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Condensed Milk

Condensed milk, also known as sweetened condensed milk, is cow's milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added, yielding a very thick, sweet product which when canned can last for years without refrigeration if unopened.  The two terms, condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk, have become synonymous.  Though there have been unsweetened condensed milk products, today these are uncommon.  Condensed milk is used in numerous dessert dishes in many countries, especially in Brazil and also Russia and the former Soviet Union where it is known as "сгущёнка" (sguschyonka, literally "[that which is] thickened").

A related product is evaporated milk, which has undergone a more complex process and which is not sweetened.

According to the writings of Marco Polo, the Tartars were able to condense milk.  Ten pounds of milk paste was carried by each man who would mix the product with water.  However, this probably refers to the soft Tartar curd which can be made into a drink ("ayran") by diluting it, and therefore refers to fermented, not fresh, milk concentrate.

Nicolas Appert condensed milk in France in 1820, and Gail Borden, Jr. in the United States in 1856 in reaction to difficulties in storing milk for more than a few hours.  Before this development milk could only be kept fresh for a short while and was only available in the immediate vicinity of a cow.  While returning from a trip to England in 1851, Borden was devastated by the death of several children, apparently due to poor milk from shipboard cows.  With less than a year of schooling and following in a wake of failures, both of his own and of others, Borden was inspired by the vacuum pan he had seen being used by Shakers to condense fruit juice and was at last able to reduce milk without scorching or curdling it.  Even then his first two factories failed and only the third, built with his new partner, Jeremiah Milbank in Wassaic, New York, produced a usable milk derivative that was long-lasting and needed no refrigeration.

Probably of equal importance for the future of milk were Borden's requirements (the "Dairyman's Ten Commandments") for farmers who wanted to sell him raw milk: they were required to wash udders before milking, keep barns swept clean, and scald and dry their strainers morning and night.  By 1858 Borden's milk, sold as Eagle Brand, had gained a reputation for purity, durability and economy.

In 1864, Gail Borden's New York Condensed Milk Company constructed the New York Milk Condensery in Brewster, New York.  This condensery was the largest and most advanced milk factory and was Borden's first commercially successful plant. Over 200 dairy farmers supplied 20,000 gallons of milk daily to the Brewster plant as demand was driven by the Civil War.

The U.S. government ordered huge amounts of it as a field ration for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. This was an extraordinary field ration for the nineteenth century: a typical 14 oz can contains 1,300 calories, 1 oz each of protein and fat, and more than 7 oz of carbohydrate.

Soldiers returning home from the Civil War soon spread the word. By the late 1860s, condensed milk was a major product. The first Canadian condensery was built at Truro, Nova Scotia, in 1871. In 1899, E. B. Stuart opened the first Pacific Coast Condensed Milk Company (later known as the Carnation Milk Products Company) plant in Kent, Washington. Unfortunately, the condensed milk market developed a bubble. Too many manufacturers chased too little demand. By 1912, stocks of condensed milk were large and the price dropped. Many condenseries went out of business. In 1911, Nestlé constructed the world's largest condensed milk plant in Dennington, Victoria, Australia.

In 1914, Professor Otto F Hunziker, head of Purdue University's dairy department, self-published Condensed milk and milk powder: prepared for the use of milk condenseries, dairy students and pure food departments. This text, along with additional work of Professor Hunziker and others involved with the American Dairy Science Association, standardized and improved condensery operations in the U.S. and internationally. Hunziker's book was republished in a seventh edition in October 2007 by Cartwright Press.

The first World War regenerated interest in, and a market for, condensed milk, primarily due to its storage and transportation benefits. In the U.S., the higher price for raw milk paid by condenseries created significant problems for the cheese industry.

Raw milk is clarified and standardized, and then is heated to 85-90-degrees C for several seconds. This heating destroys some microorganisms, decreases fat separation and inhibits oxidation. Some water is evaporated from the milk and sugar is added to approximately 45%. This sugar is what extends the shelf life of sweetened condensed milk. Sucrose increases the liquid's osmotic pressure, which prevents microorganism growth. The sweetened evaporated milk is cooled and lactose crystallization is induced.

Current use
Condensed milk is used in recipes for the popular Brazilian candy brigadeiro in which condensed milk is the main ingredient (the most famous condensed milk brand in Brazil is Moça, local version of Swiss Milch Mädchen marketed by Nestle), lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, caramel candies and other desserts.

In parts of Asia and Europe, sweetened condensed milk is the preferred milk to be added to coffee or sweetened tea. Many countries in South East Asia use condensed milk to flavor their coffee. A popular treat in Asia is to put condensed milk on toast and eat it in a similar way as jam and toast. In West Yorkshire in the years after world war two condensed milk was an alternative to jam. Nestle has even produced a squeeze bottle similar to Smucker's jam squeeze bottles for this very purpose. Condensed milk is a major ingredient in many Indian desserts and sweets. While most Indians start with normal milk to reduce and sweeten it, packaged condensed milk has also become popular.

Condensed milk is drunk before most professional football games in the UK. Professionals such as Ian Plumb endorse its use, stating its many benefits: "I always score when I down a can of condensed milk before a game, I'm not the same player without it".

In New Orleans, it is commonly used as a topping on top of a chocolate or similar cream flavor snowball. In Scotland, it is mixed with sugar and some butter and baked to form a popular, sweet candy called a Tablet or Swiss-Milk-Tablet. In some parts of the Southern U.S., condensed milk is a key ingredient in lemon ice box pie, a sort of cream pie. In the Philippines, condensed milk is mixed with some evaporated milk and eggs, spooned into shallow metal containers over liquid caramelized sugar, then steamed to make a stiffer and more filling version of crčme brulee known as leche flan.

In Mexico, sweetened condensed milk is one of the main ingredients of the cold cake dessert (The leading brand is "La Lechera", the local version of Swiss Milch Mädchen by Nestle), combined with evaporated milk, marie biscuits, lemon juice and tropical fruit. It is also used to make homemade Dulce de leche by baking it in an oven.

During the communism era in Poland it was common to boil a can of condensed milk in water for about 2 hours. The resulting product is called kaymak - sweet semi liquid substance which can be used as a cake icing or put between dry wafers. It is less common nowadays but recently some manufactures of condensed milk introduced canned ready-made kaymak. Boiling the can in this way is central to the making of Banoffee pie and home-made dulce de leche. In the southern United States, the product of boiling sealed cans of sweetened condensed milk is also called "Danger Pudding."

To gain condensed milk from 1 cup of evaporated milk one has to add 1 1/4 cups of sugar and dissolve it by heating the milk.

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