One of the great things about having Nigerian Dwarf goats is the wonderful tasting milk they produce, and one of the advantages of the breed is that they can be bred year around (unlike standard breeds) so that kidding can be staggered to keep the milk supply constant.
However, it’s more convenient for us to have them all kid in spring, and that means that there’s no fresh milk for at least two months just before kidding. Actually, I hate milking in cold weather anyway, so it’s more like four months without fresh milk (December – March) for us.
So, we freeze excess milk as the year goes along, and drink it all winter after the does are dried off. We found that the milk maintains its’ excellent flavor after thawing, although it does have a tendency to separate a bit. To combat any separation, we simply mix it in the blender a minute or two after thawing and prior to storing in the refrigerator.
It’s not a good idea to mix Nigerian milk too long though, one morning we mixed a little too long and had whipped cream for cereal rather than milk (still very good!).
Any milk can be frozen for long-term storage – it doesn’t have to be goat milk and it doesn’t need to be fresh from the animal like ours – that just happens to be what we have. If the grocery store is running a great deal on milk and that’s where you normally get yours, then stock up and freeze some to save money. You can use goat or cow, pasteurized or unpasteurized, fat-free, low-fat, or whole milk.
When freezing milk for long-term storage, it’s best to freeze it as soon as possible after milking and cooling, or after bringing home from the store. This ensures the best flavor and longest shelf life after thawing. If you wait until it’s close to going bad before freezing, then the shelf life after thawing will be very short. The fresher the milk is when you freeze it, the higher quality it will be after thawing.
Warm or Cold?
If freezing farm fresh milk you should start with milk that’s already been cooled quickly to refrigerator temperature. Starting with warm milk may result in a cooling rate that’s too slow for the best quality milk and may also greatly increase separation. So, cool the milk as rapidly as possible before freezing.
We found that it’s better to freeze milk in smaller containers, they freeze faster which helps maintain milk quality, and also thaw faster in the refrigerator. We’ve used both quart glass canning jars and rectangular plastic freezer containers and found both work well. Just remember to leave enough head space in the container to allow for expansion (milk expands approximately 10% on freezing) or you may end up with broken containers if using glass.
I’ve heard of using Ziploc bags for freezing milk, but have never tried it, the plastic freezer containers seem the most convenient for us – they stack well, are easy to clean in the dishwasher, and prevent odors. Milk will readily absorb odors, so it’s best to use as airtight a container as possible. Glass canning jars are more airtight, but are not as convenient or cost efficient of a choice for us. Plastic milk jugs are another possibility but we’ve avoided using them as they are difficult to get really clean and are not airtight.
I don’t know why we never considered freezing milk before getting Nigerian Dwarf goats, not only is it a good way to store excess milk but it’s also a good way to take advantage of sales at the store. Anyway, we’re now happily freezing milk as we go, knowing that we’ll have great tasting milk for the winter months after the girls stop producing.