I live out in the country, so I often buy more food than I actually need. Recently, I had 3 gallons of milk in the freezer and 2 in the refrigerator. In an effort to avoid having any go bad, and since my freezer is almost full, I decided to try my hand at making dried milk or milk powder.
There are 3 good ways to make milk powder:
- With a dehydrator.
- By heating milk in a saucepan on the stove until it is a paste and then cooking it in the oven at a very low temperature.
- By pouring milk into a shallow pan and heating it in an oven at a very low temperature for the entire process.
Before using the dehydrator or stove methods, you must scald some milk. If you want to use the oven method, you can skip pre-scalding the milk.
Type of Milk to Use
Even though any kind of milk can be dried, whole, 2%, skim, etc., only pasteurized milk should be used. Raw milk would have too great a bacteria content that would affect its shelf life. However, if you have your own milk source, cow, goat, etc., scalding would make the dried milk powder from raw milk shelf-stable, but it would not have as long a shelf life as pasteurized milk because it contains cream. I would recommend using it within 18 months.
The lower the fat content of the milk being dried, the longer the shelf life.
Preparing Your Milk For Dehydrating By Scalding
Scalding milk kills all enzymes or bacteria that can cause the milk to spoil. To scald milk, simply place the milk into a saucepan and heat it up to just 180 degrees Fahrenheit and immediately turn the heat down to stop the heat action.
Use a candy thermometer, like this one found on Amazon, to check the temperature, making sure that it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan at any time, as it will not read correctly. If the milk is allowed to go above 180 degrees Fahrenheit and actually comes to a boil, just throw it out and start over as milk that has come to a boil will curdle and not be suitable for this process.
Scalded milk should “coat” the pan. When you tilt the pan to the side and then put the pan back to the upright position, there should be a thin coating of milk inside the pan where the scalded milk touched. If there is no thin coating of milk, continue heating the milk until it thinly coats the pan when you tilt it.
Tips for scalding milk:
- Use a heavy pan for the scalding process, which presents less chance of scorching or burning it.
- Use medium heat to scald the milk.
- Don’t allow the milk to come to a boil.
- Stir the milk with a wooden or stainless steel spoon.
- Don’t allow the candy thermometer to touch the bottom of the pan.
- Watch the entire process closely and stir often.
- It should take about 4 to 6 minutes to scald the milk.
- When the milk has been scalded, remove it from the heat immediately.
Allow the scalded milk to cool to room temperature before beginning:
Method #1: Dehydrator Method
This is the absolute easiest and best method.
- A dehydrator. Pretty much any will do. This one found on Amazon is similar to mine.
- Dehydrator tray liners.
- A blender or food processor.
- Appropriate storage containers, like these (Amazon Link).
- Insert dehydrator liners into each tray that you are using.
- Pour scalded room-temperature milk into each evaporator pan, making sure there is no more than 1 inch of milk in each pan.
- Set the dehydrator to the 130 degrees Fahrenheit setting.
- Allow the milk to cook for 8 to 12 hours, checking the milk after 8 hours and then after each additional hour of cooking time until it has reached the same consistency as peanut brittle.
- When the milk is nearing the peanut brittle stage, turn it over from time to time to help it dry thoroughly a little faster.
- Remove the milk from the dehydrator when it is thoroughly dry and flaky, and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- Place the dry and flaky milk into your food processor or blender and process it until it is reduced to a fine powder.
- Prepare the milk powder for storage by placing it in a completely dry glass jar with a lid or a vacuum seal bag and sealing it or vacuum sealing it.
- Store in a cool, dry area away from excessive heat, humidity, or bright light.
Method #2: Stovetop Method With Oven Component
Note: This is the method I often do. You don’t have to scald the milk before beginning this process, as it will scald in the double boiler.
- Double boiler or a large skillet and a flat saucepan.
- A flat oven-proof pan, like an oblong baking pan (Amazon Link) or cookie sheet.
- Blender or food processor.
- Appropriate storage containers.
1. Pour the milk you are drying into a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler, improvise by placing a saucepan into a large skillet with enough water added to keep at least 1 inch of water in the skillet at all times.
2. Simmer the milk over medium heat until it is scalded, then reduce the heat so that the milk doesn’t reach the boiling stage.
3. Simmer the milk over low heat for about 2 hours, occasionally stirring to prevent scorching. Add more water as needed to the bottom portion of the double boiler or to the skillet if you are improvising during the evaporation process.
