Our family drinks a lot of milk. We have one son still living at home, and he and I go through 2 gallons of milk a week. When we had both boys at home, it was about double that.
Milk is far and away the biggest "hole" in our home preps. Plain and simple, powdered (any kind of dehydrated) milk sucks. Big time. It's palatable when mixed with something else, like pudding or worked into other recipes, but on its own, it's pretty horrible stuff.
On top of tasting lousy, powdered milk doesn't have a significant shelf life. 6 months to a year, depending on when you buy the stuff after delivery to the store.
I wanted better tasting stuff, so I decided to give evaporated milk a try.
Now, don't confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk. Condensed milk is typically sweetened - heavily - and is used almost exclusively in baking and various deserts.
Evaporated milk, on the other hand, has been cooked down to 40% of it's former volume (60% of the water has been removed). It comes in 5 oz and 12 oz cans. In theory, by simply adding that 60% of water back in, you should have regular milk again.
I searched around on the Internet, and found a couple of suggestions. The first was to add back an equal amount of water (50/50), and the other was to add back the full 60% of missing water (40/60).
To judge the drinkability, I decided to do both, and compare them to our regular milk, which is of the 2% butterfat variety.
Opening the can, the first thing you notice is that the milk has a yellow/slight caramel color. This is due to the cooking/evaporation process. When poured into a can, it was noticeably thicker, as expected.
I took two, 12 oz cans. For the first, I added a can-full of water. For the second, I added a can and a half. Both batches went into the fridge for a couple of hours to get chilled.
Out they came, and the taste test was on -
From left to right, they're 2% regular milk, 50/50 evaporated, and 40/60 evaporated.
I tasted the regular first to set a baseline. I then tasted the 50/50. It was noticeably creamier on the tongue, but the flavor was very good. It didn't taste like canned, processed milk. It's color was quite a bit yellower than the regular milk.
The 40/60 milk was next. Honestly, I could not tell the difference between it and the regular milk. I was blown away. The color was slightly more yellow than the regular milk, but if you hadn't been told it came from a can, you'd have never known.
I had my son do the same test, and he had the same impression as I did about the 50/50 milk, and said he could taste "something" vaguely different with the 40/60. Personally, I think it was more that he knew it was from a can than it was about the real taste.
The cans I bought had over a 12 month "best by" date. They were 12 oz and cost 75 cents each. When made with the 40/60 dilution, that resulted in 30 fluid ounces of milk, or approximately $3 per gallon. That's only slightly more than what I'm paying for fresh milk right now!
Accept The Challenge
If you want something that tastes more like fresh milk for your preps, give evaporated milk a try. Be sure you check the "best by" dates on your cans, though.
The cans I bought were Carnation brand. The PET and house brands only had a 6 month shelf life remaining.
Storage will also be an issue. Much more weigh and bulk when compared to powdered milk. It's feasible for home storage, but probably not a great idea for bug-out-bags or similar storage that is expected to be mobile.
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