Freezing Milk (and other fresh dairy tips)

by Sarah Raw Milk at HomeComments: 48

freezing raw milk and dairy

I’ve coordinated a large buying club which supports several local dairy farms for the past 12 or so years. During that time, I’ve answered all manner of questions on freezing milk and proper use, storage, and fermentation of dairy products both pasteurized and fresh from the cow (or goat).

It’s exciting to witness an ever-increasing number of people seeking to source food locally. We now even have a local farm in our community that produces a small amount of fresh water buffalo milk!

The tricky part of the trend toward local food production is that there is a learning curve and education process that goes along with knowing exactly where your food comes from and how it is produced. This is something that is entirely unnecessary when you robotically buy dead, fractionated, frankenfoods on a grab and go basis from the dairy aisle of the supermarket.

Below are the most common questions I have been asked over the years about how to properly handle and store milk and other dairy products. If you are new to sourcing your dairy from a local farm, I hope this information saves you some time getting up to speed on the process.

Does Freezing Milk Damage It?

The most frequent question I get asked about milk is can it be frozen? The reason people are interested in freezing milk is because in some parts of the world, fresh dairy is hard to come by, so folks are organizing groups to drive long distances to pick up larger quantities once a month for multiple families. The trick with that is how to best keep the milk fresh for drinking until the next dairy road trip.

The good news is most definitely yes! You can freeze milk with no problem.

Both pasteurized and raw milk can be frozen, and freezing milk does not harm its nutritional profile or destroy enzymes and probiotics in the case of raw dairy. Dr. Weston A. Price, author of the nutritional classic Nutrition and Physical Degeneration found that even after being frozen for one year, butter suffered no degradation in either enzymes or fat soluble vitamins (1).

The trickiest part about freezing milk, cream, butter, buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir is choosing the most appropriate container to use. I personally do not choose and would not recommend glass for freezing milk and other dairy due to the danger of breakage. If you must use glass for whatever reason, make sure the container is not completely full and the lid is cracked or open to release any pressure that builds up.

For more tips on choosing and using the best freezer containers whether you prefer glass or plastic, this article discusses the issue in depth.

When freezing raw milk or nonhomogenized, low-temp pasteurized milk, be sure to shake it up really well first before putting it in the freezer to distribute the cream evenly. It’s a good idea to take the jug out and shake it up once or twice more before it is totally frozen for the same reason.

Note that once cream top milk has thawed, sometimes the cream with have a slight texture to it and might not feel completely smooth on the tongue like it did before it was frozen. You will be happy to know that this little bit of grittiness with the cream portion of thawed milk isn’t a safety or nutritional problem, but it does bother some people.

Knowing how to properly freeze milk and other fresh from the farm dairy products is also helpful when traveling. This article details how to easily travel with raw dairy even when flying on a major airline.

Other Tips for Handling Local Dairy

While the question of freezing milk is definitely the most common question I receive as a dairy club coordinator, the second most common concern usually takes the form of a frantic email or text late in the afternoon or evening of dairy pickup day:

Sarah, I completely forgot about my raw dairy in the trunk of my car, and it has been sitting in there all day! Has it gone bad or can I use it anyway?

Quality raw, grassfed dairy is expensive and forgetting about it in the trunk of your car all day long is surely a heart-stopping event! The good news is that the raw dairy hasn’t gone “bad” sitting in your car even on a hot day.

Milk going “bad” is a concept that has evolved in our language as a result of the rise of pasteurization and sterilized factory food. Only dead, pasteurized milk that is devoid of enzymes and probiotics goes putrid or “bad” and must be thrown out as a precautionary measure when it has not been fully refrigerated for a period of time.

Note that throughout most of human history, raw milk and dairy was never refrigerated and rarely consumed fresh. It was usually clabbered or fermented in some way before consumption (2).

Raw milk has the benefit of inherent probiotic cultures that not only protect it from an invasion of food borne pathogens but also protect against spoilage. When raw milk comes to room temperature, the activity of these beneficial probiotics in the raw milk increases, as they more rapidly consume the lactose (milk sugar) during this time hastening the process of transforming the fresh milk to a clabbered state.

Hence, if you’ve left your raw milk in your car for awhile, you can safely re-refrigerate when you get home and use it as you would normally. The only catch is that the raw milk won’t be fresh for drinking for as long. For example, if your raw milk normally stays fresh tasting for drinking for two weeks in the refrigerator before naturally souring, then it might only last one week or a few days if you forgot to refrigerate it right away after dairy pickup.

