with both ingredients; so be prepared and know your options for keeping dairy products in your emergency food storage.

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  1. How long and what pressure do you can the milk? I love the idea, but don’t want to overcook or undercook the milk. Thanks for all the information!

    • quarts-10# pressure for 10 min.—on the shelf it goes-I have 36 quarts on my shelf for winter when my goat is dry. 🙂

  2. I saw on Discovery Channel a lady who discussed the wax for cheese to preserve it… WHERE do U get it???

    • Amazon, Ebay, or New England Cheesemaking Company. Cheese wax usually comes in colors of Black, Red, or Yellow. There may be others but I haven’t seen them.

  3. I’ve been contemplating storing waxed cheese for a little while now. What Is the importance of the net bag, and is it necessary? Also, does the waxed cheese still have and aroma to it? I ask in terms of being able to store it in a spare closet. Thank you.

    • Netting is just decorative marketing item. When waxing cheese you have to make sure all surface of the cheese is covered in 2-3 thin layers of wax. 2 thin layers are better than one thick one. So, be prepared to wax and rewax few times to make sure all surface is well covered, as that is the way you will stop the air and cheese spoilage. Waxing cheese is messy, you need to protect your hands, stove and your clothing, but it is easy to do. Many years ago (and probably still in some areas) farmers were using olive oil to preserve cheese. Cheese heads were fully submerged in olive oil to prevent exposure to air and bacteria.
      Properly waxed cheese will not emit any odor and can be safely stored in the closet. I would suggest to elevate your cheese on wooden dowels, and use dowels also if you will stack them up…… make sure there is some air circulation between those heads. Wax is not edible and should be removed prior to use of stored cheese.

  4. Oh the stupidity of this article! Can you say botulism? How about all the other bacteria normatlly present in milk? If you want to store canned milk buy it at the store. This is a very foolish idea. There is a reason why no time is provided for processing! If you survive your stay in the hospital your home canned milk will be a no bargain proposition!

    • Geni, brainwashed by the USDA, they really don’t know what is good for you just what is good for them. As the article states, proceed at your own risk, word of mouth advise and experience has more validity than any government agency.

    • My grandparents and generations before used these methods to preserve dairy…. My grandmother is alive and kicking at 88!! She also NEVER pressure canned her meats!!! Go figure!

    • I can fresh goat milk all the time. I have used it in cooking months later. It was fine. I am pretty sure if it was spoiled I could smell it when the jar is unsealed.

  5. The author keeps confusing “Pressure Cooker” and “Pressure Canner”. These two things are NOT INTERCHANGABLE! DO NOT USE A PRESSURE COOKER TO CAN THINGS!!! A pressure canner has a pressure gauge and is designed to can low-acid foods like meats, dairy and other items. NEVER try to do this in a pressure COOKER! Where do idiots like this come from???

    • Also ~~ DO NOT BOIL YOUR LIDS! This will erode the adhesive and not allow your jars to seal! Canning butter is very possible and anyone who is interested should visit a canning site, not a general site, like this one. Your lids should be put into very hot water and allowed to rest there while you get the jars ready. The water should be steaming, but NOT simmering or boiling!! And I agree, pressure cookers and pressure canners are 2 different things! You can NOT “can” anything with a pressure cooker!!

    • Hi, regarding not using a normal pressure COOKER for canning, I am still researching the canning world, I was under the impression that as long as I had the correct PSI for my latitude, which I am about 300 feet above sea level, so I only need 10 PSI, and you did it for the required time, it was OK. My pressure COOKER gets to 10 PSI on high and it is an electric one. Are you saying that I should not use it as a canner, if not, could you please explain in great detail, as I am confused.

    • A pressure canner is merely a very large pressure cooker. Some have gauges and some have weights. A pressure canner is large enough to hold a number of jars at a time, whereas a smaller pressure cooker is simply too small to hold more than a quart or two. Next time, maybe make sure your own info is correct before going on the attack?

      • A pressure cooker may be able to get to the required pressure, and thus heat, but if it isn’t big enough, it will heat up and cool off too fast. All of the recommended processing times assume 20-30 minutes of heating and another 30 or so minutes of cool down times in a real pressure canner. This time is effectively added to the recommended processing time. Using a small pressure cooker, you risk under processing things unless you heat it and cool it gradually. Is it possible to do safely by gradually heating and cooling the cooker? Sure, but it’s also very easy to under process your food. That’s why no one responsible will recommend using them for pressure canning.

    • A pressure cooker is what you use to can under pressure, hence why some interchange the words depending on what they are using it for. I us my pressure cooker to can with and to cook with.

  6. I pick up milk at the store when it’s $2.50 a gallon and freeze it. I’ve never had a problem…doesn’t separate or taste different or anything. I’m single and only use about 2 gallons of milk per month, so a little goes a long way….mostly in my morning coffee. I’ve also frozen soy milk and that does well, also.

