What about the milk and eggs? If you have a food stockpile, then at some point you probably asked yourself this question. Most people purchase milk and eggs every week, and the only place you can keep them is in the refrigerator. So how are you supposed to stock up on these things when they go bad so quickly? And how are you supposed to store them if there’s no power for the refrigerator? In this article, we’re going to explore a few options for storing dairy.
Milk is one of the most common foods for grocery stores to run out of right before a storm, and it’s also one of the most perishable foods on the market. Stocking up on milk in winter is easy enough. If you live in the north and it’s wintertime, you can shove it in a snowbank to freeze it and then use it as the ice block in your cooler. The rest of the year, however, preserving milk and eggs is a bit more challenging.
Dairy – Keeping it Chilled
Historically speaking, milk and cream were kept fresh either in a spring house or an ice-house. If you have a flowing cold water stream nearby, you can use the natural coolness of that water to temporarily refrigerate milk and other perishables. A spring house is built with a channel through which water from the stream is diverted. The milk, in jugs or other containers, is set in the flowing water to keep it cool and sweet.
The alternative to a spring house was a stone dairy. The stone walls kept the inner room cool so that fresh milk could be brought down to a cooler temperature before being processed into cultured cheese or butter.
The most ancient method of dairy preservation was not to prevent bacterial growth, but to encourage the right kind of bacterial growth. Traditional Yogurt, kefir, cultured cheese, and cultured butters did not need refrigeration to remain good because they were preserved by bacterial fermentation. Of the traditional cultured dairies, kefir (pronounced Kaw-feer) is possibly the easiest and most efficient to make. One of the reasons is because kefir contains all the bacteria needed to make other types of cultured dairy. That means kefir is a good cultured dairy product to know how to make, and to keep on hand.
While you can’t make powdered milk at home, you can dehydrate cheese. Dehydrated cheese is light and easily transportable. It works well in trail mix, too, and has a wealth of minerals.
To dehydrate cheese, simply cut the fresh cheese into roughly half inch cubes, or slightly smaller. Spread them out on a dehydrator tray, and dry them at a medium heat. The heat may caramelize some of the milk sugars, so don’t be surprised if your dehydrated cheese has a slight brown tone after it is dry. The dry cheese will be sweeter than the fresh version, and a little squeaky.
It’s possible to can milk and cream at home. Milk should always be pressure canned due to its perishability and low acid content. Use non-chipped and sterilized jars with fresh canning lids. Make sure to can at the correct pressure for your elevation.
Canning milk will cause the milk to thicken, and heat will cause the milk sugars to caramelize. This makes home-canned milk similar to sweetened condensed milk. As a result, you may need to dilute your canned milk with water before drinking, or stick to using it in baking.
Eggs, Eggs, and More Eggs
While you may think of eggs as a very perishable product, fresh eggs can be safely stored for up to a month before they begin to go bad. If you have a cold storage room or root cellar, simply pack the eggs in a box with sawdust and keep it there. The sawdust will protect and insulate the eggs, and they will remain fresh for cooking, or even hatching, for up to a month. Storage for hatching eggs should be for only two weeks for the best hatching results. Hatching eggs should also be rotated during storage to keep the yoke near the center of the egg.
When using stored eggs, there’s a simple way to check for bad ones. Fill a bowl (or sink) with a few inches of water and gently set an egg in the water. If the egg sinks in its entirety, or so that one end is only slightly off the bottom, the egg is not rotten. If the egg floats, it is very rotten and should be carefully and quickly removed from the house.
Note: The float test does not detect partially incubated eggs. For this reason, all eggs should be cracked into a separate bowl before being added to whatever you are cooking.
Eggs can be dehydrated successfully at home. Your dehydrator tray should have some type of cover. Cling wrap works if your dehydrator does not have a liquids tray. Keep the dehydrator at a medium heat.
Simply crack and scramble the eggs, and pour a reasonable amount (a quarter to an eighth of an inch thick layer) onto the dehydrator tray. Then dry until the egg crumbles easily.
You can also separate the eggs and just dry the whites or yokes. Once the eggs are dry, flake them off the tray or cling wrap and grind them down to a powder. A small spice mill works well. Store in glass jars until ready to use, and reconstitute with water or milk before using them in cooking or baking. Use a tablespoon of dried eggs and a tablespoon of water to equal one large egg.
Similar to canned dairy, pickled eggs use vinegar and canning to preserve the egg bounty for later consumption. There are many recipes for pickled eggs floating around, though they do seem to be a little bit of an acquired taste.
Pickled eggs work well in salads, and for direct eating. Unfortunately, due to the vinegar and solid state of pickled eggs they will not work in baking.
One final option is to simply purchase powdered dairy. It doesn’t taste as good as regular dairy, but it’s better than nothing. Especially if dairy is a crucial ingredient in some other recipe. Hoosier Hill Farm makes powdered butter, powdered cheese, powdered eggs, and powdered milk, among other things.
Hopefully by now you realize there’s no need to give up on dairy during a power outage or long-term disaster. As long as you’re prepared and know what you’re doing, you can continue eating buttered toast with eggs, melted cheese, and a glass of milk every morning.