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Finding whole milk powder is a challenge in itself. There are more options than before but there are far more brands of nonfat and low-fat powdered milk out there than whole. Buttermilk can easily be dehydrated as well. For those that are lactose intolerant, this is a way for you to put back some powdered dairy.
Know when it is worth it and when it is not worth it to dehydrate your own powdered milk.
Dehydrating your own milk makes financial sense if you find a sale on milk or want whole milk and not non fat. Standard non fat powdered milk can be bought for a much lower price than the whole powdered milk you will find plus you can just watch out for sales at any grocery store.
I did some research on the cost of whole organic milk powder and conventional. The Certified Organic Milk Powder is the equivalent of paying $6.80 per gallon when reconstituted. The Peak non organic powdered milk added up to around $5 per gallon reconstituted.
That gives you some idea of the price point so you can determine if the work of dehydrating your own is worth it. Remember that there are packaging costs, too.
Hoosier Organic Whole Powdered Milk
Peak Whole Powdered Milk
There are only so many hours in a day and one thing I have learned farming and doing things ourselves up here on the mountain is that you have to pick your battles. Growing potatoes, for example, took way too much labor when they were $10-$15 for 50 lbs at the grocery store. You often have to pick out the value added activities that offer you the biggest pay back.
If you have your own dairy animals or friends that have excess milk then that can also be a lucrative opportunity to dehydrate and put back some food. I recommend pasteurizing any dairy that you intend on dehydrating. Fresh milk can spoil rather quickly, especially during the hotter months of the year.
Expired Or About To Expire Milk and Cream
If you find a sale on milk that is about to expire then I recommend turning it into yogurt and drying that. Milk that is close to expiration or even a few days expired can be used to make yogurt. I do want to point out the distinction between non-organic and organic in terms of fresh shelf life.
I have noticed that organic milk turns bad faster than regular milk. I think that part of this is the difference between pasteurization techniques. Lightly pasteurized milk do not keep like those that are pasteurized regularly or ultra-pasteurized.
Dehydrating milk products can cause a little bit of odor. I am typing this about 10 feet away from my Nesco and I can just slightly smell buttermilk. I am only using two trays at once which equals maybe 40 fluid oz of buttermilk.
This is a project you might want to set up in a back room if you are planning on entertaining. I have a small house so it was more noticeable for me than it may be for a lot of readers.
Food Dehydrator Method
- Dehydrator. Models that allow you to set the temperature and have a fan offer best results. If you are thinking about what type to buy, check out the BDS post How to Choose a Food Dehydrator: Top Dehydrator Types for Food Preservation and my review of the Nesco.
- Fruit Roll/ Liquid Inserts: These come in different sizes so double check that the ones you are looking at will fit your dehydrator.
- Milk or Buttermilk. For this project, I used whole fat buttermilk.
It takes some time to dehydrate milk. This is not something you just do in 4 hours dry time with a food dehydrator. The more trays you fill, the longer it will take overall.
A lot of DIY types recommend only doing 2 trays at a time. That is not much. I would not try to do more than 4-5 at a time regardless. My Nesco will hold 12 trays but it would be a bad idea to completely load it up with a food as perishable as milk.
1. Turn dehydrator to 135 degrees F if you have a temp control.
2. Set a tray with a liner into the dehydrator and pour full of milk. Repeat the process for up to 4 – 5 trays.
3. Dry until totally brittle. One reason people recommend that you only use 2 trays the first time is so that you can learn how well your dehydrator does with a few trays and then adjust temps and get a better idea of how long it takes.
My dried whole fat buttermilk crumbled really easily. It tasted like a lot of the good quality powdered buttermilk I have bought. Bob’s Redmill Sweet Cream Powdered Buttermilk comes to mind.
4. At this point, you can powder the milk using a mortar and pestle or just break it up enough to get it in a bag.
Long Term Storage
Dump into a mylar pouch or use a vacuum food sealer and add a moisture absorber for long-term storage. Make sure to add a date with a Sharpie and rotate it out from your food supply.
In case you didn’t already know, any survival food with animal products is going to have less shelf life and be most at risk for spoilage. Keeping powdered milk at a moderate temperature increases shelf life. Keep out of sunlight and extreme temperatures to maximize shelf life.
Dehydrated Sour Cream
This is a delicious thing to have on hand and you can definitely make your own if you catch it on sale. Sour cream stays good a long time. If there is no mold on it then it is probably fine to dehydrate.
