canning milk

Canning Milk and Dairy Products

Home canning milk, for informational purposes. Read disclaimer below. With that said, many people successfully home can their own milk and dairy products. I received input from two readers here on the blog who would like to share their experience on how to do it yourself… Home canning milk. So, thanks to ‘Lauren’ and ‘Northern Sarge’ for their contribution to the blog…

Pressure Canning Milk and Dairy

written by Modern Survival Blog contributor, ‘Lauren’

Dairy (straight milk) is pasteurized at 161 degrees for 15 seconds, or ultra-pasteurized at 280 for 2 seconds.

A standard pressure canner will maintain a temperature of 240 degrees, and can get up to 280 for short periods. Thus, it is used under “field” conditions to sterilize medical instruments. Even a water bath canner gets up to between 200 and 212 degrees, more than hot enough for pasteurization.

In the past I have canned milk (raw and pasteurized), cream, half-n-half, cheese, cream cheese, butter, ghee and sour cream. Recently I bottled a cheese sauce. Others have bottled cheesecake, cream soups, non-dairy creamers, and many other dairy products. Each should be bottled according to the guidelines, in the sense that if the product is dense, you should use a pressure canner.

Use your own discretion and comfort level in deciding if this is right for you and your family. No one else (myself, Ken, the blog, whatever) is responsible for your choices.

For my purposes I choose to use a pressure canner for all dairy.

[ Read: All American Pressure Canner That Will Last Forever… ]


Bring the pressure canner up to pressure for your elevation. Immediately turn it off and let it cool naturally. Milk is now sterile and bottled. This is the equivalent of the boxed shelf-stable milk found in grocery stores. I made a mistake the last time and let the cooker heat up too slowly. I also had cheese sauce in the same batch, which required 10 minutes processing, so the milk carmelized and turned brown. It still tastes fine, just a little sweeter and less creamy than I’m used to. More like powdered milk.


Same as milk. Yes, it whips up fine after being processed.


Same as milk

Non-dairy creamers:

Same as milk. I have never processed this, so I go by the word of others who say it works.

Almond milk:

Same as milk. I have never processed this, so I go by the word of others who say it works.

Cottage cheese:

Same as milk. I have never processed this, so I go by the word of others who say it works.

Sour Cream:

Same as milk. Unfortunately, when I tried the sour cream in 2015, I was unable to find any information on canning dairy (other than “don’t do it”) so I canned it for meat times, 75 minutes for pints. It stank. I threw it out. Those who have done it (I haven’t tried it since) say canning it as milk will create a lumpy product that just needs to be stirred and/or whisked to become sour cream again.

Cream cheese:

Since it is a denser product, I do 75 minutes in the pressure canner. It probably does not need 75 minutes, but that is the way I have done it. Others say 20 minutes waterbath or 10 minutes pressure. It came out slightly drier than a traditional cream cheese but I ate it happily.


Same as cream cheese. I have done cheddar and pepper jack. They came out drier than a traditional cheese. Unfortunately they didn’t last long enough to determine if they’re shelf-stable. : )


Same as milk. Melt the butter and spoon into jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Make sure you turn the bottles about every 10 minutes after canning or it will separate. If you do whole butter without pressure or water bath processing, use it within a year or so. If you just take the butter fat off the top it is shelf stable and does not need additional processing. In that case, fill as close to the rim of the bottle as you can get without getting the rim greasy. Put the lid on and turn the bottle over to seal. With no air in the bottle, it will not go rancid as easily.


Ghee is a solid fat (no milk solids or water) and so it does not need to be processed. You can process it, but it’s not necessary. It is shelf stable. Fill as close to the rim of the bottle as you can get without getting the rim dirty. Put the lid on and turn the bottle over to seal. With no air in the bottle, it will not go rancid as easily. The difference between ghee and butterfat is that the ghee is cooked to get the water and milk protein out of it. As with everything else, determine your comfort level. It’s nice to have butter, cream, and milk sitting on the shelf rather than having to run to the store for it. I can grab the after-holiday specials on cream, last minute expiring milk, or the marked down cream cheese, and not fill up my freezer with the bounty.

Pressure Canned Milk

written by Modern Survival Blog contributor, ‘Northern Sarge’


Pre-heat or sterilize quart jars in the oven at 200 degrees (probably not necessary, just what I do)

Warm lids in a pot of hot water to soften the seals

Get pressure canner ready with maybe 2-1/2” of water in it. Bring to barely steamy warm, we don’t want to break cold jars of milk.

