Have a cow.
Not in the style of Homer Simpson, but more like Old McDonald.
Whenever I think about stockpiling an emergency store of dairy, like cheese, yogurt, and milk (which, um, my kids LIVE on!), I look at all the powdered milk options and figure the very best way to have milk on hand if you’re cut off from the standard food supply is to have your own cow.
Since I suppose that’s not really an option for everyone – and not a baby step! – let’s explore some alternatives as we continue our real food attempts at preparedness.
- Keep powdered nonfat dry milk on hand
- Learn to make things from scratch
Number two is why I love this guy and have learned so much from his book, which really does teach the basic skills of homemaking, including bread making (sourdough), dehydrating, cheesemaking, and preserving the harvest.
Number one, of course, is where we don’t see eye to eye. In spite of the fact that I’m still not sure if powdered milk is the evil it’s been made out to be in the case of oxidized cholesterol, I still don’t feel like it’s a real food. And I’m wary of the whole oxidized cholesterol thing, enough so that I would never be able to regularly use a big stock of powdered milk.
That’s the key, after all – I could stomach buying a few boxes of powdered milk solely for an emergency, but what do I do after a year when they expire? I just wouldn’t eat what I store, so I need to figure out how to store what I eat.
Can You Store Yogurt Long-Term?
The only solution for dairy/protein that I can think of in my situation for long-term storage is to dehydrate yogurt, preferably blended with fruit, into a flat roll that could be stored and eaten like a fruit roll-up.
I’ve tried dehydrating yogurt once, and it works fine. I’m not sure of the shelf life of the stuff, but we would definitely eat it as snacks. The problem would be keeping enough on hand to actually have some left if an emergency arose! UPDATE 2012: Here’s my tutorial on how to dehydrate yogurt.
The other yogurt option is a cold root cellar, from what I understand, but I’m really not sure how long fresh yogurt would last (a month?) and it would mean a lot of rotating. And building a root cellar. Not a baby step for me!
I guess I’m just going to pray that if any emergency lasts more than a week, I can still get to my raw milk farm and get milk. That’s one advantage of having a real, local source for your milk that I hadn’t thought about before! As long as I can drive 20 minutes, I can have milk, and as long as I know the skill of making homemade yogurt, I can have yogurt!
A big part of preparedness for many is learning those basic skills. For cultured dairy and cheesemaking, look no further than the GNOWFGLINS eCourses. I’ve learned so much from Wardeh, who does have a cow (and a goat), and my own homemade yogurt tutorial is a proud guest lecture in the course. It’s ong0ing, with new material every week. See more info HERE.
UPDATE: A reader pointed out that yogurt can be made from canned coconut milk – good point! I didn’t really like it when I tried it, but I didn’t use very good coconut milk. I should try again with the creamier stuff.
Is Powdered Cheese the Only Way to Go?
While one could certainly freeze fresh cheese for a time, if you lose your electricity, that option is out. The shelf-stable cheese generally comes in powdered form, which just doesn’t fit with the “real food” philosophy.
Here’s one example that was less processed with weird stuff than I expected. The “extras” sound like mostly preservatives, but still not as good as “real” cheese:
What do we think about this cheese?
Cheddar Cheese (Pasteurised Milk, Salt, Culture, Enzyme), Water, Sodium Citrate, Butter (Cream), Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Nisin (Preservative).
But there’s a better way. Not something I would do unless and until I get to the point where I’m seriously doing the “prepping” thing, but it’s pretty cool to know that one can wax cheese and store it for year. I love the title of this post: Cheese Wax Will Save Us All. The bonus lesson for the GNOWFGLINS dairy course that just came through email is how to wax cheese! UPDATE: The author of “Cheese Wax Will Save Us All” added an update with a response to negative comments on cheese wax here.
UPDATE: Yep, you can dehydrate your own cheese. Here are a few sources:
- How to Dehydrate Cheese with photos from the author of How to Cook Like your Grandmother. He uses the cheese in a bread recipe, still dehydrated. I wonder if it would go okay in a long-cooked casserole?
- Very interesting “prepper” conversation with pros and cons of dehydrating cheese. Sound like it’s tough to actually use.
- From eHow, but doesn’t really discuss in detail how to USE it. Be sure to see the comment for a cold-dehydration method.
What did I miss? Are there any other ways to store dairy products long-term?
Extra Note: Stocking Up on Fats
Good Deal: A perfect resource for buying inexpensively AND preserving the harvest is Real Food on a Real Budget – right now 50% off with the code SPRINGSALE. What a deal!