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Freezing Milk and Dairy Products

A Variety of Dairy Products

I am receiving a lot of phone calls and emails about freezing milk and dairy products.  It is important that we support our local agriculture community including our dairy farmers.  According to MyPlate individuals should make Dairy part of their meal.  The amount of dairy food an individual needs to eat depends on their age. The amount each person needs can vary between 2 and 3 cups each day. Those who are very physically active may need more. Refer to USDA Choose MyPlate https://www.choosemyplate.gov/  to find out the amount of dairy food that is right for you at each meal and for more  about MyPlate.

Can You Freeze Milk?

The answer is YES, you can !  Pasteurized milk can be frozen, however some quality change may be noted upon thawing.  It may separate or be slightly grainy when thawed but stirring or shaking may help restore smoothness. Frozen milk works best for cooking, but you may find it’s still okay for drinking.

How to Freeze Milk:                                                                                                                                       

Freezing milk in cubes

  • Be sure to leave some extra space at the top of the container since milk expands during freezing.
  • Use frozen milk within a month for best quality.
  • Thaw milk in the refrigerator.
  • During thawing, the fat in milk may separate from the water in milk – stir or shake well before using or drinking.
  • For cooking you can pour milk into ice trays, freeze in cubes and freeze in freezer bag.
Can You Freeze Cheese? 

Variety of cheeses

Some cheeses you can freeze and some you cannot freeze. Cheeses that freeze best are:  Brick, Camembert, Cheddar, Edam, Mozzarella, Muenster, Parmesan, Provolone, Romano and Swiss.  Blue cheeses are more prone to becoming crumbly but they will keep their flavor. Cream cheese and cottage cheese do not freeze well.

 Block Cheeses:

  • Block of cheese, consider cutting it into 1/2 pound blocks or smaller.
  • Wrap it in plastic wrap or freezer bags, which will prevent the cheese from absorbing other flavors.

Soft Cheeses:

    • Softer cheeses like mozzarella and young Cheddar can be frozen when shredded. Aged Cheddar will become crumbly.

      Variety of soft cheeses

    • You can freeze shredded cheese before the expiration date, but it’s best to allow it to thaw for at least 24 to 48 hours in the fridge. This will allow the moisture (which becomes frost when it’s frozen) to go back into the cheese.
    • It’s recommended that thawed cheese be used as quickly as possible.
    • Plan to use the thawed cheese on salads or in recipes.

    Hard or semi-hard cheeses:

    • Hard or semi-hard cheese can be frozen if cut in 1/2 to 1-pound blocks.
    • Wrap in plastic wrap and then put in freezer bags.
    • After freezing, cheese may become crumbly and mealy, but it will retain its flavor.

    Cream cheese, cottage cheese and ricotta cheese:

    • Do not freeze well.
    • Combined with heavy cream, cream cheese they can be frozen for later use in dips or as icing on frozen sandwich loaves.

    Sour cream, yogurt and buttermilk:

    • All of the cultured, soured dairy products lose their smooth texture when frozen.
    • They become grainy and sometimes separate out their water but can still be used for cooking.
    • Flavored yogurts may be more stable because of the fruit and sugar. It may taste more acidic when thawed.

    Ice cream: 

    • A lid and plastic wrap laid tightly on the surface of partially used containers of ice cream helps prevent surface changes.
    • Homemade ice cream is difficult to store for any length of time because it becomes grainy. (Commercial products have added milk solids and gelatin to prevent this).

    Butter:

    Butter

  • Freeze only high-quality butter made from pasteurized cream.
  • Over-wrap store wrap with freezer wrapping, vacuum seal or place in freezer bag.
  • Unsalted butter loses flavor so its storage time is shorter.
  • Flavored butter freezes well.

Recommended freezer shelf life:

  • Milk: about 3 months
  • Buttermilk: about 3 months
  • Hard cheese: (such as cheddar, Parmesan and Swiss), 6 months
  • Soft cheese: (such as Brie), 6 months
  • Butter: up to 1 year
  • Yogurt: 1 to 2 months.
  • Ice cream: unopened can last 2–3 month, opened can last 1–2 months. You will know when the ice cream has gone “bad” when you see tiny ice crystals form on the surface of the lid and ice cream.

Recommended refrigerator shelf life: 

Dairy products in refrigerator

  • Milk can be refrigerated 7 days.
  • Buttermilk, about 2 weeks.
  • Yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator (40 ºF) 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, ricotta or Brie can be refrigerated one week.
  • Hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan can be stored in the refrigerator 6 months before opening the package and 3 to 4 weeks after opening.
  • Processed cheese slices don’t freeze well but can be kept in the refrigerator 1 to 2 months.
  • Sour cream is safe in the refrigerator about 1 to 3 weeks but doesn’t freeze well.

By following these tips you can enjoy dairy prouducts fresh or frozen! 

Remember to include dairy in your diet daily and support your local dairy producers!

For more information contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/

Other Resources:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) https://www.fda.gov/  or call the toll-free number 888-723-3366

The Meat and Poultry Hotline can be reached at 888-674-6854.

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