Tuesday 13 November 2012

Why You Need This Stuff in Your Kitchen: Evaporated Milk

Evaporated milk.  

It's so Granny's Pantry, Dirty Thirties, Great Depression, isn't it?  

Old fashioned.  

Not something modern folk use, or stock in their pantries, right?

Well...Actually, no.

Evaporated milk is a very useful ingredient to have on hand. It stores well, it's versatile, and it can provide the means both to add flavour and to reduce the number of calories in many dishes. 

Unlike sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk has no sugar or corn syrup added.  It's simply milk that's been cooked until some of the moisture evaporates out of it, in the same way one reduces liquids when making a sauce.  Once reduced, it's canned. 

Like regular milk, evaporated milk comes with a variety of fat contents.  Full fat evaporated milk contains 3.25% milk fat but you can also purchase evaporated milk with 2% milk fat or evaporated skim milk, with no milk fat at all.  Because all three taste pretty much the same, I opt for fat free.

When making a dish that calls for fresh milk, you can substitute half evaporated milk and half water for the amount of fresh milk called for in the recipe.  (If your recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh milk, you would substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup water.)  

There's an opportunity to add an extra layer of flavour here: Simply substitute a flavourful stock for the water in the dilution.  

Extra chicken (or beef, or seafood, or vegetable) flavour in the background of the dish; perfect for supporting the main ingredients.

You can also use evaporated milk as a substitute for buttermilk, by adding a small amount of acidic liquid (lemon juice or vinegar) when diluting it.  

For every cup of buttermilk called for in your recipe, measure 1/2 cup evaporated milk into a 1-cup measuring cup, add in 1 to 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice, and then fill the cup to the 1 cup mark with water.  

When making a recipe that calls for buttermilk but will work well with some added fruit flavour, substitute 1/2 cup evaporated milk and 1/2 cup of almost any fruit juice for each cup of buttermilk.

Undiluted evaporated milk can be substituted in many recipes that call for cream or light cream.  It'll lend the same consistency to the finished dish while adding considerably few calories.  

Watch for coupons or case lot sales when shopping for evaporated milk.  If you're able to purchase it with a coupon or on sale, evaporated milk usually works out to about the same price ounce for ounce as fresh milk.  Well worth watching for, and keeping on hand.