Got milk? Butter? Cheese? In the refrigerator, right? Dairy products are a great source of essential amino acids, vitamin D, and calcium, but in their usual forms found in the refrigerator case of your local supermarkets are perishable commodities. Fortunately, there are many dairy products that lend themselves to food storage.
Dry, powdered milk is available in nearly as many varieties as the fresh fluid product.
NONFAT (skim): This is pasteurized skim milk reduced to a powdered concentrate. It takes 3.2 oz. or about 3 tablespoons of instant nonfat dry milk added to 32 oz. of water to make 1 quart of milk you can drink or cook with like fresh milk. Combining the dry milk with water at least several hours before you plan to use it gives it time to dissolve fully and to develop a fresher flavor. Shaking the fluid milk vigorously will incorporate air and will also help to improve flavor. Add the powder to baked goods, gravies, smoothies, hot cereals, casseroles and meat loaf as a nutrition booster. It can also be used to make yogurt, cheese and most any cultured dairy product that does not require a high fat content.
FLAVORED NONFAT: This may be found packaged in a variety of forms from a low-calorie diet drink (artificially sweetened) to the other end of the scale, as cocoa mix or malted milk. The key ingredient is the dry milk so buy and store these products accordingly.
WHOLE MILK: This is whole dry milk with all its fat content (roughly 28% milkfat) and therefore has a shorter shelf life than nonfat. Other than that, it may be reconstituted and used in the same way as nonfat dry milk. Dry whole milk can sometimes be found in the Hispanic foods area of grocery stores (Nido and Klim by Nestlé are the two brands I know), natural or health food stores, and some storage food suppliers carry it as well as institutional and restaurant foods businesses. It can also sometimes be found where camping and outback supplies are sold. Because of the high fat content this form of dry milk really needs to be either vacuum sealed or packaged with oxygen absorbers in gas impermeable containers such as canning jars, Mylar bags, etc. Rotate and use dry whole milk within two years, less if not packaged for long-term storage.
BUTTERMILK: Dry buttermilk is for use in recipes calling for buttermilk. It can be reconstituted into liquid buttermilk, but it’s not much like the fresh liquid product and is best used in baked goods. Since it has a slightly higher fat content than nonfat dry milk, it generally does not keep as long. If properly packaged it should keep for several years.
SOUR CREAM: Made from cultured sweet cream like the fresh product then dried and processed into a powder. Like the real thing, it has a high milkfat content (25-28%) and should be stored like whole milk using vacuum sealing and/or oxygen absorbers and kept in a cool place. Mixed with the proper amount of cold water it can be reconstituted into a rich, thick product much like fresh sour cream and can be used in a similar manner or just used as a powder to add a tangy richness to many foods. Properly stored in oxygen free packaging and kept in a cool environment it is possible to achieve about a three-year shelf life.
MILK SUBSTITUTES: There are several products on the market that are supposed to take the place of cow or goats milk. They range from soy “milk”, rice or other grain “milks”, and beverages based on milk components such as whey. If there is not a substantial fat content they may all be stored as you would nonfat dry milk. Those products with a significant fat content (above 1% by weight) should be stored as you would whole dry milk. Do keep in mind that nearly all of these products DO NOT have the same nutritional composition as either nonfat or whole milk and some, like the soy milk have significant adverse effects.
BUYING DRY MILK PRODUCTS
Be sure the dry milk you are buying has been fortified with vitamins A and D. The dry buttermilk does not come this way. The flavored dry milks vary by manufacturer. There should be no artificial colors or flavors.
“Extra Grade” on the label indicates the manufacturer has held to higher processing and quality standards and the milk is somewhat lower in fat, moisture and bacterial content, is more soluble, and has fewer scorched particles.
Try to buy your dried milk in containers of a size that makes sense for the level of consumption in the household. Once it is opened, powdered milk has a short shelf life before undesirable changes in flavor and nutrient content occurs. If you buy large packages and do not use much at one time, consider breaking it down and repackaging into smaller containers at the time of purchase. I vacuum seal mine in glass canning jars.
Check expiration dates, then date and rotate packages.
STORING DRY MILKS
Dry milk products are highly sensitive to environmental conditions, particularly temperature and moisture. Their vitamins A and D are also photosensitive and break down rapidly if exposed to light.
The area where your dry milk is stored should be kept as cool as possible. Air-conditioning or even refrigeration can greatly extend the nutrient shelf life.
