Let’s Talk Food: Evaporated milk is an important pantry item

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Simple Corn Chowder.

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson A slice of Cinnamon Roll Cake.

  • Photo courtesy Audrey Wilson Cinnamon Roll Cake.

In my pantry, evaporated milk is essential. But what is it anyway? It is the concentrated version of regular milk. It has been cooked down to remove 60% of the water, which makes it richer yet about 80% less fat than heavy cream.

Evaporated milk is asked for in recipes where regular milk or cream would add too much moisture, like custardy desserts and creamy casseroles.


In a pinch, when regular milk is called for and you don’t have any in your refrigerator, just add evaporated milk with equal amounts of water to make regular milk.

Our mothers and grandmothers used evaporated milk in many recipes as in the early 1900s, evaporated milk was used more than fresh milk because it was shelf stable and posed less of a health risk than the fresh milk of those days. Also, many households did not have the refrigerators we have today.

Gail Borden produced his first condensed milk product in 1852. It lasted three days without souring. He first thought the condensing process made it more stable but later realized it was the heating process that killed the bacteria and microorganisms that cause spoilage.

Mr. Borden was granted a patent for sweetened condensed milk in 1856, in which sugar was added to inhibit bacterial growth. However, the new condensed milk was not well received in the early days. But in 1862, the Union Army purchased condensed milk for field rations, which helped with his sales.

Meanwhile in 1866, in Switzerland, John Baptist Meyenberg first suggested to his employers at the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company to produce canned evaporated milk, But the company was doing so well with sweetened condensed milk, the idea was rejected.

So Meyerberg emigrated to the United States and started his own company, Helvetia Milk Condensing Company and started producing unsweetened condensed milk in 1890.

So even if Borden got the patent, it was Meyerberg who made it a success. In 1899, Elbridge Amos Stuart came up with a new process for canned, sterilized, evaporated milk and with the help of Meyenberg, began to successfully mass produce canned evaporated milk.

Evaporated milk manufacturers pioneered homogenization, or redistribution of fat globules so they are well distributed.

I need evaporated milk to make pumpkin pies, fudge, many chowders, many gelatin desserts like almond float and seven layer gelatin.

Sometimes the recipe on the back of the label works best. This is the case for pumpkin pie as the Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe is great. This recipe has been on the label since 1950.

Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

Serves 10 servings

MIx in a small bowl:

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, beat:

2 large eggs

Stir in sugar-spice mixture and:

1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk

Pour into:

1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell

Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees, bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

• • •

Simple Corn Chowder

Serves 6-8

Saute, but do not brown:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup diced onions


4 cups frozen corn

2 cups chicken broth

Cook, stirring often, until the corm is tender, about 5 minutes. Pour corn, onions into a food processor and puree in batches, until smooth.

Return to a large pot, add:

2 cups frozen corn

1 (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk

1 medium red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

Salt and black pepper to taste

Heat to boil, simmer.

Top with:

1 tablespoon fresh chives

• • •

Here’s an easy cinnamon roll cake that would be perfect for breakfast.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

Serves 12

Place dry ingredients in a medium bowl:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a 2 cup measuring cup, add:

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 stick butter, melted

In a small bowl, make the cinnamon swirl:

2 sticks very soft butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons flour

In another small bowl, make the glaze and set aside:

2 cups confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons evaporated milk (use only enough to make a thick, yet pourable glaze)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease a 13- by 9-inch baking pan.

Place milk and eggs into dry ingredients, just mix till incorporated. Do not overmix or use an electric mixer. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Set aside.

Beat the cinnamon mix with a hand mixer until it resembles a paste.

Drop the cinnamon mixture randomly over the top of the cake, run a knife through the cake, swirling the top.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, cool slightly on a rack.


Drizzle glaze over cake while still warm. Set aside for 15 minutes. Serve cake warm or completely cooled.

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