Evaporated vs Sweetened Condensed Milk


In the early 1900’s, canned milk was the milk of choice. At the time, fresh cow’s milk, contaminated with bacteria, was considered unsafe to drink (before FDA regulations).

My grandmother kept two canned milk products in her pantry, Pet Evaporated¬†Milk and Borden’s Sweetened Condensed Milk.

These are two very different products, cannot be used interchangeably and it’s important to know the difference.

Evaporated Milk, is whole milk which has had 60 percent of the water removed, by way of evaporation. It’s them homogenized, rapidly chilled, fortified with vitamins and stabilizers, packaged and finally sterilized.

It’s slightly darker color and caramelized flavor results from the high heat process. The evaporation process concentrates the nutrients, (and calories) making evaporated milk more nutritious than fresh milk, but also more caloric.

Sweetened Condensed Milk, also has 60 percent of the water removed and is pasteurized, but it differs from evaporated milk because it has the addition of sugar.

Because sugar inhibits the growth of microorganisms, further sterilization is unnecessary.

Today, fresh milk is considered by many, (but not all) safe to consume. Less than two percent of the United States milk production is canned, but if you peek inside the pantry of a southern woman’s home, you just know you’re going to find a can of sweetened condensed milkto make a “magic pie” for y’all!

If you do not happen to have handy this sweetened milk in a can, you do not need to make a dash to the market because you can easily make it yourself.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk


  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. In a small heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and the sugar. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat and then reduce the heat so that it is just simmering. Cook for approximately 55 minutes. The mixture will begin to reduce but, there will be no noticeable change for the first 45 minutes or so. Be patient … because, during the last 10-12 minutes, the milk and sugar will thicken and change color from a milky-white to a creamy, ivory hue reminiscent of the canned sweetened condensed milk of yesteryear. (It will also thicken a bit more as it cools).
  2. The final product will have reduced by half and can then be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.



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