If the storage container is transparent or translucent then it should be put into a second container opaque to light or stored in a dark room.
Dry milk will absorb moisture and odors from the air so storage containers should be impervious to both air and moisture. The drier it can be kept, the better it will keep which makes the use of desiccants is an excellent idea. Oxygen also speeds decomposition so vacuum sealing or oxygen absorbers will decrease the available oxygen.
If the dry milk you purchased was not packaged for long term storage, then it should be repackaged right away.
Preserved Liquid Milks
Preserved liquid milk comes in several forms, none of which are very like each other. The most common are as follows:
These are commonly called UHT milks (Ultra High Temperature) for the packaging technique used to preserve them. They come in the same varieties as fresh liquid milks: Whole, 2%, 1% and skim. In the U.S., they all have vitamin D added. The lesser fat content milks do not keep as long as whole milk and their use by dates are correspondingly shorter term. This milk is packaged in aseptic laminated paper cartons. It has the same composition as fresh milk of the same type, and can be stored at room temperature because of the special pasteurizing process used. The milk has a boiled flavor, but less so than evaporated milk. The dates are usually for approximately six months. The milk is still usable past its date, but the flavor soon begins to go stale and the cream separates.
With a six-month shelf life, this type of canned milk naturally requires a much faster rotation cycle than other types.
Several companies sell flavored milks (chocolate, etc.) in this packaging, usually in the smaller single-serving sizes.
Made from fresh, unpasteurized milk using a vacuum-heating process that removes 60% of the water, the concentrate is heated, homogenized, and in the States, vitamin D is added. It is then sealed in cans and heated again to sterilize the contents. Some brands may have other nutrients and/or chemical stabilizers added so read can labels closely. A mixture of one part water and one part evaporated milk will have about the same nutritional value as an equal amount of fresh milk. It does not taste like fresh milk but many do not find the flavor to be disagreeable…I’m not one of them. Both whole and skim milk varieties are available with the higher fat content type having the best storage life. The typical recommended storage time is six months. There is generally no date or use by code on evaporated milk.
Some grocers along with health food stores carry canned, evaporated goat’s milk, in a similar concentration.
SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK:
A less processed product than evaporated milk. It starts with pasteurized milk combined with a sugar solution. The water is then extracted until the mixture is less than half its original weight. It is not heated because the high sugar content prevents spoilage. It’s very rich as well: 8 oz. contains 980 calories. Obviously with a greatly reduced water content and a high sugar level it won’t taste like fresh milk but it does have many uses in cooking. Some use condensed milk to cream their coffee. This type too is available in whole and skim varieties.
Although it is often hard to find, the condensed milk can label should have a stamped date code which indicates the date by which it should be consumed. Condensed milk may thicken and darken as it ages, but it is still edible.
Butter can be found in several forms each with their particular strengths and weaknesses.
BUTTER POWDER: Probably the easiest to find of the shelf-stable butters the powder is a moisture free product consisting of butter fat condensed on milk solids generally with added antioxidants. It can be reconstituted by mixing with water to make a spread similar to whipped butter, but it cannot be used for frying or other applications requiring high heat that would burn the milk solids. Most butter powders have something of a milky taste due to the additional milk solids necessary to create the powder. Because it is a powder (lots of surface area) with a high fat content it needs good packaging to keep it at its best. Vacuum sealing and/or oxygen absorbers will work well if you are doing your own packaging.
CLARIFIED BUTTER (GHEE): Another form of butter suitable for storage programs is clarified butter or ghee as it is known in India. This is fresh, unsalted butter gently heated to drive off the moisture with the remaining fat poured off the butter solids. As it’s essentially pure butterfat with no water there is little to spoil so will keep for years in a glass jar protected from oxygen, heat, and light. A good source of fat calories and useful in cooking, but maybe not something you’d want to spread on a biscuit.
CANNED BUTTER: For those whom only the real thing will do it’s now possible to find shelf stable real butter. It seems mostly to be sold in those nations where home refrigeration is not as common as it is here in the U.S. Red Feather brand canned butter from New Zealand is available through Amazon. It is salted though not as heavily as most salted butter in the U.S. The manufacturer claims an eighteen-month shelf-stable storage life though they do advise keeping it in a cool, dry place. Like all butter, it will liquefy it allowed to warm too much. Each can contain twelve ounces (equivalent to about three sticks of butter) and once opened should be handled like any other butter.
