Happy Mother’s Day: open a can of condensed milk

I can’t open a can of condensed milk without thinking of my mother.  She spent her rural childhood in an era devoid of nutritional paranoia, when sugar wasn’t demonized and processed foods were a rare treat.  World War II’s sugar rationing left many of her generation with an inordinate fondness for canned, sweetened condensed milk, and she has never lost this formed-early affection.  When I was a kid, she’d open up a can, just to eat it with a spoon (not all at once, mind you), stashing it in the back of the fridge to keep it out of the hands of her hungry children.

Two entire cans of condensed milk form the backbone of her homemade ice cream recipe, handed down from her own grandmother.  It’s uncooked, relying on a ridiculous number of whole eggs and all that condensed milk for body and texture.  The original recipe called for scalded milk, which my mother quit doing some time in the 1960s, when she finally realized:  her grandmother’s milk wasn’t pasteurized, it was straight from the cow out in the barn.

This Mother’s Day, we’ll feast on boiled crawfish, followed up by hand-cranked, homemade vanilla ice cream.

Simple homemade ice cream (an ice milk, really)

  • 8 whole eggs
  • 2-14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk (fat free, reduced fat, or full-fat)
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (lactose-free is fine)
  • 2-4 tsp pure vanilla extract, or 2-3 vanilla beans.

Lightly beat eggs in a very large mixing bowl or basin.  Add sweetened condensed milk, whisking to thoroughly blend.  Pour in two or three cups milk, beat to lighten the mixture, then stir in remaining milk and extracts.  If using vanilla beans, split lengthwise, scrape seeds into the mixture, then add split beans to the bowl.  Chill thoroughly for several hours or overnight.  Remove vanilla beans.  Pour into 1/2 gallon or greater capacity hand-cranked ice cream freezer, insert dasher, and cover tightly.  Pack freezer with alternating layers of ice and rock salt until full.  Crank, turning slowly, until resistance begins to increase (approximately 25-30 minutes).  Crank freezer, slightly faster, for 15-20 minutes longer, until mixture thickens and cranking becomes difficult.  Remove cover and dasher, recover, and allow to “ripen” (if you can stand the wait) for 20-30 minutes.  Best served in cups, to be eaten with spoons.  (This ice milk melts quickly and is best consumed within hours.  If held overnight in the freezer, it will become rock-hard and icy.)

6 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day: open a can of condensed milk

  1. Wish I could have been there, however restaurant people work on Mother’s Day. After learning to make a chef driven caramel sauce that I perfected over many years and many messed up batches, a little old creole lady from Scott taught me her method. Place that 1 can of condensed milk in a pot. Cover it with water and let it simmer for 4 hours. It makes some of the best caramel sauce. It doesn’t break either. My new favorite condensed milk use is to make tres leches, but thats a whole other story.

    • Do be careful if you heat the can unopened in a pan of water…an explosion isn’t out of the question, esp if you let the water get too low & the can overheats. I overfilled the freezer canister & consequently the ice cream took forever to freeze, but it tasted good anyway.

  2. I’ve been known to eat that stuff out of the can with a spoon, too. In college a roommate and I would share a can over the sink in our room. Wish I had some right now. Or the ice cream, either! It also makes a good flan.

  3. I’ll have to give this a try. I haven’t used condensed milk for ages, not since my Grandfather and I put it in our coffee.

    I’ve just started making home made ice cream with a White Mountain hand crank machine and the kids think it’s awesome.

    If you don’t make your own ice cream you should give it a try. Here’s an interesting article I found that might be helpful to folks thinking about making their own.


    • That’s what we use–a White Mountain hand crank freezer. I learned an important lesson this weekend: don’t overfill the canister, or the mixture won’t freeze as quickly. It needs space for expansion…

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