I was in my early 20s when I first tasted sweetened condensed milk.
I traded a field ration with an Italian soldier during a training exercise in Sardinia. I did a lot of trading back then … rations, pins, hats (which we Marines call “covers”), and one time even a whole uniform.
The Royal Marine uniform I got in the bargain belonged to a Brit who was several inches shorter than me and 10 or 20 pounds lighter, so it barely fit.
But the thing that I think about now some 40 years later was the Italian ration.
It came with a plastic pouch of “cordial,” a shot of an alcoholic beverage that I quickly drank in the privacy of my tent.
The sweetened condensed milk came in a tube and was the most amazing thing I ever tasted … super sweet, creamy with a distinctive dairy flavor.
I guess it was intended to sweeten the super strong coffee that came with the ration, but I finished the tube by itself.
My mother occasionally used powdered milk and condensed milk, both of which I hated. Little did I know what was just one shelf away.
It was something like eight years later that I realized I could buy sweetened condensed milk in the U.S. It even came with recipes on the label. This one had a recipe for fudge.
I followed the recipe and brought a batch to a newsroom Christmas party and was immediately the most popular person there … until someone came in with a rum cake dripping with rum.
Still, people talked about my fudge because fudge, I was to find out, is hard to make.
It’s no big secret. Mix a can of sweetened condensed milk, a bag of chocolate chips, a dash of vanilla, and nuts if you want them, then melt them together. Pour onto wax paper, cool, trim off the edges (and eat them), then cut what remains into cubes.
I like four-ingredient recipes and collect them in a readily accessible part of my brain: wonderful little garlic treats (tortilla, cheese, jalapeño peppers and lots and lots of fresh garlic), hash (ground beef with onion soup mix, fried potatoes, and frozen vegetables all cooked separately and then combined at the end), shepherd’s pie (same as hash, just assembled differently), apricot chicken (chicken baked with apricot jam and onion soup mix … that’s it, just three ingredients), granola (oats, oil, butter, and brown sugar toasted on an iron skillet), and so on.
But this is about sweetened condensed milk and something that I just discovered that will rock your world. Rock it!
When I used sweetened condensed milk, there is almost always too much left to throw away (or lick from the can). A lid fashioned from foil is flimsy. What about a plastic container? In our house, plastic containers are where you put things to give them time to go bad.
This just in: the plastic lid to a Pringles can is a nearly perfect fit on a can of sweetened condensed milk.
This is a game changer. I can keep an open can at the ready to add a spoonful to coffee and tea or just have a spoonful to satisfy a sweet tooth. I can add a little bit here and there without wasting a whole can.
NASA may have landed a rover on Mars complete with its own helicopter, but I have solved the problem of what to do with the rest of a can of sweetened condensed milk.
Randy Foster runs New Bern Post. He writes stuff like this occasionally.