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I'm in the process of setting up my overland vehicle so that it has "essentials" in it at all times. I've got a kettle and ways to boil the kettle etc.

I am interested in having the basics in my vehicle such as water, tea, coffee as well as military-style dehydrated food.

I was wondering if there is an option for keeping milk on a long term basis? I understand that I would need to keep it cool but even then surely it would only have a short shelf life. What other options are there in regards to milk?

I know that the obvious option would be to just buy milk when I need it but I want to be able to stop somewhere and have a cup of tea or coffee and not have to think about supplies.

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    Might not be an answer you are expecting, but "cheese" is the historical answer. – whatsisname Aug 29 at 20:28
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    @whatsisname cheese in coffee/tea sounds gross – Reinstate Monica Aug 29 at 20:41
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    Is en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultra-high-temperature_processing with 6 to 9 months unredrigerated shelf life an option? – Jasper Aug 29 at 20:43
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    @CharlieBrumbaugh: perhaps the OP has a bad definition of "essentials" – whatsisname Aug 29 at 20:56
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    Another historical answer: keeping it inside the animal until it is required. – Roger Aug 30 at 17:15
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One solution to your problem is UHT (ultra-high-temperature) milk. UHT milk has been treated at a high temperature to kill all bacteria, making it shelf-stable for at least 6 months. Once opened, however, UHT milk needs to be refrigerated just like normal milk.

If you're used to the taste of pasteurized/homogenized milk, UHT milk tastes a little different -- the heat treatment leaves it with a slightly sweet, almost caramel-like flavor. If you're mixing the milk with something else, like coffee or cereal, though, you're unlikely to notice the difference.

UHT milk is readily available at supermarkets in much of Europe -- one common brand is Parmalat -- but is less common in the US. One brand which might fit your needs nicely is Horizon Organic, which is distributed in 8 oz "juice boxes".

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    We have something similar (if not the same) in USA, but I don’t detect any difference in taste. It allegedly “keeps” unrefrigerated as long as never opened. – WGroleau Aug 30 at 14:38
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    I don't think I ever noticed the difference in taste in UHT from the UK. UHT is totally commonplace there, nothing special about it. We always kept some at home just for convenience when we ran out of fresh milk. I never understood why it hasn't caught on more in the US. – DaveInCaz Aug 30 at 14:40
  • Years ago, when we lived in a place where it was available, we consumed UHT milk exclusively. I don't think it's that easy to feel a taste difference. – Martin Argerami Aug 31 at 2:37
  • AFAIK the sweetness is not due to the UHT treatment itself, but related to preprocessing of the lactose. Unprocessed, it would turn brownish. The lactose can either be converted to glucose (giving sweeter taste) or removed entirely (keeping the taste, but reducing energy content). – jpa Aug 31 at 9:00
  • UHT milk in the UK certainly used to taste different, but UHT skimmed milk doesn't, because it doesn't have enough fat to affect the taste when it's treated. It tastes exactly like normal pasteurised milk. It's also slightly thicker than normal skimmed milk. – Andrew Leach Aug 31 at 21:23
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Couple of ways to do this,

  • Powdered milk, has a shelf life of over a year and just needs water added to it.
  • Evaporated milk, milk with over 60% of the water removed before being canned.
  • Sweetened condensed milk, basically the same as the above just with lots of sugar added.

Powdered milk is the lightest and can be made in small batches while the others would start to spoil as soon as the can is opened.

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    Definitely powdered. This is closest (of your options) to real milk and if resealed properly keeps on keeping indefinitely. The only downside is its doesn't dissolve well in hot water. Condensed milk in drinks is an acquired taste but if you get on with it the squeezy tubes keep for a few days once opened at room temperature. – Chris H Aug 29 at 21:07
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    Just a note that the majority of powdered milk is skimmed, so don't expect it to taste or cook like normal milk (unless your "normal milk" at home is skimmed). In particular, it makes very poor porridge. I find it tolerable in hot drinks, as per the question. – Toby Speight Aug 30 at 7:23
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    Doesn't have to be a can. At least where I live, you can buy sweetened condensed milk in plastic squeezy bottles, which would be more convenient than cans and probably last slightly longer because there's less surface area exposed. – Peter Taylor Aug 30 at 8:56
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    Note that the majority of the white powder people add to tea/coffee for drinking is labled "creamer" and has no word "milk" anywhere in the packaging. If you read the list of ingredients you will find that it is made from vegetable oil/fats - usually palm oil. Slightly upmarket "creamer" has a tiny bit of milk in them for taste but to be honest there is very little difference in taste between 100% oil and oil + milk. Real powdered milk are more often sold as baby formula – slebetman Aug 30 at 9:07
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    @TobySpeight: whole / full-fat powdered milk due to the fat content it has a much shorter shelf-life than powdered skimmed milk. It's not much harder to get than the skimmed variety over here (Germany), though: you'll have to look for both as powdered milk is a tiny niche product besides UHT milk. Wrt. taste I find the secret is to really take as much (or a bit more, :-P) powder as supposed - which looks incredibly much. – cbeleites supports Monica Aug 30 at 12:57
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Condensed milk tastes better with coffee than with tea.

