Sunday, July 3, 2011

Milk Jam

If you cook milk long enough it will reduce and caramelize, and reduced milk becomes... caramel sauce!

This particular caramel sauce is also known as milk jam (confiture de lait), dulce de leche, or cajeta. It has a complex, toasty toffee butterscotch-esque type of flavor.
It makes a nice spread for a variety of things- toast, crumpets, pancakes, between layers of cake, in a tart, sandwiched between two cookies, on fruit or ice cream, in coffee...

In the case of cajeta, it's goat milk with a touch of cinnamon. I don't normally like goat milk at all (goat cheese sometimes, never goat milk), but it turned out very well and pretty much without that unmistakably goat-y flavor. So, in my opinion, this is a very good way to use up goat milk. Hey, it's worked in the past!

Making this does take a little time, so maybe it's a good project for a rainy day, or one of those days when you're stuck around the house anyway trying to get odds-and-ends taken care of.

The scent that permeates the house changes just as the color and thickness of the caramel change. At first it's sweet and milky, then it changes to something like custard, and it finally becomes a toasty caramel.

Use a large pot so that you will have extra space to accommodate the milk when it occasionally foams while cooking (and after you add the baking soda).

Remember: the longer it cooks, the thicker it will become, and it will continue to thicken as it cools.

And yes, you really do need all that sugar. It balances everything out and will help the caramel-milk become smooth. Believe me, curdled caramel isn't so nice.

Of course you can decrease the recipe very easily, I just had a lot of milk to use.
It's good to share though...

Milk Jam
makes about 3-4 cups

2 qt. whole milk (8 c)
4 c sugar
1 t salt
1 t baking soda dissolved in 1 T water
Optional: 1 vanilla bean sliced open and seeds scraped OR a cinnamon stick

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan combine the milk, sugar, and salt.
Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the baking soda water, and stir to combine. The mixture will foam up! Stir carefully so it does not foam over the side of the pan. Once the mixture has calmed down a bit, add the vanilla bean and seeds or cinnamon (if using) and place the pan back on the heat. Slowly cook the mixture at a low simmer until thick and caramel-y.
The amount for this recipe will probably take 3 hours to reduce. In the beginning, stir every once in a while to check the consistency and make sure the milk isn't scorching on the bottom of the pan. As the mixture thickens, stir more frequently.
To check the caramel consistency, place a few drops onto a clean, cool, white plate. You should be able to see the color and feel the texture fairly easily.
When the mixture reaches the desired consistency, pour through a fine-mesh sieve.
If necessary, whisk well to make sure the caramel is smooth and creamy.
Store in glass jars and refrigerate.

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