The temptation to buy canned goods and pre-packaged items tends to come in waves. Right now, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s a tsunami.
My half of the Thanksgiving menu is nailed down: smoked turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, cloud rolls, vanilla bean cheesecake and pumpkin pie. With six dishes to make within a 3 day window (and high standards set for every single one of them), taking the easy route and NOT making everything from scratch sounds really nice…
Random fact: Out of the fifty million pumpkin pies consumed at Thanksgiving, one million of them come from Costco.
But this tugs a bit with my real food, make-things-from-scratch side. I want to take short cuts, but I’m learning more and more about those mystery ingredients. And what I do know scares me more than what I don’t.
So I thought this week would be a good time to make homemade sweetened condensed milk. You know, that ingredient you don’t add to your grocery shopping list because you think you already have it at home… and then when you go to make a pie or candied yams, you realize you don’t have it after all.
Yep, that’s the one.
We’ve got nearly a full week until Turkey Day and with all the hoopy-do going on with the holiday and company coming in town, now is as good as time as any, right?
Is there an advantage to homemade sweetened condensed milk?
In terms of processing, not really. Whether it’s done in a large manufacturing facility or in your own kitchen, it basically involved the slow cooking of milk so that excess water can evaporate. It doesn’t take a long time to make, but it does take longer than it does to open a can.
In terms of ingredients though, the advantages are huge. You have COMPLETE control over the ingredients you use and can make it yourself based on where you are in your real food journey, what you have access to, your dietary restrictions and what you can afford.
You can use whatever milk you have:
More on the difference between organic milk and conventional milk HERE.
You can use whatever sweetener you have (I tried all of these!):
- maple syrup
- coconut sugar (aka palm sugar)
- sucanat (aka Rapadura, Demera or Jaggery)
- evaporated cane juice (aka organic sugar, evaporated cane sugar)
- granulated sugar
- brown sugar
No special cooking skills are required and you only need a few tools: a saucepan, a whisk, a jar (I like these) and a couple hours of hanging around the house.
Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk
Did you even know you could make sweetened condensed milk it at home? As I mentioned, it takes a little bit longer than running to the store (unless your store is roughly 60 miles away), but it’s SO easy and you can’t tell me that you can’t find (or make if necessary) the ingredients needed. Plus you’ll be able to make enough for Thanksgiving AND Christmas at the same time!
Is it a rainy day? Mounds of laundry? Researching the best dehydrator? At home with a cough like the rest of our town? Why not try your hand at homemade sweetened condensed milk? It requires 10 minutes of hands-on time at the beginning and then a couple hours of the occasional check-in.
It’s the ideal multi-task project when you have spare time and the inkling to feel productive. Kinda like homemade yogurt. And both offer the “whoa, I just made that from scratch?!” feeling too.
Mr. Crumbs: Hi Honey! How was your day today? What did you do?
Me: Hi Babe! My day was good. I made milk. *big grin*
Oh yes, that DOES feel good to say!
- 1½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup sweetener
- 2 Tbsp salted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Combine milk and sweetener in a medium saucepan. Whisk to dissolve sweetener over medium heat.
- When the milk begins to steam, lower the temperature to as low as possible.
- Dip a straw into the milk and use a permanent marker to draw a line on the straw, just above where the milk hit.
- Allow milk to reduce to half in size from what it first was, periodically checking with the straw and stirring. This took approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes for me.
- When milk is reduced by half, remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla extract.
- Pour into a clean glass jar and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator.
In general, these milks were thinner than conventional sweetened condensed milk. If this concerns you, allow milk to continue to reduce in size until it has reached desired thickness.
Additional Recipe Notes
Why, you may wonder, did I make 7 different types of sweetened condensed milk? Well, I was kinda curious if using a different sweetener would matter in terms of taste and color. The color certainly changed with the different sweeteners. But it won’t effect the look of your final dish.
The taste, oddly enough, didn’t differ much. You can definitely taste the difference between maple syrup vs honey, or brown sugar vs. evaporated cane juice, but in the end, they all taste like sweetened milk… and delicious!
The variety is just for fun. And now I don’t have to buy sweetened condensed milk for a LONG time (nor deal with icky ingredients)!