Saturday, December 24, 2016

Everything you've ever wanted to know about canned milk...

(Yep, I've lost it.  You laugh.  Bookmark this.  You'll need it one day!)

Life on a boat will make you clever.  Grocery stores aren't always handy.  They may not have what you want or it's an astronomical price.  Space is also an issue (on boat's & rv's) so you learn SUBSTITUTIONS.  Mayo is eggs & oil.  Salad dressing is vinegar & oil.  Instead of baking powder, vinegar & baking soda.  Sub applesauce, gelatin or chia for an egg when baking.  Add some lactose-intolerance issues in there, and WE ARE HAVING FUN!  

As a kid, we always had evaporated milk & condensed milk on hand in case any baking broke out.  Later in life, I have shied away from preservatives & sugar so I use these as little as possible.  (Although, I will say you can use evaporated milk in place of sweetened condensed milk if you want to decrease the sugar in your pumpkin pie.  Just don't tell your family.  I've found few appreciate, "IT'S LOW IN SUGAR!" at a holiday meal, even if they claim they're on a diet.  Whisper it to those whose actually avoid putting it on their plate.  You may make their day.)

We have lots of canned milk on board.  It was an early fear of running out of cream for our coffee.  Heaven forbid we resort to POWDER (have you read the ingredients?   Corn Syrup Solids & Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil.  GROSS)!  So when I saw a Puerto Rican Christmas recipe for Coquito I ran to the galley--if that's possible on a boat.  I had coconut milk (curry, soups, baking), evaporated, sweetened condensed, creme de coconut (for fruity Caribbean drinks) & dried coconut.  Recipes varied, so I did some research to try to make it happen with what I had (Christmas winds!).

By the way, here in Culebra, an infatuation of sorts with Coquito has developed in our anchorage.  Despite a daily ferry, one store has sweetened & evaporated but not coconut.  Another has coconut, sometimes.  The third has evaporated but not sweetened condensed.  I feel the hoarding of provisions returning!

For my friends who are interested, (and have less time/bandwidth on their hands), here's way more than you want to know about canned milk and it's variations!

Fresh, organic milk of course, is my first choice.  In my past life, I bought raw goat milk from the farmer's market for my yogurt.  I have even scored raw cow milk at the Luperon cruiser bar in the Dominican!  Don't tell me canned milk is bad for me. I already know.  I LIVE ON A BOAT!  With fridge space at a premium & groceries farther apart in the Bahamas, we have resorted to...

Italian-based Parmalat

Boxed milk:  Parmalat (or Indulac in Puerto Rico) is ultra-high temperature, pasteurized milk sold in Tetra-Paks so it doesn't need to be refrigerated.  It's usually found in the baking or cereal aisle.  We carry an assortment of skim, whole, lactose-free (for the cat, I swear) and coconut/almond ("How do you milk an almond?"  Carefully) in this form.  It's readily available and reasonable in this part of the world.  You rarely see locals buying fresh milk (power outages are common in the islands) on top of the fact, it all seems to LEAK!  Yuck.

Evaporated milk:  In the US, this is Carnation.  It's Puerto Rico, it's Goya.  According to Wikipedia, "Evaporated milk, known in some countries as unsweetened condensed milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product with about 60% of the water removed from fresh milk...The product takes up half the space of its nutritional equivalent in fresh milk. When the liquid product is mixed with a proportionate amount of water, evaporated milk becomes the rough equivalent of fresh milk...".

  • You can also MAKE evaporated milk.  Crazy, right?  If you're bored (or maybe it's snowing where you are?), simmer in a saucepan or slow cooker until reduced by half (do an internet search for more info).  
  • OR you can check The Boat Galley Cookbook for how to make it with powdered milk (good for baking but probably not Coquito).  
  • Also, a food allergy website suggested substituting canned coconut milk 1:1, depending on the recipe (Coquito, YES!)

Sweetened condensed milk is evaporated milk with sugar added.  According to Wikipedia, it requires less processing since the added sugar inhibits bacterial growth.

