With the price of milk soaring through the roof lots of folks are reconsidering powdered milk for it’s economy. The dairy price hike hasn’t affected dry milk much yet, making it the best dairy bargain currently available. Through an informal investigation I’ve discovered that fresh milk costs between $3.50 and $4.50 a gallon in most places. Dairy towns still have it available for between $2 and $3 a gallon, but the rest of us are paying considerably more. Fresh milk is a delicious, versatile staple when it can be purchased inexpensively. Until the price drops off to a more moderate cost however, my family will be making do with powdered milk.
Instant nonfat powdered milk is to the urban dweller what the family cow is to the homesteader. True, powdered milk doesn’t taste as good as fresh milk from the cow, but it is a darned site more convenient to procure, and much easier to store. Additionally, it is a readily available source of protein and vitamin D. It’s also high in calcium which is good to know if you are pregnant, nursing or have osteoporosis in your family history. Since powdered milk has no fat, it’s low in calories (about 80 per cup of liquid milk) and completely cholesterol free.
Powdered Milk is available in two common forms: Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder and Regular Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder. Regular dry milk is sometimes referred to as “Non-Instant”. It doesn’t dissolve as readily as instant milk powder and is a bit more troublesome to locate. Dry whole milk powder is available too. It doesn’t last as long as non-fat dry milk because the fat in it can go rancid over time. When it is fresh however, it has a very pleasing flavor. Dry whole milk can be difficult to find. I buy it in small tins in the ethnic section of a large grocery store. It costs a little more than instant non-fat dry milk, but it’s good to have on hand, for young children especially. All of the recipes and ideas that follow are made using Instant Nonfat Dry Milk. It is the cheapest and generally the easiest to find. Read the box label to be sure this is the kind you are buying.
Once reconstituted, powdered milk tastes a lot better than it used to. If you haven’t tried it in the past few years, it’s worth another taste. When mixed correctly and chilled overnight, it has a pleasant, sweet flavor that tastes especially good with homemade cookies. Reconstituted milk doesn’t taste the same as fresh whole milk. If you are already used to skim milk though, you won’t notice much difference in the flavor of reconstituted milk. In cooking, powdered milk performs flawlessly. It can be substituted for fresh milk in almost any recipe with excellent results. Many budget conscious women cook with powdered milk exclusively. This is smart use of resources because the results are so good.
Drinking powdered milk is another kettle of fish. Some folks find the flavor objectionable even after chilling it because they are accustomed to fresh whole milk. You cannot fool anyone into thinking that reconstituted dry milk is the same as fresh milk when used as a beverage. There are things you can do to make powdered milk taste better. Mixing it with fresh whole milk for body and flavor is a good alternative.
To get good tasting powdered milk make sure you start with fresh dry milk. If your box of dry milk is a year old, then buy a new one and use the old one for cooking exclusively. Mix up the milk following the package directions. If your box doesn’t have directions then you can use the ones below.
Large 4-pound boxes of powdered milk are available in most markets. A box this size will make 20 quarts or 5 gallons of liquid milk. At an average cost of $8 to $9 per box, this is the equivalent of less than $2 per gallon, making it fully half the price of fresh milk at this time.
Reconstituting Powdered Milk
To equal this amount of liquid milk
Use this much
And this much Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder
|1/4 cup||1/4 cup||1-1/2 tablespoons|
|1/3 cup||1/3 cup||2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon|
|1/2 cup||1/2 cup||3 tablespoons|
|1 cup||1 cup||1/3 cup|
|1 quart||3-3/4 cup||1-1/3 cups|
|2 quarts||7-2/3 cups||2 -2/3 cups|
|1 gallon||15-1/2 cups||5-1/3 cups|
The table above will help you work out the amount of powdered milk you will need to prepare a specific measurement of liquid milk. Here are some tips to help the milk turn out as fresh tasting as possible:
- Fill your pitcher or container with half the amount of water you will be using. Measure in the appropriate amount of dry milk powder. Stir to dissolve. Fill the pitcher with the balance of the water called for above. Stir again and chill.
- Use cool water when possible. The powder tends to dissolve more readily in cool water.
- Stir the milk a lot, to dissolve the milk powder. Then let the milk sit for a little while and stir again. The protein in the milk powder blends most easily if it gets a chance to stand after mixing.