  7. I canned butter using 5 lbs of butter I bought on sale, melted it, boiled it and put it into 1/2 pint jars and used my pressure canner. I opened one after 6 weeks to see how it tasted and it was more “buttery” tasting that the original butter, albeit a tiny bit grainy. It is necessary to shake the jars often as they come out of the canner, but it is good butter and is a great way to store it.

  8. I have canned (pressure) goat milk for years in quart jars for 70 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure and we are all still alive and well! I also freeze milk. Use quart plastic freezer container, I buy mine from the Dollar Stores. This milk holds well for about 2 months, It does seprate a like but like one of the other replys said a good shake and it all comes together. The taste is off a little but not bad.

  9. Is home canned milk the same as pasteurized bought milk? I guess I was thinking benefits of raw milk would be nullified in canned milk?

    • It’s not the same. Pasturized/homogenized commercial milk uses a much higher heat that destroys the good stuff in the raw milk. The homogenzation process damages the milk proteins too. Raw would not be as good canned, but it would still be better than pasteurized milk.

  10. Canning butter and milk is NOT recommended. There are no safe tested methods for canning milk or butter. Being low acid foods they carry a risk of botulism.

    • Yes, that’s why the pressure canner–they are low acid foods. Butter cans very well at home as ghee–in a large East Indian grocery store, you will see several brands of canned ghee, in both metal and glass. The USDA thinks that normal people aren’t smart enough to can fats or dairy, despite the fact that they have done so for generations

  11. I found by experimenting, instead of using wax to seal hard cheeses, you can seal-a-meal them. I’ve done several cheeses now and a year later they are still good. It’s the air you’re trying to keep away from the cheese.

    • I can only buy soya milk in 1-litre cartons & tend to use it in spurts, such as for making soups or in smaller amounts for sauces. I HATE throwing food away & have wondered what would be the easiest (read laziest) way of extending the life of this milk. My thanks to you !

    • What do you mean by seal-a-meal ? I am, living as I do in Sweden, not familiar with the term.Is this a way of vacuum packing the cheese in cling film or a freezing bag and then sealing it ? Have you tried this with a blue cheese such as the noble Stilton and if so how did it work ?

      • The term does refer to a small appliance like the Food saver Vacuum Sealer. It uses specially designed material/containers. For a single person or couple, it’s a god-send for dividing and freezing smaller amounts of cheeses, and pre-frozen meats and veggies than one can consume before they go bad (anything w/juices should be frozen before vacuuming it). You probably wouldn’t want to vacuum room-temp shredded cheese/bread/dough, because it squishes everything together. Haven’t tried it specifically with Stilton, but cheddars, edam, etc. They turn out just fine after defrosting. A steak or chop takes 2x-4x longer to freezer burn if vacuum sealed with it.

  12. Evaporated milk is fresh, homogenized milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed. After the water has been removed, the product is chilled, stabilized, packaged and sterilized. It is commercially sterilized at 240-245 °F (115-118 °C) for 15 minutes.[6] A slightly caramelized flavor results from the high heat process, and it is slightly darker in color than fresh milk. The evaporation process also concentrates the nutrients and the food energy. Thus, for the same weight, undiluted evaporated milk contains more food energy than fresh milk.

  13. Process[edit]
    Older pasteurization methods used temperatures below boiling, since at very high temperatures, micelles of the milk protein casein will irreversibly aggregate, or “curdle”. Newer methods use higher temperature, but shorten the time. Among the pasteurization methods listed below, the two main types of pasteurization used today are high-temperature, short-time (HTST, also known as “flash”) and extended shelf life (ESL):

    HTST milk is forced between metal plates or through pipes heated on the outside by hot water, and the milk is heated to 72 °C (161 °F) for 15 seconds.[27]:8 Milk simply labeled “pasteurized” is usually treated with the HTST method.
    UHT, also known as ultra-heat-treating, processing holds the milk at a temperature of 140 °C (284 °F) for four seconds.[28] During UHT processing milk is sterilized and not pasteurized. This process allows milk or juice to be stored several months without refrigeration. The process is achieved by spraying the milk or juice through a nozzle into a chamber that is filled with high-temperature steam under pressure. After the temperature reaches 140 °C the fluid is cooled instantly in a vacuum chamber, and packed in a presterilized airtight container.[28] Milk labeled “ultra-pasteurized” or simply “UHT” has been treated with the UHT method.

  14. UHT, also known as ultra-heat-treating, processing holds the milk at a temperature of 140 °C (284 °F) for four seconds.[28] During UHT processing milk is sterilized and not pasteurized. This process allows milk or juice to be stored several months without refrigeration. The process is achieved by spraying the milk or juice through a nozzle into a chamber that is filled with high-temperature steam under pressure. After the temperature reaches 140 °C the fluid is cooled instantly in a vacuum chamber, and packed in a presterilized airtight container.[28] Milk labeled “ultra-pasteurized” or simply “UHT” has been treated with the UHT method.

  15. A pressure cooker should never be used for pressure canning. Always us a pressure CANNER. A pressure cooker is something entirely different, and should never EVER be used for pressure canning.

  16. What about canning whole milk from the grocery store? Is it the same as milk fresh from the cow?

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