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Evaporated milk (Recipe: coconut flan)


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?

Coconut flan

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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That was a very informative post. Thanks, I didn't know that much about history of evaporated milk. I also enjoy using it. I keep it on hand so I have it when I run out of regular milk.

I love evaporated milk and would buy it regularly to use in my coffee and tea, but all that stopped last month so as not to defeat my gym efforts :)

I love it stirred into Rice Pudding or poured over hot apple pie!

I like the idea of a flan - think it would be lovely.

I use evaporated milk in a chicken curry I used to make a lot... might be time to make it again.

That's funny. I always have some in the pantry. I know I use it a few times every year as I do have to replace it. I recently sent my husband off in a rush to get it for some recipe I needed it for. I can't remember what I used it in. Oh, wait, I use it in the icing for German Chocolate Cake!!

Hm... Evaporated milk is a rare item in my pantry. I always use fresh milk & cream, which is solely for cooking since I don't drink it.

I always enjoy your food history lessons, Lydia! :) This is definitely a permanent fixture in my own pantry, and I usually make corn soup with it or simply abuse it with tea and coffee! :) I almost never buy sweetened, though, it's so thick I always have to open the top of the can to get any out!

You've been tagged for a meme, by the way (see my latest post for details). I wasn't too enthusiastic about taking it up, but I eventually did, so I'll understand if you don't.. later!

Monika, thanks, and welcome to The Perfect Pantry.

Stefanie, I applaud your discipline -- wish I had some.

Freya, hot apple pie and evaporated milk does sound pretty darned good....

Kelly-Jane, welcome! I'll bet this is delicious in chicken curry.

Tanna, chocolate cake? Yum!

Anh, I really don't use it either, but yet I always have it around.

Shilpa, corn soup sounds great. I was just reading a wonderful recipe for a corn and red pepper chowder, maybe in this month's Bon Appetit? And thanks for the tag!

Lydia, I have a small children's cook book published in the 1950's by Carnation called the "Fun To Cook Book" and every recipe calls for evaporated milk!

We always had evaporated milk for coffee or tea when I was growing up. We even had a gizmo that was plugged into the can to make pouring easier and then it could be capped. Now, I use evaporated milk in one or two wheat bread recipes.

I grew up on evaporated milk - on my cereal, my hot chocolate, my iced desserts and later my coffee. Oh and don't get me started on condensed milk, I love the stuff!! :) My mom makes a nice flan, but the addition of coconut is a great idea I'd love to try.

My grandma always had Carnation evaporated milk in the house. I think she may have used it in her coffee. Thanks for the background information on it!

I had to laugh at this one--I've had a can of Carnation evaporated milk in my cupboard for over 1 year. I bought it for a baking recipe that I never made. You (and Ted) have given me the perfect excuse to use it.

TW, that book sounds like a prize. I've been collecting children's cookbooks over the past few years; at first I thought they'd be fun to use with my grandchildren, but the older cookbooks are more fun to read as food history. Now I'm going to look through them for evaporated milk recipes (I've got an old Junior Fanny Farmer, among others).

Pauline, I seem to remember that spout/cap gizmo, too. I'd forgotten all about it.

Christine, we never used this when I was growing up, but I think my husband's family did.

Terry, I'll bet this would be great in iced coffee. (It's the first day of Spring and I've got iced coffee on the brain!)

Susan, you've got a pantry like mine -- I'm amazed at what I have lurking in the cupboards, things I purchased for a recipe I read in a cookbook or magazine but never made. Part of the fun of writing this blog is that I'm sorting through what I have, throwing out the really old stuff, and writing about the keepers.

Like you, I love to buy local cookbooks when traveling (and getting them when family/friends travel!). With a Cuban husband, we also love flan ... thanks for sharing the recipe. :)

I use evaporated milk for my "carrot kheer" which is one stove-top dessert that I make all the time. I *love* your recipe for flan, and will try it soon! We are big flan fans here, too :)

Oh yes, flan is great with evaporated milk! Also when I make scallop potatoes, I use evaporated milk. I like the consistency better of the resulting casserole.

