Every year, dairy animals produce too much milk, and then too little. In May and June, you’ll be flooded with milk, but by January or February you’ll be pining for those days of plenty. Homesteaders have to be creative to avoid a cycle of waste followed by deprivation. On our homestead, we use several methods of milk preservation and culinary planning to balance out these extremes and ensure that we never have to buy milk, even when our animals aren’t producing.
It’s very easy to freeze excess milk. You simply fill quart-sized containers with your extra milk and chuck them into the freezer. Besides saving milk money, this practice can also help your energy bill: Freezers run most efficiently when they’re full, yet by spring and early summer, most will have been largely emptied of the previous year’s stores, leaving some temporary room for frozen milk. As a secondary benefit, this approach can also help buffer unforeseen shortages during the grazing season.
We generally try to use frozen milk within six to seven months. The milk’s texture is usually a bit thinner and runnier than fresh, which may bother some drinkers, but our primary use for thawed milk is to keep a yogurt culture going throughout winter because we easily eat half a gallon of yogurt a week. We can also make simple cheeses, such as whole-milk ricotta and mozzarella, with thawed milk. We’ve had less success using it to make aged cheeses.