Why evaporated milk? Makes no sense to me.

I just don't get it- why do some people call for evaporated milk in their recipes?(I'm not just talking 52ers; I mean people all over.) I could certainly understand if canned evap.milk is the only milk available in a certain location, but that is not the case with the recipe chefs I am referencing. (example: my mom's 1960's? chiles rellenos casserole where flour and evap. milk are combined and forked into a layer of grated cheese and chopped green chiles- to produce a souffle like effect when baked.) Isn't light cream the viscosity of evap. milk? and it certainly tastes better than a canned product, yes? Is it a cost thing? I think it confuses alot of cooks who think they have to have IT in some recipe. Have always wondered this and thought you smart 52ers might have some thoughts on it. Maybe it was a wartime/ post-war habit or trend....

LeBec Fin


babytiger January 31, 2014
Evaporated milk has a different flavor is great in some recipes. I love it in tea and coffee as you just can't get the same flavor with regular milk or half & half.
Sylvia9000 January 31, 2014
I always just assumed it was a way of adding a greater amount of milk solids (maybe that's not the right term) with a lesser amount of liquid. Like adding powdered milk to dry ingredients. I figured this would affect flavour without changing the fat content as much as subbing cream?
ChefJune January 31, 2014
We lived 4 doors from the local grocery store when I was growing up, and my mom was a farm girl, so fresh milk was always close at hand. I don't remember it in the house at all, except maybe at cookie-baking time. I've never gotten in the habit of buying or using it.
SeaJambon January 31, 2014
It is a relic of an earlier age. It still has a purpose/use (see above comments about disaster planning and warmer climates) and was a "miracle" in an age when neither electricity nor reliable refrigeration were standard. Still serves that purpose in some developing countries.

As a result, it is in a number of older recipes -- particularly the type that has been handed down for generations and "wouldn't taste right" if something else were used. Also essential for tres leches (again, a food from a warmer climate). It depends on what you're making and the result you want as to whether you use it or a fresh half-n-half. Personally, I'm hooked on the new packaging that allows shelf-stable whipping cream (totally different than condensed milk; it really is whipping cream that you keep in your pantry. You can find it at Trader Joe's) since, like Diane - my impulse baking may otherwise find me short of a favorite topping!
Diane January 31, 2014
I love it, and I'm a total ingredient snob. For me, I do a lot of "impulse baking", however I don't consume enough dairy to keep it stocked in my fridge. I always have a few cans on hand for rich breads, sweeter breeds, and naan. With a teaspoon of cornstarch, it even works to cream sauces, like tomato and roasted red pepper. Handy stuff!
Author Comment
Evaporated milk can give you extra richness for fewer calories and fat grams with less total liquid. Kind of a double whammy of richer texture. But yes, to reconstitute it and drink it is extremely unappealing to me. Try fat free evaporated milk in your custards, mac and cheese and gratin-y type things to lighten them up!
Maedl January 31, 2014
Yes! Pumpkin pie made with canned pumpkin and canned milk, but a home-made, flaky crust! Loved it.

Voted the Best Reply!

ChezHenry January 31, 2014
You are correct in that it was a prevalent product during the war, and is still in heavy use in very warm climates with limited access to fresh dairy products. I grew up in Bermuda, and own a business in the Caribbean, and youll find it used even for breakfast cereal! Evaporated milk is really "milk concentrate", if u add the approprite amount of water to it, you have milk. The pure concentrated flavor, undiluted, adds unique flavor to baked goods. My moms recipe for pumpkin pie includes it-it comes from a Bermuda home economics cookbook, and I think its tops. So i think its a combination of necessity, and some old school recipes, and either diluted or undiluted it adds a unique, and some may say, acquired taste.
Maedl January 31, 2014
I don't have anything against canned milk in recipes--particularly those retro recipes that are meant to evoke memories of comfort food. It's one of those things that can be kept on the shelf and used when needed--like on the snowy day that you decide to cook up something that calls for milk--but you don't want to use the fresh milk because you are not sure you have enough to last through the storm.
sexyLAMBCHOPx January 31, 2014
I didn't gow up with evaporated milk and just a few months ago used a can for the first time for a mac and cheese recipe. I've read about it, but still don't understand why its so bad and negative connotations. The big benefit seems do with its non curdling properties & shelf life. Certainly a decent dessert or entrée is missing the healthy train. What am I missing?
LeBec F. January 31, 2014
lamby, just to clarify, i don't have a big negative feeling about it, i just never understood why a contemporary cook would call for it in a recipe. With the answers here, i have a much better understanding now. thx all!
SKK January 31, 2014
My view is that evaporated milk has a strong add campaign and no one has questioned it. It has been around for a long time, much like Spam. Don't use it. People I know who do use it have strong memories from childhood about it and are very loyal.
LeBec F. January 31, 2014
p.s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporated_milk

this gives the history of it. but, except for having some around in case one runs out of milk for a baking project or maybe pancakes, i just see no reason to use it. Do you?
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