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~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07c51e9c970dI was just asked a question from a KE reader who said, "I ruined my mother's pumpkin pie recipe at Thanksgiving because I substituted condensed milk for evaporated milk.  I'm about to bake some Christmas cookies from one of her recipes, and, while I won't make that mistake twice, I still don't understand what the difference is between the two.  Can you quickly explain it to me?"

It only takes a taste of each to know they are very different...

1380405_881838341849337_4484291976577709115_nNo kidding around, I thought everyone knew the difference between these two commonly used ingredients -- I remember learning about them back in 7th grade Home Economics (thank-you Mrs. Richards).  I don't know if they even offer Home Ec any more.  I'm certain this info is available in almost every baking book printed in the USA today, and, I know it can be found elsewhere on the internet as well.  That said, when asked I answer, and, the question prompted me to write a quick Q&A post ASAP today so folks can learn about it here on Kitchen Encounters too.  Let me start with the most important information first: these two products cannot, under any circumstances, ever be used interchangeably. 

... and cannot be used interchangeably.

IMG_9301Evaporated milk is a canned cow's milk product that has about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk.  Sweetened condensed milk (also referred to as condensed milk), like evaporated milk, has the water removed from it, but has quite a bit of sugar added to it as well.  They cannot be used interchangeably. But, if you find yourself without either one and no means of getting to a grocery store, there are emergency substitutions:  

Substitutions for evaporated milk are:  an equal measure of light cream, half & half or cream.  I have read that buttermilk can be substituted too -- I have never tried it, but, I think the tangy taste of buttermilk may not bode well in some culinary applications.  If you keep dry (powdered) milk in your pantry, you can mix it with 40% of the water the package directions require and use it too.

Substitutions for condensed milk are:  if you do a quick internet search they are there, but they all require messy, time-consuming machinations that don't consistently result in an admirable result.  My recommendation on this:  get in your car and go buy the condensed milk.  If you are still intent on trying it, in a blender combine until smooth: 1 cup dry (powdered) milk, 1/3 cup hot water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon melted butter.  Refrigerate.

A little bit of interesting background and history:

Both products have a unique flavor, creamy texture (with condensed milk being much thicker) and on the shelf, physically take up half the space of milk.  Evaporated milk was invented by dairy farmers over 100 years ago, because fresh milk, without refrigeration, had a very short shelf life and could not be shipped very far.  In the 1920's and 1930's evaporated milk gained favor as a baby formula.  Evaporated milk is still widely used in many countries were no refrigeration is available.  Sweetened condensed milk was invented in France by Nicolas Appert in 1820.  In 1853, Gail Borden, Jr., was the first to market condensed milk in the USA.  The US Government ordered huge quantities of it during the American Civil War and handed out its 14-ounce/1,300 calorie cans as field rations to the soldiers.  By the 1860's the soldiers had spread the word and condensed milk became a major product in the American marketplace... sweet!

Pay Attention to that Expiration Date.

Once the cans are open, both must be refrigerated, or, like fresh milk products, they will spoil.  Even though both products have a long shelf life, with condensed milk lasting longer than evaporated milk, you still need to check the date on the can before using either of them.

Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk #2Condensed milk should be thick, yet drizzly and pale cream-colored.  Past the expiration date, it tends to seize up or crystallize and darken to a caramel-color, which does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, but:

If in doubt throw it out!  

I managed to track down a can well past the expiration date.  While it tasted just fine, I probably wouldn't use it because the change in color and consistency would most likely affect the cookie recipe I am planning to bake next.

In the case of evaporated milk, if it does not pour smooth and isn't a uniform, light creamy white color, or, if it has any has any lumps in it, throw it out immediately.  A few parting words:

When using either of these two products for any purpose, be it in cooking or baking (which relies upon weights, measures and precise ingredients), PLEASE remember to read your labels and check your expiration dates before even getting started.

Hello Dolly!  The 5-6-7- Layer Magic Cookie Bar:

6a0120a8551282970b01a5116ae038970c-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 


Rose Marie -- my grandmother always put evaporated milk in her coffee too. Truth be told, I love the taste of it too. I think I'll open a can and put it in mine today!

I use evaporated milk in my coffee every morning. I live the taste and creaminess.
The seven layer cookies are a favorite!
Thank you Mrs. Whitfield! My home economics teacher!!!
Thanks, Melanie.

Phoenix! I think we can all agree that we'd prefer not to drink evaporated milk. That being said, it has a place in the culinary world, adding a silky, rich texture to whatever it is cooked into!

The taste of evaporated milk has always made me feel a bit...grossed out. I can't explain it...

Tiffa! Once a great product, always a great product and Carnation produces great products! Glad you enjoyed my blog post and hope to hear from you again soon.

I use Carnation every time I bake, really, it is a wonder and saves me a lot of time from choosing individual ingredients and with Carnations.

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