Here we are at the last installment of making your own Dulce de Leche. You should definitely be feeling the sugar-rush effects now. Today we move into slightly more involved ways of making Dulce de Leche. Try PART ONE and PART TWO for some easier preparations. These last two methods take a little bit more effort, but are well worth it (every now and again, at least). They also involve a few “special equipment” items.
Neither of today’s methods involve unopened cans or water baths, so all is safe. Kind of. Unless you count the possibility of botulism. But we will get into that in a minute. Scroll to the bottom for my final recommendations.
Today we are looking at making dulce de leche:
- in jars in a PRESSURE CANNER
(from a can but sealed in jars)
In trying this method, I was hoping for the same taste as the boiled unopened cans. But the cans do not come out of a boiling water bath looking very attractive. So how to present these as attractive gifts? Pressure canning is what I came up with. This is another method with a big DISCLAIMER. The USDA does NOT recommend canning milk products. I did find several sites giving instructions (not USDA approved) for canning regular milk and cheese. Granted, most of these were homesteading sites. So I am throwing caution to the wind and trying it. I figure that on my side in the not-ending-up-with-botulism argument are the following points:
- I am starting with an already canned milk product, not fresh milk.
- There is so much sugar in sweetened condensed milk that it would take a lot to make it spoil.
- I have canned meat successfully, and it is approved by the USDA if using a pressure canner.
- Butter can be canned, and it is a milk product.
These are my justifications for making this and letting the jars sit on a shelf in my basement. As part of this ongoing experiment, I will force myself to open a jar of this dulce de leche every month or so to make sure they are still edible. But my official recommendation to you is to refrigerate these jars after canning them. Then there is no possible food-safety issue.
Also, please refer to the instruction manual for your specific pressure canner before attempting this recipe. I am including the basic instructions for using mine. DO NOT USE A BOILING BATH CANNER. THAT WILL DEFINITELY EARN YOU A CASE OF FOOD POISONING.
Wash canning jars (a quick run through the dishwasher is a good way to sanitize them). Place new canning lids in a small pan of very hot water (bring water to a boil, then remove from heat and add lids).
Wipe rims and edges of jars with a damp cloth to remove any milk that dribbled.
Place lids and rings on jars.
Place filled jars on a rack in a pressure canner. Add 3 quarts of room temperature water. DO NOT BRING WATER TO A BOIL BEFORE ADDING JARS. Since you are not doing a “hot pack” (hot jars; hot filling; hot water), the jars WILL break if you place them directly into boiling water. Then you end up with a very large pot full of sticky, sugar milk/water. Leaving you to clean all of the other jars and the pot and start over. Not fun.
- Place the lid on the pressure canner and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
Continue to cook on high until pressure reaches 15 lb.
Lower heat to maintain a constant 15 lb pressure. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge and adjust heat to maintain 15 lb of pressure. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 lb pressure. I used both pint and half-pint jars, and they both came out the same after 20 minutes.
Turn off stove and remove pressure canner from heat. DO NOT OPEN. Let the pressure drop until the air vent/cover lock has completely dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted (this took about 30 minutes for mine).
Let sit for 24 hours. Check seal. Refrigerate for added food safety.
(no cans here)
This is the first “recipe” for dulce de leche that I’ve made with actual ingredients. This is adapted from a recipe from Alton Brown. It is a lot more time consuming than any of the other methods, but is it ever worth it! This was truly decadent! Don’t you just love the vanilla bean flecks? As the other methods produced a caramel that was more of a dipping or spreading consistency, I wanted this one to be one that I could pour. On ice cream, for example. The only tricky part of this recipe is knowing when to remove the dulce de leche from the heat. Leave it too long and you end up with caramels suitable for cutting (not all bad either) and more susceptible to turning “sugary”. Don’t cook it long enough and you end up with a brown-colored-sweet-milky syrup. Not really dulce de leche.
The only two drawbacks to this method are the time involved (lots of standing at the stove stirring the pot), and the fact that you can only make one batch at a time, which will need to be refrigerated.
- 4 cups (1 quart) whole milk (don’t skimp here!)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- Combine the milk and sugar in a heavy saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir.
- Remove from heat and use a skimmer to remove foam (a spoon or small ladle will work if you don’t have a skimmer).
- Add baking soda and split (but not scraped) vanilla bean to the pan.
- Cook, uncovered, over low heat for one hour, stirring often and skimming foam as necessary.
- Remove vanilla bean and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches desired thickness. This will take about 60 minutes, depending on how thick you want your caramel. It will burn easily at this point, so be attentive!
- The dulce de leche is close to done when a spoon dragged through the mixture leaves a trail. It will thicken a lot as it cools. Test for consistency by dropping a small spoonful into a cup of ice water, or by placing a few drops on a plate that has been placed in the freezer.
- The original recipe calls for straining through a fine mesh strainer, but I skipped this step and it was still nice and smooth.
While this was a fun experiment, it is not recommended for your waistline. Thank goodness I had a recovering swine flu victim (who was down 15 pounds) that I could push this onto to “test” for me. He is back up to normal weight now. You’re welcome, Brian!
The homemade dulce de leche was definitely superior to the ones made with sweetened condensed milk. But I am likely to only make this on special occasions, when I plan on eating it directly on top of something where the flavor will really shine (and not incorporated into a recipe-that would be a huge waste). It is pretty time consuming, as it needs to be watched (and sometimes stirred) throughout the entire process.
The pressure canner method is a great way to prepare dulce de leche that you plan on giving to friends. Great flavor.
Practically, the stovetop and crock pot varieties were easiest to make and the best tasting (non-homemade) varieties. They were easy to prepare, and I love that you can do a bunch of cans at one time, and then have them available to grab out of your pantry any time.
The crock pot version gets my overall best pick. That will be my go-to dulce de leche from now on. But the homemade version wins hands down on flavor. So it will definitely have a place in my recipe files.