Like regular milk, unless it is ultra-pasteurized use caution dehydrating expired or about to expire cream. If it is well within the best by date then go ahead otherwise you should use culture and make it into sour cream before dehydrating.
You can use a standard plain yogurt to inoculate it, other sour creams that have active culture in it, or buy some starter like that below. Remember that you can keep a sour cream culture going for a while by inoculating a fresh batch with a few spoonfuls of a previous batch. I usually only do this with yogurt for a few batches before getting a fresh start.
Sour Cream Starter Culture
This is something that you can just do by taste. For flavoring very rich dishes, you may not want to use the same amount of liquid you would if you wanted a glass of milk to drink.
Powdered dairy products can vary in shelf life. Part of the equation depends on storage conditions. A moderate or cool temperature helps your dairy keep longer. Exposure to light and heat are your enemy when it comes to food preservation.
You can use an oven to dehydrate milk and other dairy but you need to keep a close eye on it and check how hot your oven really burns. An aftermarket oven thermometer should make this easy. You just don’t want it to get so hot it can scorch.
Use cookie sheets with sides and pour full of milk. Dry until brittle and powdery but not browned in any way. If it looks brown, this means your heat was set too high or you dried it for too long.
If your oven runs a little hot or if you want to help out the evaporation a little then you can leave your oven cracked open a bit.
Some solar ovens may be used to dehydrate dairy products under good conditions. Results and time required will vary based on what type of solar oven you have. It might take a few attempts to get your desired results. I will say that you should wait until you know that you will have a good stretch of sunny weather so the dry time is not stretched out so much that your end product is spoiled.
At night, your oven is not going to be producing heat so that can be a challenge. You need to be able to get the dairy dried out while you have sunlight. If it doesn’t dry completely then finish it off in your regular oven.
I would also recommend dehydrating cultured dairy products, not fresh milk. These are less likely to turn bad or get bad bacteria if dry time is more extended.
Powdered Milk Uses
There are a lot of things you can do with powdered dairy products. Here are a few things I can think of that are relevant to those putting back food for the long term and those that just want some convenience food where they have some control over the ingredients.
1. Soup Mixes
Powdered milk can be used as a base for creamy soups, stews, and gravies. You can add some dried mashed potato flakes, veggies, and dried meat and have a very hearty entree. For additional convenience, you can vacuum seal your own dried blends.
It may take you some time to decide the ratio of milk, meat, and veggies that you like but once you do you can create survival food that is suited to you and your family’s dietary needs.
Having flour and yeast put back is great for prepping because you can make bread but that bread can have a better flavor and some extra calories if you have a little powdered milk, sour cream, or yogurt to put in it.
Pancake mixes and other grain-based products can also benefit from the addition of some dairy during preparation.
3. Macaroni and Cheese Mix
I know that a lot of people put back Mac and Cheese but it is a lot cheaper to buy the noodles and then make your own cheese powder mixes that are very shelf stable.
A member of a prepping group I am part of on Facebook shared with the group how her whole family got extremely sick from eating Kraft Mac and Cheese past the expiration date. They had quite a bit of it stashed back. What they found out was that the newer recipe of Kraft is not as shelf stable, and the cheese powder had gone bad.
To make cheese sauce you need your choice of powdered cheese, powdered milk, yogurt, or sour cream, and butter powder (optional). This is not a bad idea for replacing those expensive small boxes in your everyday pantry either.
Practice Your Method For Drying
I have mentioned a lot of different ways to dehydrate dairy products but since ovens and equipment like dehydrators vary in temperature and performance I definitely advise practicing with some small batches and learning how your equipment performs.
Spacing Out Your Drying
One way to space out your drying is to buy milk by the gallon and consume part of it and dehydrate the other. This can be more practical due to equipment limitations.
Two trays of buttermilk in my dehydrator were not near enough to dry out a half gallon of liquid so the other was used for cooking. If you are on top of it you can dry two batches in a 24 time period so I could have dehydrated 1/2 gallon of buttermilk plus a pint in a 24 hour period.
Do you have any favorite recipes using powdered dairy products? What method of drying have you found to have the best flavor when reconstituted for just drinking? Remember to check out my previous post on Prepping With Powdered Milk: The Best Powdered Milk Options for even more info on dairy options for survival food and your everyday pantry!
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