In comparison, when pasteurized milk goes past the “use by” date stamped on the carton, it should be immediately discarded as the risk of food borne pathogens from the putrid milk is high.

When raw milk is no longer fresh for drinking, on the other hand, it has simply begun the process of naturally souring into clabbered milk, a drinkable yogurt-like product which is how humans usually consumed raw milk prior to the advent of modern refrigeration. When raw milk has clabbered, you don’t throw it out. You simply use it for something else like scrambled eggs, puddings or sauces.  This article outlines 101 ways to use soured raw milk.

Do you have a question or answer about freezing milk or the handling of fresh dairy you source from a local farm? Please share with all of us in the comment section.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (48)

  • chim

    hi! thanks for this informative article. does it work as well with soy milk? im making soy milk at home and due to busy schedule, i usually make several liters good for two weeks. how do i keep them fresh? is it ok to keep them frozen then place it in the chiller the night before i drink it? thanks!

    April 21st, 2016 10:00 pm Reply
  • Sandy Parent

    I have a question that I have not been able to find the answer to. Can you freeze butter milk?
    I make my own butter and still have not found a way I can use up buttermilk unless it is baked with glutenous flour. “Any suggestions? I can’t do gluten. Thanks for your time and the wonderful information you make accessible to us Sarah.

    February 23rd, 2016 11:19 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes you can!

      February 23rd, 2016 11:34 am Reply
  • chemfreemom

    If you have to freeze raw milk, and even if it loses some nutrients, it’s still better than buying pasteurized milk from the store on a regular basis.

    I would NOT however freeze it in plastic as plastic leaches in cold temps as well as high. I have been freezing raw milk in wide mouth 1/2 gallon mason jars for many years. I’ve only had a couple break and that’s because I filled it a little too much and may have hit it against something. They’re extremely fragile when frozen. As long as I leave 2 1/2″ at the top, and keep the lid on loosely, I have no problems.

    February 23rd, 2016 12:38 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Do you have any research that you’ve come across that plastic leeches in cold temps that you could share? I haven’t found any.

      February 23rd, 2016 7:42 am Reply
    • Jennifer

      I also use the huge glass mason jars for freezing our raw milk. We freeze it with the top off and don’t have any problems. I just don’t trust plastic. There are also large jars that are made for freezing but we have invested in these and are ok with them so far (going on 5 years). We purchase 22 gallons of raw milk at a time.

      February 23rd, 2016 6:56 pm Reply
  • Kerry

    “There’s a great article called Freezing raw milk: As good as fresh? Raw milk white papers.

    “When raw milk advocates discuss the loss of vitamins due to pasteurization, they often mention vitamin C and B vitamins. (Folks who have subscribed to the email list on this site will read more about the loss in B vitamins in pasteurized milk.)
    It turns out that the vitamin C in milk may be as cold-sensitive as it is heat-sensitive. A 1983 study in the Journal of Dairy Science found that about 28% of the vitamin C in fresh raw milk is lost to freezing whereas 26% was lost to ultra high temperature pasteurization (UHT), a common pasteurization technique used with organic milk. The more conventional pasteurization process resulted in a loss of 17% of the vitamin C.
    In the same study researchers found that riboflavin (vitamin B2) showed little loss in either freezing or pasteurization. However, thiamine (B1) is more sensitive to heat than to freezing.”

    Also….

    ” One study found that antioxidants are at their peak in human milk in its first two days. There is loss with both time and with freezing (Hanna et al. 2004).”

    Love raw milk. I try to drink it fresh. Has anyone ever made goat butter? The bilk I get isn’t goaty at all and am hoping to make butter, cheese and cottage cheese.

    February 21st, 2016 6:23 pm Reply
  • Marcus

    Hi Sarah, if pasteurised milk is only missing ‘enzymes and probiotics’ destroyed by the heating process, would it be possible to add these back to fresh pasteurised milk so that it clabbered and soured in the same way as whole raw milk instead of putrefying?

    February 8th, 2016 8:46 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      No, because once something is dead, it’s dead. There is no such thing as “fresh” pasteurized milk.