Powdered milk, although it keeps once opened, isn't as easy to use as it should be. It goes lumpy very easily when you put it in a hot drink. One way to help is to let the drink cool a little, or add a little cold water (as milk might be) and sprinkle the powder into the surface, letting it dissolve before stirring. The trouble is though, steam from the drink can condense onto the spoon, so that the powder sticks to it. Another way is to mix it up first in a little cold water and then add the coffee or the teabag and hot water, but it can still go lumpy.

Another way is to use UHT milk in one-shot 10ml catering portions, buying a pack of say 120. They don't need refrigerating. But you have to dispose of the pot somehow, which might not be a problem if you have other waste to dispose of regularly.

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  • I'll look into UHT milk, I always assumed milk in that style would need refrigerating, powder milk definitely sounds like a challenge to start with – JackU Aug 30 at 4:56
  • @JackU, UHT needs refrigerating after you open it, but not before. – Peter Taylor Aug 30 at 8:58
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    Plastic hell these though :( – Aravona Aug 30 at 11:29
  • It's not entirely your fault for thinking that UHT products need to be refrigerated before opening; vendors often refrigerate the unopened boxes, from a belief that they sell better that way. Maybe they do. – Roger Aug 30 at 17:18
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    @Roger, they are also sold chilled my area in the cooler right next to the sodas, beer, and other drinks for the same reason: so they can be consumed immediately. – spuck Aug 30 at 23:23
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Dry/powdered milk used to be much cheaper than liquid whole milk, since our family of 7 (5 kids, me in the middle) grew up on it, mixing it with liquid milk. I have used it sometimes since, and it is not hard to use, though in taste it is not as good as whole milk. But if you want to use it in hot drinks you need to reconstitute it first, though I find powered coffee creamer (mainly corn syrup solids) better for taste.

I used to work in a dairy and even though we had about 350 Holstein cows (which produce about 8 gals at day), we used lowheat dry milk, along with sugar and corn syrup solids to make delicious (fattening) 16% butterfat, 42% solids ice cream mix.

Some explanation of types and uses of dry milk.

This is about the best price online I have seen ($0.30/Ounce), but at about a buck a quart it it should be cheaper at brick and mortar stores.

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    UHT vs. powdered milk price depends on where you are. Over here (central Europe) UHT milk is a mass product and powdered milk in retail a slightly more expensive niche product. – cbeleites supports Monica Aug 30 at 13:11
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I was wondering if there is an option for keeping milk on a long term basis?

  • Good: UHT milk

  • Better: UHT milk PLUS special handling.

UHT milk has been mentioned in a number of answers. It is an excellent solution but some extra precautions will produce even better results.

When sealed UHT milk has a very long 'shelf life'.
Once opened, if access to bacteria and other contaminants occurs, as will usually be the case, you have something close to 'ordinary milk and 'the clock starts to tick'.
If you are opening either small one-use sachets or using up a larger container in a day or two at most in unrefrigerated conditions, or can refigerate the opened product, then no special handling may be needed.

If you want to be able to extend the life of a say 1 litre container of UHT milk then keeping the interior sterile is essential. If environmental contaminants get into the container then lifetime will not be vastly better than for "ordinary" milk.

If you can obtain UHT packages with a well defined spigot/tap assembly this may be an adequate starting point. If not then it will be "relatively easy" to provide a tap system that you can attach to your UHT containers of choice. This may require piercing a box or bag or similar. Worst case you may need a custom tap assembly with box-piercer and a surface adhesion system plus sterile insertion procedure (see below). That may sound "a bit OTT"* - and whether it is depends on your circumstances.
That's the first step.

Once you have a resealable hard barrier from inside to 'world' you need a procedure that ensures that product flow is always outwards and that contaminated material cannot enter at the moment a tap is opened. A tap with a short exit tube is probably as good as you can achieve without substantial effort. Before opening, clean the exit tube interior (water good, very dilute sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach) better). A relatively diluet Sodium Hypochlorite solution (N drops of bleach per known volume of water) can be weak enough to not upset the taste but do a good job of discouraging contaminants.

Once cleaned, point the tube downwards, and dispense enough UHT milk for say the next day or so of use.
Then turn off the tap, wash and/or sterlise the exit tube, perhaps place a cap on the end and return to storage.

How effective this is depends very much on how one-way your tap barrier is and what greeblies are waiting at the tap to go against the flow when you open the tap. Whether the effort is worthwhile depends greatly on journey duration, access to new supplies
and, OF COURSE, how much you like to have milk in your tea :-).

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