Powdered milk is one of the most versatile, affordable, and nutritious foods you can keep in your pantry. It is to the urban dweller, what the family cow was to pioneers and homesteaders. It may not taste as good as fresh milk, straight from the cow, but it’s much easier to prepare for the day and store for the future.
It used to be that instant nonfat dry milk, such as Carnation® (or store-brand equivalents) was the only type of powdered milk you could buy at the supermarket. It’s still the most common, but nowadays you can also find powdered whole milk and powdered buttermilk quite readily.
Powdered Whole Milk is often found in the Latino section of supermarkets. Nestle’s Nido brand is the most common. Nido means nest in Spanish. You can find it in a plain version and also a vitamin fortified version. They both taste the same. I usually buy the fortified version which has the word fortificada on the label. It’s fortified with a few vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Iron. It tastes pretty good too. If you prefer whole milk, or are storing powdered milk for children, it’s a good choice. If you’re sensitive to the flavor of reconstituted nonfat dry milk, you may find reconstituted whole milk more to your liking.
Once opened, nonfat powdered milk continues to make good-tasting milk for about a year. If it’s kept in a very warm area, such as over the stove, or in a very hot pantry, then it makes fresh-tasting milk for about 6-months. After that, the powder is still fine to use for cooking, but it doesn’t taste quite as good for drinking. I think this is where powdered milk has gotten it’s reputation for tasting bad.
Powdered whole milk tastes best if used up within 6-months after opening the container. The fat in powdered whole milk tends to develop a stale flavor faster than nonfat dry milk. It will still be good to eat after this, but it may not taste as fresh as it could.
Keep these storage times in mind when you choose powdered milk for your pantry. If you use a lot of powdered milk, then buy the largest containers. Instant Nonfat dry milk is easy to find in 4-pound boxes. These make 20-quarts, or 5-gallons of fluid milk. Nido instant whole milk comes in round 3.5-pound tubs (boxes?). They make 13-quarts or about 3-1/3 gallons each. I always buy the largest size containers because they cost the least per serving. Since we drink a lot of powdered milk, we always use it up before it goes stale.
If you don’t especially like powdered milk and only plan to use it for cooking, then smaller containers may be a better choice for you. Some brands of powdered milk are available with pre-measured packets of milk powder. Each packet is sealed and when opened will make a quart of reconstituted milk. This allows the milk powder to stay fresher longer. It also avoids the hassle of measuring the powdered milk yourself, although you do pay quite a bit more for this convenience. Remember you can always buy a large box of powdered milk and then measure enough for a quart into a zipper bag yourself. If you use quart-sized freezer bags, then you can use the bag to measure 1-quart of water too. I have even mixed the milk in the freezer bag when camping, and while fiddly, it does work.
To make powdered milk taste as good as possible, allow it to chill for at least an hour, or overnight, before drinking it. Freshly mixed powdered milk does not taste as good as milk that has been allowed to sit for a while, allowing the full flavor to develop.
If you have a working refrigerator or an ice chest, then store your powdered milk in there. Prepare it the night before, and in the morning you will have good tasting milk. If you do not have a refrigerator then scope out your house for the coolest spot and store your mixed milk there. Our basement stays cool, even on very hot days. When we lose electricity in the summer (which happens more often than you’d expect), we keep our milk there overnight. If you do not have anywhere cool, then after preparing the milk, wrap the pitcher in a wet towel and place it somewhere it can catch a breeze. Allow it to sit for an hour or two, re-wetting the towel as necessary. As the water evaporates it will cool the milk. It won’t get cold, but it will be cooler than room temperature.
To keep the towel moist overnight place the wrapped pitcher or bottle in a shallow pan of water. The water will wick it’s way up the towel and in the morning you will have surprisingly cool milk for breakfast.
If you store your milk outside then keep it up high to keep it safe from animals who would love to steal your milk. Another option is to place it in a box and put a rock on top of the box to keep animals from knocking it over or opening it. Plastic coolers are surprisingly effective at thwarting hungry nocturnal visitors.