Bring all jars out of the oven and place on the counter. Let them cool down for 5 minutes.

Add 2% milk to jars. Fill to leave 1/2” of headspace.

Add lids and rings. Tighten finger tight only.

Place jars of milk into pressure canner. Turn burner element under pressure canner to high.

Place lid on canner leaving vent open.

Vent canner for 8 minutes. Close vent or apply 10 lb jiggle weight.

Bring pressure up to 10 lbs (My elevation is 900 feet) This may take a half hour because of the cold milk.

As soon as you have 10 lbs of pressure, turn heat off and remove pressure canner from hot element.

Allow pressure to decrease to zero by itself then remove jars to an area of the counter to cool.

Kitchen Notes:

I use 2% milk for canning because it goes into the jars white but during the heating process it darkens slightly and may or will produce very small bits of butterfat floating in your canned milk. I used whole milk one time and the mild darkened to a more tan colour and the butterfat bits were slightly larger than with the 2% milk.

Note that I consider this a short term storage item.


In the last several generations, for a number of different reasons, the mentality in the US has shifted from “It’s legal unless the government says it’s not,” to “It’s illegal unless the government says you can.”

One example of this, unfortunately, is the emphasis on the USDA rules for canning.

For many years, open kettle canning was the norm. You stick the food in a pot, cook it to death, then cook it again when it comes out of the jars. There were many preservation techniques employed for food in general, but the advent of the sealable glass jar changed this, possibly forever.

Then came the “home” pressure canner, and people grabbed onto the new technology like it was their lifeline. Which in some cases, it was or might have been.

Research was done over an extended period of time, resulting in “approved” canning techniques and recipes which everyone was expected to follow to the letter. At this point, most people believe that if it isn’t approved by the USDA it’s unsafe.

In reality, it just means the USDA hasn’t done the testing. Testing continued through the 60’s and 70’s, but funding ran out for real testing and at this time I believe there is no expectation of additional funding for “tests.” The most recent guidelines were published in the 1980’s, with the exception of a few details that allowed them to update the USDA canning guide in 2015.

[ Ken adds: I purchased this awhile ago. A good resource…

USDA Home Canning Guide

That being the case, I personally assume that if it hasn’t been proven UNSAFE, then it can be or can be made a safe process. Unfortunately, most people take the attitude that if the USDA hasn’t tested it then it is intrinsically unsafe. Such it is with dairy.


  1. Thank you Lauren, Northern Sarge and Ken! This is incredibly useful!

    Lauren: What size jar do you can cream cheese in? Some who showed that process on searches I did advised using half-pints to make sure proper heat penetration of dense product occurred. If I do can in half-pints (handy size for us, and saves larger jars for other things), would head space be 1″, and processing time 75 minutes? Thanks so much.

    1. Yes, when I did cream cheese I used half pints with a 1 inch headspace. It’s not such a liquid product that siphoning should be an issue. With half jar sizes you go up one size, so half pints would be canned just like pints at 75 minutes.

      1. Lauren:
        Did you make your own Cream Cheese or did ya use store bought?
        I’v been looking for a GREAT recipe for homemade Cream Cheese.

        And thank you all for the Article, good info for sure.

        1. I have been making my own cream cheese, but when I bottled it I hadn’t discovered this yet.

          Some people say to use the queso blanco process (heat milk, add vinegar or lemon juice, stir and remove from the heat) but the texture seems wrong to me. I do use that for cheese balls, however.

          I prefer labneh, or yogurt cheese. Allow the yogurt to drain until it stops, then layer into a container of some kind with an absorptive cloth around it and stick it in the fridge. I have to change the cloth several times. It has more the taste and texture of the cream cheese I’m used to, with an additional “bite” from the yogurt cultures.

