Vintage taste sensation

23 April 2008

1857 can

Canned condensed milk under the Eagle brand was first offered in 1856 by Gail Borden as answer to lack of refrigeration or other effective means to preserve whole milk. It was sold in large quantities during the Civil War, which made Borden a famous name [borden history]. As early as 1861 the US Army was buying it for the troops.

So the cooking technique I’m going to show you–and the resulting magic elixir–may have been available to soldiers at Antietam in 1862.

Or not …

My friend Mike sold me on the idea of boiling a can of the sweetened condensed milk you can still buy today, and promised a pudding-like treat would result. I thought I remembered something like this from when I was very small, so what the heck, I gave it a try.

The Can - before
the Can

Caution: the label instructions expressly warn you not to heat an unopened can. Please do not actually do this. It’s not safe. Enough said.

Preparation was easy: I submerged the unopened can in enough boiling water to cover it, and kept on the boil for 50 minutes. Removed can from heat. Cooled overnight in the refrigerator.

The Can - After
the Can, opened after cooling

When opened, the can revealed a golden nectar the consistency of honey, though creamier: a goop of thicker viscosity but with texture of melted butter. No, not quite that either.

My descriptions are feeble. But pudding this wasn’t. More like caramel ice cream topping .

The Can - After
the goop in a bowl

And caramel is essentially what it tastes like. Except that caramel pales in comparison. This stuff is tremendously rich. Overwhelming to the taste buds. A very small amount will go a very long way.

I lapped-up about a quarter-cup as seen here. That was enough of the straight stuff alone.

I’ve since used it as a topping: it’s was perfect over butter-pecan ice cream. It also makes the most fantastic desert drink when added liberally to very strong coffee. I wonder how espresso would work …

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