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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