  2. My 2¢ on preserving Milk.
    Thought I’d toss this in here because of the discussion of keeping milk.
    Although I don’t ‘Can’ Milk I do freeze quite a few gallons.
    I am fortunate enough to have a very local source of “Fresh” not .gov regulated milk close by.
    Yeah YEAH I know, I’m going to die from using non pasteurized milk, what can I say, I live on the wild side HAHAHA
    Ok, I simply grab a 1/2 gallon Ziplock Freezer bag and shake the heck out of the milk I get in 1/2 gallon Jars, I do this to mix the Cream (there is usually about 1/4 cream in the jar) back into the milk.
    Simply dump the 1/2 gallon into the Bag, I let it sit for a bit to allow the air to escape the Moo, after probably 5 minutes I burp the bag removing ALL of the air possible.
    Now the tricky part…. I have a 12″X12″ old milk create that fits nicely into the freezer, I lay a 1/4″ piece of plywood in the bottom of the crate than layer the bags of milk and plywood till the crate if filled.
    I keep my freezers at -10 degrees F, this keeps everythiung fairly cool HAHAHA
    To Defrost, and here is a little hint I learned the hard way. Place the frozen moo in a pan od inside a 1.5-2 gallon Ziplock to defrost, Why you ask??? because the 1 gallon bag WILL leak guaranteed, every bag I have frozen has leaked, trust me on this one……..

    Ok, now for the “disclaimer” as everyone has GOT to cover their ass anymore:
    I do NOT advocate drinking or consuming “Raw” milk and/or any substance that’s not specifically approved regulated, supplied or “Mandated” by the Government, Doctors, and anyone else that’s an expert.

    How the heck did I live to 68 without the “Smart” people telling me and my parents/grandparents how the live? DANG it I must be a miracle huh?

    1. A little PS:
      The Frozen Milk will turn a yellow-ish color when frozen (and hard as a friggen rock, HAHAHA), this is normal, it will revert back to that raciest color (white) when defrosted.
      AND the taste will be just like fresh.

    2. My problem with freezing milk was that I had to wait for it to thaw. If I wanted to bake something, or just milk on cereal, and I hadn’t pulled any out to thaw, I had to wait. And since I don’t use it that much, I usually had to wait.

      (Wesley: “I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.” Indigo: “I hate waiting.”)

      This way I can just open a bottle.

  3. Since we are speaking of milk I would like to ask who FD some milk and how long did it take and how much dried milk did you get? Plains, I think it was you. Or anyone else?
    Thanks ahead of time!

      1. Good video Stand and after watching I think I will buy the low fat from the big guys.

  4. Lately the fresh milk “shelves” are slim to empty. So now the grocery store is limiting purchases to two containers. So, we’ll buy the two gallons (whole milk) and just leave them outside to freeze. Will pretty much thaw out overnight. The plastic jug will bulge, but goes back to normal when it thaws.

    Lauren, when you need a small amount of milk, have you tried adding an equal amount of water to canned condensed milk?
    The 5 oz. condensed milk can makes a good biscuit cutter.

    NPR & Blue, as a youngster back in the ’50’s when the milkman still delivered door to door. In winter I would spoon out the frozen cream from the top of the miilk… the good old days when milk was milk.

    1. If I needed condensed milk I would probably make my own. I don’t think we’ve had any in this house since Mom stopped making Christmas candy maybe twenty years ago.

      1. Lauren
        I mentioned condensed milk to use as a shortcut. So that you could freeze milk and use condensed as a fill in while it thawed…
        Just an option someone might try.
        Another option — NPR & Blue uses zip-loc bags, smaller quantity would thaw quicker.
        Using one quart zip-loc bags, and freezing flat would make it easier to break up the frozen milk to thaw even faster.
        When I ran long distance (1000 mile) sled dog races. I would freeze the fat blend for the dogs in quart bags. Frozen flat and thin it was easy enough to break up, the fat, to dole out and melt in their meal and to give to the dogs for a snack.

  5. I’ve been canning whole milk (store bought) intermittently for the last couple of years. It comes in really handy when I can’t get to the store before the grandkids show up. It carmelizes just a tad when canned, but I kinda like the sweetness.

  6. I am curious if anyone can answer these questions. I canned pasteurized organic whole milk several months ago. In one of those jars, the milk has separated into clear whey and solids. I haven’t opened it yet, but am wondering if it can still be used for anything.

  7. In my rounds picking up pig scraps this week I was gifted with about 100 gallons of various milks and yogurt. This happens every few weeks. Has anyone tried to preserve yogurt or buttermilk this way?

  8. Great blog, I followed several of your recommendations in a video I did exploring canning milk products! I was interested to learn about the lack of funding for “approved” recipes, and agree that just because something hasn’t been approved doesn’t mean its inherently unsafe!
    Thanks for the resource

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