      February 8th, 2016 9:10 pm Reply
  • Irene

    Hi Sarah thank you for this very informative article. I use glass for freezing my raw milk because of the fears of leaching plastic into the milk when using the plastic gallon that the milk comes in. What are your thoughts about this please? Thank you!

    February 6th, 2016 5:55 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Plastic leeching chemicals is primarily an issue when the plastic is heated, not frozen. I am not overly concerned about it, but if you are having success with freezing in glass, then keep on with it. Also, raw milk does stay fresh longer when kept in glass, so that is a benefit also.

      February 7th, 2016 1:41 pm Reply
  • Deborah

    This post was so timely for me! I had just discovered my missing homemade raw goat kefir in the freezer! Must have been sleep deprived cleaning up the kitchen one morning and put it there by mistake. 😉 Good to know it was ok. I used it up in my smoothies. Thanks for all your great posts!

    February 3rd, 2016 11:43 pm Reply
  • Shelli

    Can I freeze Almond milk – purchased from supermarket ?

    January 27th, 2016 5:57 pm Reply
  • Three Pipe Problem

    Thanks for this article… had not even considered freezing raw milk.

    We freeze in glass all the time here successfully — I don’t think we have ever had a problem, *after* an initial learning curve during which we did lose a few jars. If I had known the following guidelines, those early mistakes would have been avoided.

    Whether or not a jar is freezer safe depends a little but on the quality and age of the glass container but *mostly* on the shape. When the liquid expands during freezing, if it encounters any narrowing then the container will probably crack. Conversely, if there is no narrowing during this upward expansion problems are quite unlikely. So a straight sided container works — even if the bottom gently curves a bit, it doesn’t matter, it only matters that the liquid can expand upward. Of course, if your liquid hits the tightly screwed on lid of a jar when expanding it will crack the jar regardless.

    Commercial canning jars take all the guesswork out of this, because they label their products that are straight-sided all the way up as “freezer safe” and they put a fill line on the jar, to take the guess work out of how much room you need to allow for expansion. So for example Ball lists which jars are freezer safe in this chart — freshpreserving.com/tools/jar-selector

    But in my experience you can safely use jars they don’t mark as freezer safe — like the regular-mouth pint jars, which narrow on top, as long as you leave enough room for expansion so that the frozen liquid won’t hit the ‘neck’ of the jar at all.

    The good news is that if you make a mistake, it’s very easy to clean up. And I would imagine that once in a blue moon you will have an older jar crack, it’s not like your freezer is going to be contaminated or anything.

    January 27th, 2016 10:36 am Reply
    • Elaine

      This is so true! The straight sided jars also have the advantage of taking up less space. I especially like the wide mouth 24 oz 1 1/2 pint jars. I also freeze tomato sauce and broth in them. If I have especially gelatinous broth though (good problem to have), I put less in them, as they tend to form “mountains” and seems like that might break the glass. And as extra insurance, I put the jars in the fridge first to make sure everything is cool to start, and do not tighten the jars all the way until they are fully frozen. (Don’t know if those steps make a difference, but I have a great success rate.) Nowadays I only break jars when defrosting them – if I’m too impatient and put them in a bowl of water that is too hot.

      January 27th, 2016 12:20 pm Reply
  • Debra

    I have had goats for years and have never been able to freeze the milk with any success it always separates I’ve tried thawing it in the fridge, on the bench in a bucket of cold water dose any one have any ideas I would love to be able to freeze it for the off sesson when my girls are not milking,

    January 26th, 2016 8:01 pm Reply
  • Tanya Caporaletti

    Thanks for the great post. I’ve been wondering about freezing my Raw dairy. Coincidentally, the local farm I buy from in Lancaster, Pa also started selling Water Buffalo milk. Delicious!

    January 26th, 2016 7:03 pm Reply
  • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

    A gal on the blog FB page just posted that she uses an immersion blender to quickly blend in the cream into the milk before freezing. Great tip!

    January 26th, 2016 6:14 pm Reply
  • Lissa Evans

    I have been trying to ask WAP FB page about a claim by Dr Carney (drcarney.com) that Lacto-fermented foods linked to Esophogeal cancer in a meta-data study 2009 – can you please help as we eat our goat’s milk as a keffir soft cheese nearly 5 days each week.

    January 26th, 2016 3:47 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      Given that traditional cultures that consumed lacto-fermented foods did not suffer from esophageal cancer (it is a modern epidemic from chronic acid reflux primarily), I am not too worried about it. But, I will see what I can find out for you.