  • You can make sweetened condensed milk by following the evaporated milk instructions (above) and adding sugar/honey/maple syrup OR use a can of evaporated milk & add sugar (quick internet search:  1 cup Evaporated milk to 1 1/4 cup sugar)!  
  • The Boat Galley Cookbook also has a recipe for making it with powdered milk.  
  • I also have a theory about subbing creme de coconut (see below OR coconut milk with sugar) but I haven't tested it yet.

Powdered milk: We also carry this for creamer emergencies (learned this trick on a sailing forum.  No corn syrup solids.  No sugar!), baking, yogurt (see The Boat Galley link below), or to reconstitute for cereal. Check out for the best brand:

Media crema:  is canned 1/2 & 1/2, that can be used to make sour cream (or whipped cream if you can find a tetra-pak) because Carolyn said so!

Lactose-free or vegan alternatives with a Caribbean flavor:

Coconut milk, in the refrigerated section.  Many stores are starting to carry this in the States.  My preferred milk alternative for cereal or smoothies.  Might be too thin for baking.

Coconut milk, shelf-stable tetra-pak in the baking or cereal aisle.  Same as above.  Check the price.  The same company makes this & it frequently went on sale in my "organic" aisle.

UNSWEETENED coconut mik

Coconut milk, canned.  I carry this for curry, butternut squash soup, or for cornbread instead of buttermilk (see Dominican corn bread recipe below OR add 1 tsp vinegar to 1/4 cup milk).  Usually thicker than above

  • sub for evaporated milk per food allergy website
Coconut cream:  I've never seen this, but I mention it because it can be confused with cream of coconut (see below).  Coconut cream is what you get when you skim the cream off the top of fresh coconut milk or some canned milk (Native Forest, yes.  Goya, no)

cream of coconut

Creme of coconut or Coco Lopez:  Invented by a agricultural professor at University of Puerto Rico, it is usually found in the alcohol mixers section.  It's sweetened coconut milk, famous for being the main ingredient in Pina Coladas

  • A possible substitute is draining liquid from a can of coconut milk that has separated & add sugar?
  • May be a sub for sweetened condensed (add water)?
Of course, making fresh coconut milk with a real coconut or with dried coconut for coconut milk emergencies is another option!

Coquito recipe
Puerto Rican forums argue over the traditional recipe which is basically "Open three cans" or maybe four.  Does it have eggs?  Which kind of rum?  "That's not how mi Abuela did it."  I always try to start with the most basic & traditional recipe (if I can't try the original in a restaurant) then play with variations to suit our tastes.  Variations abound in this recipe including adding Coco Lopez (sweeter & thicker?) and swapping white rum (coconut or spiced & delete vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg). El capitan was skeptical of the coconut flavor, but we ARE in the Caribbean and it was mild.

2 cans Goya coconut milk (1 can coconut, 1 can coconut subbed for evaporated milk)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz rum (Bacardi or Don Q but we prefer Brugal Anejo)
Vanilla 1 tsp-2 oz
Cinnamon 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg, optional 1/4 tsp

Blender for 2-3 minutes until it foams (whisk or shake in a jar with a lid)
Pour into jars or pitcher with a lid (shake before opening)
Refrigerate overnight or 24 hours before serving.

Dominican corn bread
sub coconut milk for evaporated milk

I make 24-hour, lactose free yogurt on the boat with the YoGourmet maker:
The Boat Galley thermos & dried milk yogurt:
Other options include using the oven or a slow cooker. Lot's of ideas on the internet

Homemade coffee creamer:  1/2 & 1/2, evaporated milk or canned coconut milk.  Sugar/honey/maple syrup to taste.  Vanilla/cinnamon optional

References: (do a search for milk)
The Boat Galley Cookbook (great recipes & substitutions for those internet-challenged days)


  1. "Life on a boat will make you clever."
    Best quote ever! Thanks for the milk blog!