- Powdered milk may be used immediately after mixing if desired. For the best flavor chill the milk for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Store the milk in a refrigerator if you have one. If you don’t, then wrap the milk in a wet towel. As the water evaporates, the milk will cool. If you have a root cellar or basement, you may want to keep the milk there, or even outside in the fall and winter.
- If you store the milk outside be sure that it is protected from critters who may be thirsty. A box with a large rock on top is sufficient to keep out most animals.
- If you do not have refrigeration, then only prepare enough milk to last the day. I prepare it the night before, so it has a chance to blend and chill overnight. About 2 quarts will be enough to last a family of 4 for most of the day. If you continually find you have some left over, then prepare less the next day. If you find yourself running out, then prepare more.
- Some people add a drop or two of vanilla to their milk to improve the flavor. Other people add a spoonful or two of sugar for the same purpose. I don’t use either of these ideas, because we are accustomed to reconstituted milk, and prefer it plain.
- Pitchers and wide-mouthed jars are the easiest to use for mixing and storing reconstituted milk. I used to try to use apple juice jars, but they are difficult to keep clean and awkward to pour the milk powder into. If you must use a narrow mouthed jar to mix your milk, then use a funnel. A chop stick or spoon handle is handy for poking down though the funnel tip when things get clogged up.
Products to Make with Powdered Milk
Sweet Vanilla Milk: Run a little hot water into a 2-quart pitcher. Add 1/4-cup each powdered coffee creamer and sugar. Stir well to dissolve. Add 1/2-teaspoon vanilla. Fill the pitcher half full with cold tap water. Add 2-2/3 cups of instant nonfat dry milk powder. Stir well. Fill the pitcher the rest of the way full. Stir again. Chill and serve. This milk is more palatable to some folks than straight reconstituted milk. The powdered coffee creamer gives the milk a rich fullness, while the sugar and vanilla make it taste sweet and almost dessert-like. If you must switch to powdered milk, and are having trouble with the flavor, this recipe can make the transition easier. For a gallon of milk use: 1/2-cup each powdered coffee cream & sugar and 1-teaspoon of vanilla flavoring. Add a dash of salt too if desired. Be sure to dissolve the creamer and sugar in hot tap water first. They do not dissolve readily in cold water.
A Very Rich Gallon of Milk: Measure 3-1/2 quarts (14 cups) of water into a gallon size pitcher. Add 5-cups of dry milk powder and a 12-ounce can of undiluted evaporated whole milk. Mix all together. Chill and serve. This makes about a gallon. It is richer than plain reconstituted milk. If you must use powdered milk, but prefer a richer product, this is the recipe for you. Children will sometimes tolerate it better than straight reconstituted milk, especially if they are already used to fresh 1% or 2%.
To Mix with Whole Milk: Powdered milk is easily mixed half-and-half with whole milk. When combined and well chilled, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between fresh milk and mixed milk. To do this, use an extra, clean milk jug and two 2-quart sized pitchers. First reconstitute 2 quarts of milk in each of the pitchers, using the chart above. Then, using a funnel, pour half of the whole milk into the clean empty milk jug. Using the same funnel, pour the reconstituted milk from one pitcher into each jug, making a gallon of mixed milk in each jug. Both empty pitchers then have to be washed, but they are pretty easy to keep clean. I used to try to reconstitute the powdered milk in the milk jug, with the whole milk, but it never worked as well as I’d hoped. Now I find it much easier to reconstitute the powdered milk in the pitcher first, and then pour the liquid milk into the jug with the whole milk. Like regular powdered milk, mixed milk tastes best if well chilled.
Sour Milk: To sour reconstituted milk, just add a little vinegar to it and stir it up. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1-cup of sour milk or buttermilk, then measure a tablespoon of vinegar into a measuring cup. Add reconstituted milk to reach the 1-cup mark. Stir the milk gently. In a moment or two, it will sour. This can replace soured milk or buttermilk in baking recipes.
Overnight Buttermilk: To make your own buttermilk, you have to start off with 1/2-cup of fresh, store-bought buttermilk and a quart (4-cups) of reconstituted milk. Combine the fresh buttermilk and reconstituted milk in a pitcher or jar. Mix it really well. Allow it to stand at room temperature overnight, or for about 8 hours. The milk will have thickened up and cultured into regular buttermilk. Refrigerate or chill and use anywhere fresh buttermilk is called for.
