Why would a self-proclaimed bake-o-phobe and skim-milk addict always have a can of evaporated milk in the pantry?
(I suspect my husband, the resident baker, might know something about this.)
Evaporated milk is fresh milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed by evaporation. It's then homogenized, chilled, fortified with Vitamin D and stabilizers, and sterilized. It comes in whole, lowfat and skim; the whole-milk version must contain at least 7.9 percent milk fat, the lowfat has about half that and the skim version 0.5 percent or less.
Sweetened condensed milk is made the same way, except with sugar added. It's easy to confuse the two products, as the packaging is often quite similar.
Evaporated milk was popular in the early 20th Century, when fresh milk was not as safe to drink as it is today. Mixed with an equal amount of water, it can be substituted for fresh milk in recipes; as it comes from the can, it is used in baking and to enrich soups, stews, pancakes, ice cream, brownies and drinks.
Canned evaporated milk can be stored at room temperature until opened, after which it must be tightly covered and refrigerated for no more than a week; I'd recommend taking it out of the can and storing in a glass jar. When slightly frozen, evaporated milk can be whipped and used as a substitute for whipped cream.
I think flan, which is one of Ted's most favorite desserts, is the very best use for evaporated milk.
What do you make with it?
When I travel, I always try to find locally-published cookbooks to bring home (along with, I must confess, a wooden spoon or two). This recipe is adapted from Rice and Beans and Tasty Things: A Puerto Rican Cookbook, by Dora Romano. It's one of several popular cookbooks I found, in English, in Puerto Rico. Serves 10-12.
1 cup sugar
2 cups freshly grated coconut
12-oz can evaporated milk
1-1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp grated acid lime rind, or regular lime rind
4 lightly beaten large eggs
Flan mold, round, 7x3 inches
Larger mold or pan to hold the flan mold (in a bain-marie)
TO CARAMELIZE THE FLAN MOLD: Put 1 cup sugar in a heavy stainless steel, straight-sided saucepan over low-moderate heat. Str continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely melted. Continue cooking until you reach the desired color. Do not make it too dark, though, as it will taste bitter. Slowly and carefully pour the caramel into the flan mold. Tilt the mold around with your hands, working rapidly until the bottom and sides are covered with caramel. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a mixing bowl, dissolve sugar and salt in the milk. Add the lime rind and eggs, and mix well. Add grated coconut, and mix well.
Set the caramelized flan mold inside the larger mold. Pour in the filling. Place in the oven, and fill the outer pan 2/3 of the way up the height of the flan mold with hot water. Gently close the oven door. Bake 1-1/4 hours, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let flan cool in the mold for 5 minutes. Separate the sides from the mold with a thin knife and invert onto a platter with a short rim (the rim will keep the liquid of the flan from escaping!). Wait 5 minutes before removing the mold from the flan. Then, let cool before refrigerating. Serve cold.
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