      January 26th, 2016 6:11 pm Reply
  • Rachel

    Great article! We always buy frozen raw butter (grass-fed of course) in bulk and sometimes it takes us several months to consume all of it so it’s very nice to know that butter keeps up to a year in the freezer!! I do have a question though: I usually buy (frozen) raw cream from pastured Geurnsey cows (A2) from a local farmer here in the Netherlands, how long can I keep it frozen before the product goes “bad”? I tend not to buy this in bulk as I’m afraid it won’t keep as long in the freezer as butter will but the farmer usually only offers cream once a year. I know I could scoop off the top of the milk (which would give me the exact same product), but I use such a large amount of cream in everything (I’m crazy in love with it) that this would require me to buy a humongous amount of milk that the two of us wouldn’t be able to finish it all (even if we would ferment it). Thanks in advance!

    January 26th, 2016 2:02 pm Reply
  • Mary

    I used to freeze some, but it always left a weird film in my mouth after drinking it. What I have found that works well is dividing the jug into different jars (I have old glass milk bottles from organic milk) and fill them up so there isn’t much air space. I keep them in the coldest part of my refrigerator and they will last at least a month.

    January 26th, 2016 1:16 pm Reply
    • Sarah

      I don’t freeze milk either as I am fortunate to get a fresh delivery every week. In the old days though (14 years ago), I had to freeze it as I only got a shipment once a month.

      January 26th, 2016 2:56 pm Reply
  • tom

    Sarah and all Readers,

    instead of asking if it is ok to freeze dairy, the question should be if it is ok to consume cow’s milk?? Sarah, I already know that question will no be seen by the readers, so I guess it is directly for you. And please, do not hide behind Dr. weston price. Just think for yourself.

    Here are the facts:

    1. cow milk is forced in our diet!!!!. farmers, artificially impregnate cows. Just think about it, if humans would not interfere with nature cows would only offer milk to their newly born.

    2. we humans are the only spices on this planet to use another spices milk. there is no more crossing throughout the whole NATURE.

    3. No other animal on this planet except humans consume milk throughout their lives. WHY WE ARE SO SPECIAL

    4. milk is considered a transitional food, when a young one of any spices did not develop yet fully operational digestive system to be able to process solid food. WORKS THAT WAY THROUGHOUT THE NATURE.

    5.if you tell me about calcium , I will ask you where the cow is getting her calcium?of course plants. So why would we humans try to get calcium from milk, if milk is harder to break down for our digestive system than plants. AND PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT EVOLUTION ALWAYS DEVELOPS SURVIVAL SKILLS FOR SPECIFIC SPICES IN MOST EFFICIENT WAY.

    6. now think this, a cow grows into adult size in 1 YEAR and we humans in 12-15 years. Do you think, cows milk has safe level of natural growth hormone for humans. We grow slowly,comparing to cow, and if you compare amount of growth hormone in human breast milk and cow milk, you start understanding issues with very young girls with fully developed breast, number of cancer growing in human body out of any control. Looks like even our immune system can’t withstand massive amount of growth hormone from another spices reaching adult size 15 times faster.

    and 7. good bacteria for our guts can grow in other media then milk , it can be pre-fermented food,veggies, fruits, even tea of sweetened water .
    please let me know what you think, if you can come up with logical explanations for my points, or even better let people read it and discuss it

    Tom

    January 26th, 2016 12:18 pm Reply
  • Stephanie

    I have a gallon of raw milk that has been in my freezer for about a year. I’d like to thaw it and use it. Will it sour more quickly than fresh milk?

    January 26th, 2016 11:52 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Yes, more than likely the thawed milk will sour more quickly. However, this is not necessarily true as I’ve had thawed milk last just as long as fresh before. It might taste freezer burned too having been frozen that long.

      January 26th, 2016 2:52 pm Reply
  • christie

    I like the premise of the article, but found it lacking in information on the actual topic. When you do freeze milk, what do you freeze it in? You said no glass, but didn’t say what or where to find the containers. Also you didn’t discuss thawing. Do you leave it out on counter or place in refrigerator to thaw. Also, how long will this milk last when thawed and taste fresh? Would like to know about freezing cream too and the protocol.