Easy Evaporated Milk: To make this you only need dry milk powder and water. Measure 1-1/3 cups water into a jar or bowl. Add 1 cup of instant dry milk powder. Stir or shake to combine. This is the equivalent of a 12-ounce can of evaporated skim milk. To make evaporated whole milk, you will need to add some fat to replace the milk fat in whole milk. Do this by preparing evaporated skim milk and then adding 2-tablespoons of vegetable oil to the milk. Stir it up vigorously to emulsify the fat with the milk. It will separate on standing, so mix it really well right before using it. This is best used in cooking and baking. A spritz of nonstick spray will help the emulsification process.
Sweetened Condensed Milk: On the stove, bring to a boil 1/2-cup of water, 1-cup of sugar and 3-tablespoons of margarine or shortening. Add a dash of salt. Stir the mixture every now and then. When it comes to a full rolling boil, remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool slightly. Add a cup of instant dry milk powder. Use a whisk to stir it smooth. A fork or a spoon will not work out all the lumps. You really need a whisk, or egg beaters. There, you are done. This is the equivalent of a can of sweetened condensed milk. This will keep unrefrigerated for a day or two because of the sugar. I have never kept it longer than that without refrigeration. In the fridge it will keep for 2 weeks. For longer storage than that, I freeze it.
Quick Whipped Topping: This recipe is best made if you have electricity. Put 1/2-cup of water into a large bowl and place it in your freezer. Whenice crystals form around the edges remove it from the freezer. Add 1/2-cup instant dry milk powder. Whip the mixture with electric beaters until it is light and fluffy. This will take a couple of minutes. Add 2-tablespoons sugar, 1-teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2-teaspoon of vanilla. Beat until thick enough to spoon like whipped topping. Use immediately.
Molasses Milk: High in iron, with a caramel-toffee flavor this hot beverage is quite delicious. Heat 3/4-cup of reconstituted milk in a cup in the microwave. Stir in a spoonful of molasses. Serve hot. My kids love this stuff.
Chocolate Milk: Fill a cup with reconstituted milk. Squeeze in a couple spoonfuls of homemade Chocolate Syrup. Stir to combine. Serve to thirsty children who object to plain reconstituted powdered milk. Cold chocolate milk can be heated in the microwave for hot chocolate. This is also great in lunch boxes. If you want to be really nice to the kids then make up a whole gallon of reconstituted chocolate milk at a time. They will brag to their friends and your reputation will become legendary.
Homemade Yogurt: Reconstitute a quart of milk in a very clean container like a wide mouthed canning jar. Add another 1/2-cup of milk powder for body. Whisk in 1/4-cup of commercial yogurt with active cultures. Read the label to be sure the yogurt has active cultures. Stash the milk in a warm spot, between 80° and 110°. Allow it to sit undisturbed for 6 to 8 hours. It should be thick and creamy, like commercially available yogurt. Chill your yogurt and use anywhere you would regular yogurt. It makes a great substitute for sour cream. Or mix it half and half with prepared mayonnaise for your own homemade low-fat mayo.
Yogurt Cheese: Line a colander with a clean, damp piece of cloth. Pour prepared yogurt into the cloth. Allow the yogurt to drain overnight. In the morning the remaining solids will be yogurt cheese. They can be used anywhere you would use cream cheese or thick sour cream.
Curds & Whey: In a large pot combine 6-cups of fresh water and 3-cups of dry milk powder. Stir to dissolve. Heat the milk over a medium flame until it is very warm, about 120°. This is hot to the touch, but not scalding. Stir in 1/2-cup of plain white vinegar. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. There should be a large mass of curds in an amber pool of whey. If the liquid is still milky, add another 1/4-cup of vinegar. Stir and stand again for 10 minutes. Line a strainer with a clean cloth and drain off the whey. It can be used as the liquid in bread or muffins or biscuits. Rinse the curds under cool water and store in the fridge. This recipe makes about 1-1/2 to 2-cups of curds.
Ricotta or Cottage Cheese: The dry cheese curds from the above recipe will work for ricotta cheese in most recipes. To turn it into cottage cheese add a little evaporated milk or yogurt to “cream” it and stir to combine. You can divide the mixture in half and make some of each if you want to give them both a try.