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 major ways to make milk powder:
I’ve had many different commercial milk powders over the years. So, while I know that reconstituted milk from milk powder doesn’t taste as good as fresh milk, it is certainly handy to have in case the fresh milk runs out, especially for coffee creamer and for cooking. While I’ve never made milk powder on my own, I watched my mother make it many years ago and am anxious to try it. I’ll take you along with me on this journey, so here goes!
Milk powder can be made at home by at least 3 methods:
The beauty of this process is that very little equipment is necessary.
For the dehydrator method, you only need:
For the stovetop method, all that you need are:
For the oven method, the necessary items are:
A dehydrator would be ideal and most efficient for the job, but since I don’t have one, I’ll use the second method, the stovetop, and the double boiler.
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, 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.
Allow the scalded milk to cool to room temperature before beginning this process.
Note: This is the method I followed. It is unnecessary to scald the milk before beginning this process as it will scald in the double boiler.
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 took 2 hours for the milk to reach the paste condition and another 6 hours to completely dry.
Milk powder has many uses, some without being reconstituted and many after being reconstituted.
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 who 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:
Note: Milk powder can also be frozen to extend its shelf life. Reconstituted milk will last only about 5 days in the refrigerator.
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.
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.
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.
To make large batches of milk powder, use as many pans as will fit in your oven as long as you make sure to keep the milk shallow in the pans, or it will take a very long time for it to dry.
Important: All moisture must be removed from the milk to avoid the growth of mold.
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 at all and keep it stored in a cool, dark place. Milk powder can be kept for months, if not years, this way.
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.
So, here are a few tips for scalding milk:
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.
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 The Best Substitutes for Milk in a Recipe | Ultimate Guide.
Hi, I’m Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.
I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.