Sweetened condensed milk is one of those foods that first came to be out of necessity but are still being used now thanks to its taste and versatility.
Condensed milk was mainly used by those who didn’t have access to fresh milk from a cow but needed milk with a long shelf-life for cooking and drinking. The sugar came later, probably in order to make it last for even longer (source). And the result is simply mind-blowingly delicious. I love it for its smoothness and silkiness.
I use plenty of condensed milk around the holidays because it’s a common ingredient in many pies, candies, and cookies. Typically, I make a large jar of condensed milk sometime in early winter. It’s so helpful to have it on hand and ready to use when I have so many other things on my mind!
Why even make your own sweetened condensed milk?
Surely you could buy a can of condensed milk from the supermarket. I prefer not to do that and here’s why.
When I make homemade foods, I know exactly what kind of ingredients I’m using. I care about my health and well-being so I use a healthy sweetener, like whole cane sugar, and raw milk from a grass-fed cow. But with store-bought food, you never have that certainty. Commercial brands often choose the cheapest ingredients to make their products. So you will probably end up with some highly processed bleached white sugar and preserved milk that hasn’t been fresh for a long time.
But the worst aspect of canned condensed sugar is… the can itself. Cans are usually lined with something called BPA (Bisphenol-A), often found in plastic. And I try to avoid BPAs as much as I can because it has been proven to be detrimental to human health. For example, here’s an excerpt from one scientific article:
Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor which can mimic estrogen and may lead to negative health effects. Early developmental stages appear to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects, and some studies have linked prenatal exposure to later physical and neurological difficulties. Regulatory bodies have determined safety levels for humans, but those safety levels are currently being questioned or are under review as a result of new scientific studies. A 2011 study that investigated the number of chemicals pregnant women are exposed to in the U.S. found BPA in 96% of women. (source)
Not all cans use BPA but it’s time-consuming to research all of the brands and even if they claim to be BPA-free, you can never fully trust a big corporation. That’s why I simply choose to avoid cans at all. Sweetened condensed milk is so delicious that I believe it’s worth taking the time to cook up a batch on your own.
- a saucepan
- a wooden spoon
- a pint glass jar with a lid
- 3 cups of whole milk
- 1 cup of whole cane sugar OR 3/4 cup of raw honey
- optional: 2 T. of butter
- optional: 1 t. of vanilla extract
- Pour cold milk into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. Do not try to speed up the process by turning up the heat, it needs to be at the lowest setting or the milk will separate and form curdles.
- Gradually stir in the whole cane sugar or honey. Keep stirring until fully combined.
- Warm the mixture until you can see steam forming. Keep it at the same heat level for about 4 hours or until half of the mixture is reduced. You might see some skin forming at the top of the milk. It can be removed as it appears all just taken out all at once when the condensed milk is ready.
- Once your mixture has reached the condensed milk consistency, transfer it to a clean glass jar.
- At this point, you can add butter and vanilla extract to your milk to enhance its flavor. Stir so that it fully combines.
- Screw on the lid tightly and put the condensed milk in the fridge. It will thicken a bit more.
- Use within a few weeks.