There are several shelf-stable cheese products that are suited for storage programs. Each of them have particular strengths or weaknesses for given uses. The basic forms storage cheeses can take are:
CANNED CHEESE: Actually, it’s “Pasteurized Processed Cheddar Cheese Product” but it’s the closest thing to a shelf-stable real cheese around. It’s another one of those products produced for use in countries where home refrigeration is scarcer than it is here in the U.S. There are a couple of brands available from Amazon.
DRIED GRATED CHEESES: These are the familiar grated dry Parmesan and Romano cheeses, possibly others as well. They’re generally a coarse dry powder, low or nonfat, and often with a fair amount of salt. Kept dry, cool, and dark they’ll keep as they come from the store for several years though to get the maximum possible shelf life you should vacuum seal them in glass. Usually expensive for the amount you get but as they’re also strongly flavored a little will go a long way.
CHEESE SAUCES AND SOUPS: These are products such as Cheez Whiz, Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup, chip dips and related. They’re not really cheese, but a mixture of cheese, milk, flour, and other ingredients. Depending on what your end uses maybe they can provide a cheese flavor, calories, and a degree of protein, fat, and calcium.
POWDERED CHEESE: Used in products such as boxed macaroni and cheese, au gratin potatoes, snacks, and the like, this is basically cheese that has had its moisture removed leaving behind mostly protein, fat, a fair amount of calcium and various flavoring and coloring compounds (naturally occurring or added) along with a fair amount of salt. It can’t really be melted, but it can add a nice cheese flavor where a real cheese texture is not needed. There are also cheese powder blends, typically a mixture of cheese powder, food starch, whey, milk solids and other non-cheese ingredients. It has less fat than true cheese powder, about the same protein, but less calcium.
Eggs play an important part in cooking. Unfortunately, outside of regular runs to the store to buy fresh eggs or keeping your own hens they’re problematical to store. There are two basic ways to keep eggs for those times when fresh eggs may be hard to come by. One is to preserve them in the shell, the second is to buy dry, or powdered, eggs.
Dry eggs are generally available in four different forms – whole eggs, egg whites, egg yolks, and as a mix for making scrambled eggs and omelets. Which you should buy depends on how you expect to use them. As a general rule I find dry eggs reconstitute more easily when mixed with warm (not hot) water. Mixing the dry powder with other dry ingredients before adding liquids also increases the ease by which they can be reconstituted. Allowing the eggs to sit a few minutes before using improves water adsorption.
WHOLE EGGS: This is everything but the shell and the water. Usually found in the form of a somewhat clumpy, eggy smelling yellow powder. Typically, one tablespoon of whole egg powder mixed with two tablespoons of water will equal one large fresh egg. Can be used to make most anything you’d make with fresh eggs though personally I prefer to use them in baking rather than as scrambled eggs or omelets. Whole egg powder is commonly used in baking mixes of all kinds, but I’ve never seen plain powdered eggs for sale in any grocery. Fortunately, they’re easy to come by from mail order suppliers. A #10 can of powdered eggs is quite a lot so give some thought as to how fast you might use them and either order smaller cans, repackage an opened can into smaller containers, or plan on eating eggs often.
EGG WHITES: Nearly pure protein, egg white powder can add a high-protein boost to anything you put it in. The powder itself is whitish in color and not as clumpy as whole egg powder. When properly reconstituted it will whip into meringue like fresh egg whites and can be used in producing angel food and sponge cakes. Dry egg whites are often found in the baking section of many supermarkets. Powdered egg whites are also available from many mail order suppliers.
EGG YOLKS: High protein, high fat, and a source of lecithin (a natural emulsifier). Egg yolk powder can add richness and flavor to any number of foods, used to make custards, sauces, noodles, even mayonnaise. Not generally as easy to find as whole eggs and whites, but can be mail ordered. Being pure yolks this powder has a high fat content and most be appropriately packaged to achieve a good shelf life.
EGG MIX OR SCRAMBLING MIX: Typically, a mix of whole egg powder, nonfat milk powder, oil, and salt. Used for making scrambled eggs, omelets, or general egg cookery. This mix does offer a degree of convenience but you can easily make it yourself and save the trouble of having to store it as a separate product.
STORING DRY EGGS
All dry egg products are exceedingly sensitive to moisture and will go off quickly if allowed to become the least bit damp. Whole eggs, egg yolks, and egg mix have high fat contents which make them very sensitive to oxygen. I highly recommend vacuum sealing in glass jars or using oxygen absorbers in conjunction with some other form of high barrier property packaging to keep these products at their best.