As a kid, I used to love milkshakes made with condensed sweetened milk, a banana and ice cubes. Yummy!

In France, there is a popular savoury tart which goes: pastry casing, brushed with mustard, covered with evaporated milk, topped with tomato slices and dried provence herbs. In the oven and out comes a lovely morsel of starter or main with a side salad

I don't know that I've ever used evaporated milk. I have used it's first cousin, however, sweetened condensed milk in Vietnamese iced coffee (absolutely lovely for summer brunch). Cheers!

Cate, we had wonderful flan in Cuba. I've only been once, but hope to return -- a beautiful country with the most amazingly warm and friendly people. I wish more Americans would get the chance to go.

Nupur, have you posted your carrot kheer recipe? Please share the link.

Veron, I do love nice, rich potatoes. I'll remember this the next time I make a gratin, too.

ASMO, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Your savory tart sounds amazing, and easy. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

Almost Veg, welcome. I've had Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk -- my husband loves the combination of strong coffee and sweet milk, though it was a bit sweet for me. I guess I could try making it with the regular (unsweetened) evaporated milk, now that I think about it!

Here is the link, Lydia, for the carrot kheer:
It has been a very crowd-pleasing dessert all the times I have made it :)

Just a question about your wooden spoons, do some of them have that burnt black spot from where they hang over the edge of the pot on a gas cooker? I feel that I have so mistreated mine. The best one I have is French and is extra long.

Nupur, thanks!

Neil, I have to confess that I have more than 200 wooden spoons and other wooden utensils (molinillos, porridge stirrers, cooking chopsticks, etc.), and yes, a couple of them have that telltale I-forgot-to-move-the-spoon mark! Don't think of it as spoon abuse; think of it as proof that the spoon has "experience"!! Welcome to The Perfect Pantry.

what a great idea to buy cookbooks while on vacation. this never dawned on me, i think i'm too busy buying shoes and clothes. flan sounds awesome! i bought that yogurt machine, i'm writing up a post on it w/i the next few days :)

I like your spoon philosophy - you know how I feel about old kitchen stuff.

Lydia, all my life I have confused the two milks - evap and condensed - until a few years ago that is.

You do a good job teaching about food.

Aria, I've been buying cookbooks on my travels for many years. Sometimes it's a real challenge to find English-language books, but the search does take me to some interesting places, and I've never failed to come home with a cookbook from even the most remote locations (a good tip -- check the gift shops in large hotels, which often have a few locally produced books translated into English). Can't wait to read about your yogurt experiments! I'll be watching for your post.

Mimi, like you, I collect old things and new. I don't really remember how I got started on the wooden spoons, but I've been collecting for many years. When I turned 50 (a while ago....), I decided to design and make a wooden spoon, and I found a local spoonmaker to give me a lesson. It was profoundly satisfying, and I use my spoon all the time. Thank you for the kind words, too. I'm learning a lot about my pantry, and I love sharing what I've learned.

My mom makes a super delicious strawberry shortcake with it - yum! Now I have a craving for mom's cooking. :)

This sounds delicious, Lydia!

Coconut is such a great flavor and we like it a lot here in Brazil.

we love adding it to (strong) tea and coffee :D

Ari, I love how we associate certain tastes with the cooking we grew up with. My mom wasn't a very good cook, but she made a spaghetti sauce I really liked and I still remember the distinctive taste of it.

Patricia, I'm not a huge fan of coconut, but there's a recipe for Barefoot Contessa's coconut cupcakes that I do enjoy. And I love drinking the milk out of a fresh cold coconut -- something we did in Trinidad.

Gattina, I think my husband would like strong tea and evaporated milk, too.

My parents always used it for their coffee, no idea why.
That and sweetened condensed milk are two things I can't get. Thank the kitchen gods for my Book of Substitutions!

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