Canning milk is not a new concept. Stroll down the aisles of any given supermarket and you’ll be sure to find a shelf full of canned goat milk, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and even. Today, I thought I might show you how it’s done. Ready?
Before we get started, I would like to point out that you cannot preserve milk in a boiling water canner or a water bath. Milk (like meats, stock, green beans, etc.) is a low-acid food and must be processed at a high temperature in order to destroy any Clostridium botulinum bacteria.
Botulism bacteria, which occur naturally in soil, water, and on the surface of fresh foods, grow even in the absence of air. If the botulism bacteria haven’t been destroyed by proper heating, a sealed jar is the perfect place for them to grow and produce the deadly toxin. For this reason, canning milk isn’t widely recommended. No one wants anyone to get sick, so check your seals and be careful, or just don’t do it this at all if you are worried about it.
First, gather your canning equipment: glass quart jars, pressure canner, rack, lids, and rings. Thoroughly wash everything in hot soapy water and then sterilize in boiling water (I load everything into the canner, fill the canner with water, and then boil for 15 minutes).
Be sure to inspect the jars for cracks. Do not use cracked or nicked jars for canning. If you are using milk from your own goats, sheep, or cattle then be sure to wash the animal’s udders clean before milking. (I know that you already do that and didn’t need reminding but just remember that jars of peanuts must display “Product contains nuts” on the label).
Collect the milk in a clean & sterilized container and then pour the milk through a filter. I filter the milk twice before canning — just to be on the safe side.
Prepare the canner so that the rack is in the bottom and fill with the appropriate amount of water (follow the manufacturer’s instructions — I fill mine to the first fill line). Bring the water in the canner to a boil on high heat. Add a few tablespoons of white vinegar to prevent lines from forming on the jars.
Fill a hot (and sterilized) quart jar with the raw milk leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
Place a hot lid on the jar with one of those nifty magnetic lid lifters (do not touch the seal-side of the lid).
Screw on the ring and set aside.
Fill & cover each jar until you have enough to process one batch. Now place the jars on the rack in the canner.
Secure the lid on the canner and allow the steam to flow from the canner for 10 minutes. I like to stay close by during this time. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and thumb-twiddling come in handy.
Bring to 10 Lbs. of pressure. For quarts, process for 25 minutes. For pints, process for 20 minutes. Now remove the canner from the heat source and allow to cool. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions so that you know the proper time to open the lid.
Once you open the lid, the jars will still be bubbling but take a moment to look at the color of the milk. It should have a honey/caramel tone. Remove the jars and place them a flat surface to cool. Once the jars have completely cooled, check the lids to make sure that they have properly sealed. Remove the rings, label the jars (with month and year), and place in your pantry. Canned milk should be used within one year of being canned and makes for lovely gravy, soups, puddings, cakes, and breads. Because of its caramel color and cooked taste, it is unappealing on cold cereal or in a drinking glass. This milk shouldn’t be used to make cheese because… well… it simply won’t work. Just for fun, I found and read this neat article from Current Opinion (circa 1918) about canning goat milk and a goat ranch in Monterey County, California.