    January 26th, 2016 11:45 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Sorry for the oversight, but I thought that was obvious .. freeze in the container they come in as shown in the picture. Raw milk varies considerably in taste and how long it lasts, so answering your other questions is going to depend on the particularities of the dairy farm you purchased it from.

      January 26th, 2016 2:53 pm Reply
      • monique

        Hi Sarah do you remove some milk before freezing to prevent overflow?

        thank you

        January 26th, 2016 11:17 pm Reply
        • Sarah

          Yes, that is a good idea, but I have froze before with success not doing this.

          January 27th, 2016 8:06 am Reply
  • eliz

    Does freezing yogurt or creme fraiche change the nutritional content?

    I usually make yogurt from our raw milk and it is still fine in the refrigerator after a month, but after that it tastes a little too cheesy.

    Thanks for the timely article! Just last week our milk arrived partially frozen due to unusually cold temperatures, and it’s good to know it’s just as nutritious as usual.

    January 26th, 2016 10:40 am Reply
  • Sarah

    I am so glad you posted this article! I just found several gallons of raw goat milk in the bottom of my freezer from when me girls were producing a lot. I was just wondering what you’re thoughts were and how I could best use it. Thanks so much for this post!!!

    January 26th, 2016 10:37 am Reply
  • Tal

    Thawed cream churns into butter extremely fast. Some people freeze their cream until they have a large quantity before making butter.

    January 26th, 2016 8:34 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Great tip! Thank you for sharing.

      January 26th, 2016 10:11 am Reply
    • Maggie

      I’ve been milking cows and making butter for 16 years and I have never heard about freezing the cream for butter making (although I do freeze my butter). Thank you for the great tip!

      January 26th, 2016 3:32 pm Reply
  • Darcy

    Does freezing whey from raw milk affect the enzymes?

    I really appreciate your blog! I learn so many things that isn’t in the Traditional Nutrition cookbook. Thank you.

    January 26th, 2016 7:43 am Reply
    • Sarah

      If you look above in the article, this is specifically addressed. Enzymes in raw dairy are unaffected by freezing.

      January 26th, 2016 7:53 am Reply
  • Annie

    Thank you for this information.

    This might be a little off topic, but I buy organic grass fed butter and freeze it. Someone just told me, I should not freeze the butter, as it changes it, and not for the better?
    Is this true that you know?

    Another question. I have never made bone broth, but now I’am, and notice in your freezer you have organic bones.
    Can you tell me what part are the bones from, so I know what to buy?

    Thank you,
    Annie

    January 26th, 2016 5:28 am Reply
    • Sarah

      Freezing butter does not affect it … if you look in the article above, this is specifically addressed. Dr. Weston Price froze butter for a year and then analyzed it in a lab and it did not degrade at all.

      January 26th, 2016 7:54 am Reply
    • Sarah

      The bones you see in my freezer in the picture are marrow bones from my local butcher shop. Here’s why marrow is awesome and how I use them (with video how-to): http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/video-boost-the-immune-system-with-bone-marrow/

      January 26th, 2016 7:58 am Reply
    • Mary

      I always freeze mine and never have a problem.

      January 26th, 2016 1:11 pm Reply
  • Taryn

    Thanks for this article Sarah. I always freeze my raw milk to ensure freshness and your tips to shake it beforehand are helpful! Thanks for the excellent blog and for keeping us informed and up to date on all things nutrition.

    January 26th, 2016 3:24 am Reply
  • Louise

    The trick I’ve learned for thawing out very creamy milk (or even table cream or whipping cream) is this: once it’s completely thawed out, and you get those sort of nasty looking little lumps of cream (it looks like curdled milk but it’s just creamy fat), put it into a saucepan on very low heat on the stove. Stir a little and watch it — you want to warm it just up to blood temperature. Then get a whisk or beaters and blend it really well. The warmed lumps will blend back into the liquid and you won’t notice them anymore.

    January 26th, 2016 1:34 am Reply
  • Kevin Spyker

    Great info! We had a question about thawing frozen milk to minimize the separation. I once heard from Mark McAfee that you can heat a saucepan of water to 100 degrees, place the (glass) jar in the water, thaw and shake vigorously… Any other ideas?

    January 25th, 2016 10:45 pm Reply
    • Jennifer

      This doesn’t sound right to me. Even room temperature water cracks our frozen jars.

      February 23rd, 2016 6:58 pm Reply

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