Emergency Milk


This may be of interest not only to milk drinkers, such as myself, but also to those who seldom drink milk and need an occasional supply. Fresh milk always contains bacteria that multiply at a temperature-dependent rate, so it has a finite life depending on the storage temperature. For a reasonably extended life, this temperature should be below 3°C (37°F), and even then the life in the refrigerator will be no longer than a week. Ultrapasteurized milk and cream will last longer unopened and refrigerated, but once opened is no different than ordinary milk, since it is inoculated at once. In England UHT (ultra-high temperature pasteurized) milk is available, and will keep for a long time without refrigeration. For some reason, this convenience is not available in the U.S..

Two alternatives to fresh milk with longer storage lives are powdered fat-free milk and evaporated milk (not the sweetened condensed milk, which is for different purposes). I recently compared them for convenience and potability, and this is my report.

A 12-oz can of evaporated milk brought up to a quart with added water makes a very acceptable milk, with 24 g of fat per quart (about 2.5% butterfat). There is a slight caramel flavor that is not unpleasant. Powdered milk mixed as directed (1-1/3 cup of powder to 1 quart mixture) also makes a satisfactory beverage, with no fat at all. It too has a slight distinctive caramel flavor that is not unpleasant, especially when the milk has been well-chilled. Evaporated milk is an excellent additive to coffee, where any off-flavor is not noticeable. The distinctive flavor will also disappear in cocoa, milkshakes and similar drinks. Evaporated milk is my current preference for emergency milk.

Evaporated milk and milk powder cannot be stored indefinitely. There is usually an expiration date on the container that is very conservative. At any rate, a year of storage at room temperature is not out of the question. It is easy to keep a supply, renewing it yearly and consuming the outdated supply at that time if it is not already exhausted.


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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 10 November 2003
Last revised 21 March 2004