The Dangers of Canning Milk at Home

milk in a pail and milk in a pitcher next to milk in a bottle
Canning milk is not recommended by the USDA or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. No official guidelines exist for home canning milk or dairy products. The high temperature needed to make low-acid products safe can curdle or burn the milk.

Is Canning Milk Safe?

Home-canning milk is not a safe practice. Per the National Center for Home Food Preservation and Clemson University, no science-based methods exist for safely canning milk, butter, or cheese.

Milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt on a table
Dairy products

Is it Safe to Pressure Can Milk?

Milk cannot be safely canned in a pressure canner or pressure cooker. Milk is a complex substance with varying pH levels, which means it is difficult to pinpoint a processing time that would eliminate all harmful bacteria. For example, the pH of cow’s milk differs from that of goat’s milk, and the freshness of the milk also affects pH values.

Additionally, pressure canners reach a temperature between 240°F – 250°F, which can easily cause milk to scorch or curdle, leading to an undesirable taste and texture.

Can Milk Be Canned in a Boiling Water Canner?

Milk and other dairy products are low-acid foods that cannot be acidified and processed in a hot water bath canner. The temperature of a water bath canner is not high enough to inhibit the germination of Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism.

Water bath canning is only recommended for high-acid foods, as the acidity helps to prevent bacterial growth.

How Do You Can Milk at Home?

Pressure canning milk at home is not advised or recommended. However, some canners have posted pressure-canning recipes for milk using the following method:

  1. Pasteurize milk and filter it to remove impurities or debris.
  2. Sterilize canning jars in boiling water and keep them in hot water until they are ready to be filled.
  3. Pour the filtered milk into sterilized canning jars, leaving sufficient headspace to allow for expansion during the canning process.
  4. Seal the hot jars with new canning lids and apply screw bands, tightening until fingertip tight.
  5. Prepare the pressure canner by adding the appropriate amount of water for your pressure canning model (usually between 2-4 inches).
  6. Place the sealed jars into the prepared pressure canner and set them on a canning rack inside, spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
  7. Close the canner’s lid and let the pressure canner vent steam for 10 minutes.
  8. Raise the pressure in the pressure canner to 14 lbs for dial-gauge canners or 15 lbs of pressure for weighted-gauge canners per elevation, and process the jars for 20-100 minutes. There are no official pressure or timing guidelines for canning milk.
  9. After the canning process is complete, allow the pressure canner to cool and the pressure gauge to drop to zero before opening the lid.
  10. Transfer the jars of milk using a jar lifter or canning tongs to a towel-covered countertop to cool at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  11. Remove the screw bands from the jars and test the jar seals. Properly sealed jars have lids that do not flex up and down.
  12. Label the sealed jars with the date and contents, and store them in a cool, dry place.
Milk in an open canning jar
Milk in a canning jar

What is the Best Temperature to Can Milk?

While there are no official temperature guidelines for canning milk, low-acid foods must be canned at a temperature between 240 to 250°F. This temperature is necessary to destroy harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk.

What is the Best Way to Preserve Milk?

Freezing milk is the best way to preserve it, and this method is recommended by the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Avoid freezing raw milk and use only pasteurized, homogenized milk for freezing.

Follow this step-by-step guide to safely freeze milk:

  1. Use wide-mouth, moisture-vapor-resistant freezing containers.
  2. When pouring milk into the containers, allow 1/2-inch of headspace for wide-mouth pints and 1-inch headspace for narrow-mouth pints to allow for the milk to expand.
  3. Label the container with the date to track shelf life.
  4. Place the container in the coldest area of your freezer, ideally at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below.
  5. Once thawed, shake or stir the milk. Fats and solids may separate during freezing but can be recombined before use.
  6. Milk may also be frozen into cubes in an ice tray before being transferred to freezer bags.
Frozen milk ice cubes in ice cube tray
Frozen milk ice cubes

Alternative Methods of Preserving Milk

There are several ways to preserve milk instead of freezing it:

  1. Skim milk can be dehydrated and turned into powdered milk. This recipe for powdered milk can be made in an Excalibur food dehydrator.
  2. Adding an acidic agent like vinegar or lemon juice changes milk into a cultured dairy product like yogurt, kefir, or cheese. These acidified whole milk dairy products have a longer shelf life than fresh milk.
  3. Per the FDA, milk should be bought as fresh as possible and stored below 40°F (4°C) in the refrigerator. This will slow down bacterial growth and extend its shelf life.
  4. Ultra High Temperature (UHT) treatment heats milk to a high temperature for a brief time to kill bacteria. This extends the shelf life of milk for several months, but the taste and texture may be affected.
Pitcher of milk next to a bowl of powdered milk
Powdered skim milk

How to Store Milk

Cartons of store-bought milk and heavy cream should be stored in a refrigerator or turned into products that last longer, such as yogurt or cheese.

Canned milk from the grocery store and home-canned milk should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture.

What is the Shelf Life of Canned Milk?

Canned milk has a shelf life of two to five years, while evaporated milk and condensed milk have a shelf life of one year. The shelf life of commercially packaged shelf-stable canned milk depends on the processing and storage conditions. If in doubt, refer to the “best by” date, and throw out any milk past its expiration or showing signs of spoilage.


Adam was fascinated from an early age by his father's car and his mum's kitchen. His love of home food preparation stems from her. From baking to roasting and freezing to canning, he has always followed the lessons she taught him all those years ago.

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