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A Brief History of Condensed Milk

There’s definitely something lusciously different about condensed milk, especially when its sweet, thick flavor is added on a freshly brewed Vietnamese iced coffee. But do you know where it originated and how it's made?

The history of condensed milk

This well-loved dairy product was first introduced by French confectioner and chef Nicolas Appert. He founded the first canning factory in 1804 and produced condensed milk for the first time in 1827. But it was English researcher William Newton that boosted the product’s marketability in 1835 when he suggested adding sugar to the milk to lengthen its shelf life.

By 1856, Gail Borden (yes, that Borden!) developed a procedure for the industrial manufacturing of condensed milk, founding the New York Condensed Milk Company which processed around 75,000 liters of milk a day into condensed milk. Borden was given the most credit for the popularity of condensed milk, especially during the Civil War, when his brand, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, was used as a field ration. In a time when nutrients weren't as readily available, the innovation helped fight food poisoning and other illnesses related to the lack of refrigeration and preservation techniques, and significantly reduced infant mortality rates across North America.

Today, condensed milk has become a must-have household staple, ever present in pantries and kitchens. 

condensed milk

Image sourced from freepik / mdjaff


How condensed milk is made

Each dairy company has its own condensed milk recipes. There are even countless tips on the Internet on how to make a homemade version.

But it all starts with a raw cow's milk. Salt is then used as a stabilizing agent, which keeps the milk from breaking down during processing. The milk is then flash-heated to about 185°F for several seconds before its piped to the evaporator where the water is removed, this gives the condensed milk its signature thick and creamy texture.

The milk is cooled and then inoculated with approximately 40% powdered lactose crystals. The sugar helps give the milk product a long shelf-life, even lasting up to two years without refrigeration. 

What condensed milk tastes like 

Condensed milk has creamy, rich and smooth taste, with a hint of vanilla and an almost similar flavor profile with caramel. This is why the easy-to-use sweet delight is used in desserts like ice cream and flans. It's also what completes the Vietnamese iced coffee recipe.

Ready to make the perfect sweet Vietnamese iced coffee? For a complete uniquely Vietnamese coffee experience, try brewing your own coffee using our phin filters — then add condensed milk for a well-deserved mid-afternoon coffee break.

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