4. When the milk appears pasty (see picture), preheat the oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or its lowest setting. I used the warmest hashmark on the warm setting.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and place the milk paste on parchment paper in as many baking pans, pie pans, or cookie sheets as necessary so that it is spread out.
6. Place the baking pans into the preheated oven and bake until completely dry, and the milk paste has achieved the texture of peanut brittle.
7. Leave the oven door open slightly during the baking process to allow evaporation of the excess moisture. If the oven door is set to remain open more than 3 or 4 inches, improvise by placing something oven-proof into the open door to only allow the door to be open for the 3 or 4 inches mentioned. I used a small loaf pan to prop mine open.
8. When the milk is nearing the peanut brittle stage, turn it over from time to time to help it dry thoroughly a little faster.
9. The drying process will take approximately the same length of time that it will take in the dehydrator, or 8 to 12 hours. When the milk is completely dry, remove the pan or pans from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
10. Place the dry milk into a food processor or blender and process it until it is a fine powder.
11. Prepare the milk powder for storage by placing it into a completely dry glass jar or a vacuum seal bag and sealing it.
12. Store in a cool, dry area away from excessive heat, humidity, or bright light.
Note: Because I had never made powdered milk and didn’t want to risk wasting a lot of milk or gas (gas stove) for this process in case it was unsuccessful, I experimented with only 1 cup of milk. It was only ½ inch deep, and it took 2 hours for the milk to reach the paste condition and another 6 hours to completely dry.
Pro Tip: For drying, pour room-temperature scalded milk into a big oven-safe dish. It’s best to keep the milk at shallow levels to dry out more quickly. I recommend keeping it at a maximum depth of an inch.
Method #3: Oven Method
- Standard oven.
- Oblong baking pan or pans.
- Blender or food processor.
- Appropriate storage containers.
Oven Temperature: Set your oven at its lowest temperature. The ideal temperature is 130 degrees Fahrenheit, but if your oven doesn’t have that setting, select the lowest temperature that you can.
Pro Tip: Use the fan option on your stove. If you do not have that option available to you, prop your oven door open at least 3 or 4 inches to allow evaporation.
- Preheat your oven to the lowest setting so the milk doesn’t turn brown. Turning brown indicates that the temperature is too high.
- Pour enough scalded room-temperature milk into each baking pan so that there is 1 inch or less of milk in each pan.
- Place the baking pans into the oven and leave the door cracked 3 to 4 inches to allow evaporation.
- Allow the milk to cook for approximately 8 to 12 hours or longer if necessary, checking its progress often, at least once every hour.
- The drying process will take approximately the same length of time that it will take in the dehydrator.
- When the milk is completely dry, remove the pan or pans from the oven and allow the dried milk to cool to room temperature.
- Place the dry milk into a food processor or blender and process it until it is a fine powder.
- Prepare the milk powder for storage by placing it into a completely dry glass jar or a vacuum seal bag and sealing it.
- Store in a cool, dry area away from excessive heat, humidity, or bright light.
Make sure that all of the milk is completely dry and flaky. Turning the pieces of drying milk paste several times during the oven process will help it to dry faster.
Tips on Making Milk Powder
- Making Large Batches- To make large batches of milk powder, use as many pans as will fit in your oven as long as you keep the milk shallow in the pans, or it will take a very long time for it to dry.
- Stirring- As the water evaporates, the milk will become increasingly pastier and then becomes a thick paste. Stir from time to time during this process, allowing the water to evaporate evenly, especially when the milk starts turning into a paste.
- Consistency to Expect- When the milk is completely dried, it will snap rather than bend and should be the consistency of hard candy.
- Don’t try to rush the drying process- This is very important! If the milk is not thoroughly dried, it will become moldy and go bad quickly.
How to Reconstitute Milk Powder
Once you are ready to use the milk powder, you will need to follow this process:
- Add milk powder to cool water slowly, just a spoonful at a time.
- Always use cool water.
- Stir vigorously, let set for a few minutes, then stir again.
- Refrigerate immediately. Reconstituted milk tastes much better served cold.
Reconstituted Milk Conversion Chart
|5 ⅓ Cups
|15 ½ Cups
|2 Tablespoons + 1 Teaspoon
|1 1/2 Tablespoons
How Can Milk Powder Be Used?
Milk powder has many uses, some without being reconstituted and many after being reconstituted.
In powder form:
- Add powder to coffee instead of coffee creamer.