If you don’t have a cool place to store your milk, then only make enough to last a day or two at a time. I still prepare it the night before, so it has a chance to blend and chill overnight. About 2 quarts is 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.
If you only used powdered milk for cooking then you can mix it up right before you need it. The flavor won’t be affected much one way or the other.
Instant Nonfat Dry Milk (Such as Carnation® or a Store-Brand)
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|
|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|
Powdered Whole Milk (Such as Nido®) or Powdered Buttermilk (Such as SACO®)
To equal this amount of liquid milk
Use this much
And this much Powdered Whole Milk
|1/4 cup||1/4 cup||1 tablespoon|
|1/3 cup||1/3 cup||4 teaspoons|
|1/2 cup||1/2 cup||2 tablespoons|
|1 cup||1 cup||1/4 cup|
|1 quart||3-3/4 cup||1cup|
|2 quarts||7-2/3 cups||2 cups|
|1 gallon||15-1/2 cups||4 cups|
Tips for Mixing
- 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.
- When possible use cool water for mixing nonfat dry milk and room temperature or slightly warm water for mixing whole milk. The powder tends to dissolve more readily this way.
- 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.
- Try to keep the reconstituted milk cool for the best flavor and longest keeping.
- 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 canning 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. Clean the empty jars with a bottle brush.
This is handy to have on hand for baking and for making your own mixes. It’s fat-free and keeps a long time on the pantry shelf. The brand I use is called SACO. It comes in small tubs and is found in the baking aisle near the large boxes of dry milk. Most people don’t keep fresh buttermilk in the fridge on a regular basis, so having dry buttermilk around is a convenient way to use only as much as you need without any waste. Use the chart for powdered whole milk and buttermilk above for handy reference.
To prepare liquid buttermilk combine the buttermilk powder and warm water in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Screw on the lid tightly and then shake vigorously. Allow to sit for 10-minutes so the protein in the buttermilk has a chance to break down a little bit, and then shake again. Powdered buttermilk does not dissolve as easily as nonfat dry milk or dry whole milk. If you need very smooth buttermilk then let it sit another ten minutes and then shake very vigorously. If you have a ccess to a blender, this is the best way to get it completely smooth.
When baking with dry buttermilk you don’t need to reconstitute it first. You can combine the required amount of dry buttermilk powder with the dry ingredients in your recipe. Then add the necessary amount of water along with the liquid ingredients. This saves the bother of reconstituting the buttermilk and give excellent, reliable results.
One problem with dry buttermilk is that after opening, it tends to harden over time. This is because it absorbs moisture from the air. If your buttermilk powder has hardened into a rock you can powder it again in a food processor, or by hand with a mortar and pestle. To prevent it from happening in the first place, double wrap your tub of buttermilk powder by making certain the tub is well sealed and then placing it in a plastic zipper bag or bread bag. Refrigerating it after it has been double wrapped will also extend it’s shelf life.
Powdered milk tastes much better these days than it used to. If you haven’t given it a try in a while, then it’s worth trying again. As far as cost goes, its a toss-up. Some years powdered milk costs far less than fresh milk, sometimes it costs about the same. Every now and then it can even cost more. Usually it’s cheaper per gallon than fresh milk. Do the math to compare the prices in your area.
Where powdered milk surpasses fresh milk, is in its keeping qualities. Fresh milk will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Powdered milk will keep for a year or longer on your pantry shelf. If you live a feast and famine lifestyle like my family, then powdered milk is one of the best dry goods you can keep around for lean times. Buy extra powdered milk when your income is better, and you will have it around to keep you in good stead when times are hard.
Reconstituted milk, either nonfat or whole, can be used in place of liquid milk in almost any recipe. I have never had it fail me, but there might be some obscure recipe out there where it wouldn’t work. My family uses it for drinking, cooking, baking, hot chocolate, custards, quiches, pretty much everywhere that you could use fresh milk. I cannot name another family staple, besides flour, that is more versatile and more essential to a family pantry.