- Add a few spoonfuls of powder to your recipe to make homemade ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, oatmeal, and puddings creamier.
- Add ¼ cup of powder per 1 cup of liquid in your recipe to thicken yogurt, sauces, gravies, and soups.
- Combine with cocoa and sugar to make a hot chocolate mix.
- Combine with flour to make bread flaky and tender.
- To make whipped topping, combine ½ cup of milk powder with ½ cup of sugar and mix in ½ cup of water and 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.
- To drink- Always serve cold for better taste.
- For cooking- Substitute equal parts of reconstituted milk in any recipe that calls for milk.
- Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 1 cup of milk for a delicious drink.
- Add equal parts reconstituted milk and your favorite milk to make it go further and to make the reconstituted milk taste better.
Storing the Powder
Store milk powder in a clean airtight container to keep out moisture. A canning jar makes a great storage container. Make sure there is no moisture in it, and keep it stored in a cool, dark place. Milk powder can be kept for months, if not years, this way.
How Long Does Milk Powder Last?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most commercially prepared milk powder lasts from 2 to 10 years longer than the manufacturer’s best-by date, which is usually 18 months from production. There are even some stores that market survivalist supplies that have milk powder labeled as having a 25-year shelf life. I recommend “My Patriot Supply” if you want to go that route.
For home-prepared milk powder, the shelf life will primarily depend on three things:
- The type of milk that has been dried. The type having the lowest fat content will also have the longest shelf life. So, skim milk will last longer after drying than whole milk.
- The storage container. If the dried milk is placed in a Mason jar that was completely dry before using, it will last a lot longer than if the milk was just poured into a plastic ziplock bag.
- The other primary contributing factor is how the product is stored. If the container of milk powder is stored in a cabinet located adjacent to the stove or maybe next to a kitchen window, it will not last as long as it would if stored in a cool, dark pantry or root cellar that is dry and not subject to extreme temperatures, bright lights, or humidity.
Note: Milk powder can also be frozen to extend its shelf life. Reconstituted milk will last only about 5 days in the refrigerator.
How to Tell When Milk Powder Has Gone Bad
The best indicators that the milk powder has gone bad are color and odor. Immediately discard any milk powder if it turns a darker yellow color and develops an unpleasant odor. These may indicate that mold and bacteria are growing, and I recommend that you do not even taste it but just toss it out immediately.
Why Do We Scald the Milk?
My research tells me that the process of scalding milk is not necessary if drying pasteurized milk. When our ancestors first began drying milk, the process was required because they were drying whole milk that had not been pasteurized to kill the enzymes and bacteria present in fresh, whole milk. As a matter of fact, when people began to dry milk as a method of preserving it for use at a later time, the process of pasteurization had not been invented. So, scalding the milk before it was dried served the same purpose as pasteurization.
Now that most of us are drying milk that has already been pasteurized, unless we have our own supply of fresh milk, scalding is unnecessary. Having said that, I always like to err on the side of safety first when preparing food for myself and my family, and like to take all precautions possible. So, I would recommend that you go ahead and scald your milk before drying, even if it has been pasteurized.
What Exactly is Milk Powder?
Milk powder is the result of placing fresh milk under the right conditions that will allow evaporation to remove the liquids from the milk, leaving only the milk solids that can be dried and turned into powder. The resulting milk powder can be stored unrefrigerated for an extended period and then reconstituted when needed by mixing it with water.
This process preserves the milk and dramatically increases its shelf life while maintaining health benefits. The slow heating process keeps the vitamins and minerals intact and only removes the liquids. The resulting product is natural, requires no preservatives, and is chemical-free.
- How to Make Powdered Peanut Butter | A Quick Guide.
- How To Make Powdered Cheese | The Best Way
- What Foods Can Be Sun-Dried? (And Which Can’t)
I have to admit the thought of making my own powdered milk seemed daunting. Having been raised by parents who were both excellent cooks, always had a garden, and who had both grown up in the country as farmers, I’ve done just about everything from gardening to canning, preserving, and freezing as well as cooking and baking. This, however, is one thing I had never tried before. I know that my mother dried milk when I was young, but I don’t remember much about it.
But now that I’ve made this tiny amount of powdered milk, I realize what a simple process it is, and the results are very rewarding. No more spoiled milk!
I can even use part of the process to make my own versions of evaporated milk and condensed milk. Here is a video showing the process.
Thanks for checking in with me. I hope you stop by again soon!
For more, don’t miss How to Freeze Half and Half | The Best Way.
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